It's a well-known fact that men don't go to the doctor. They tough it out, they muscle through it, they dismiss it as "no big deal". They'll ignore a 103 degree fever, a broken ankle, a gallbladder attack.
Having established a mode of sexist generalizations, I'll blithely carry on in the same vein.
We all know that while men in general tend to ignore physical maladies, there is one body part that, shall we say, never gets ignored. Au contraire. You know the part I mean. Most men have intimate knowledge of every fold and spot, every seam and squiggle. What it looks like, what it feels like. What size it is. How well and how often it functions. And when there's the minutest change? Zoom! They're in the doctor's office quicker than you can say STD.
This particular young man- we'll call him Peter (oh come on, humor me)- presented with the familiar complaint, "I have bumps on my penis!" (There's always a "!" at the end of that sentence). He was nervous and sweating, and kept moving his hand to his zipper area as if to double check that nothing had fallen off. Yet.
OK, let's have a look. Looks normal to me, Pete. But just in case, we'll do androscopy for HPV.
HPV is the shortened form of Human Papilloma Virus, which is the scientific name for GENITAL WARTS! (this one has to be either screamed or whispered, depending on the context) Androscopy means we look at the, um, affected area with a microscope. (Imagine what THAT does to the male ego). Before we do that, however, we apply a special staining solution called acetic acid, otherwise known as household vinegar. If there is a microscopic wart there, it will shine white when saturated with acid.
The method of applying the vinegar stain is diagrammed in a special handout. The doctor pours the solution (white vinegar is preferred over balsamic or spiced) onto a gauze pad and leaves the room. The patient then unfolds the pad and wraps it, per provided diagram, around The Part, which is then marinated for five minutes. At that point, the doctor returns with the microscope.
So I poured the solution, waved the handout at Pete, and left the room to go have a snack or something while Pete soaked. Five minutes later I knocked on the door.
"Pete? You ready?"
"Well, um, I don't know. I'm, uh, I'm having a problem with....uh...."
"May I come in?" I didn't want him to have to detail whatever his problem was loudly enough for me (and therefore half the clinic) to hear it in the hall.
Inside the room, which now had the unique aroma of a sweaty salad, Pete was standing awkwardly with his pants down to his knees and his hands holding a gauzy bundle at his crotch. He looked mortified. I kept my features neutral and asked him to tell me about the problem. He pointed to the handout and shook his head. "I can't do it right."
The diagram is drawn on an 8 1/2 x11" paper, in landscape orientation. A hand-sketched penis stretches across the long dimension of the paper, ten inches long, three inches wide, with spiral arrows indicating the gauze wrapping technique.
"I don't understand, Pete."
His face was crimson, but he soldiered on. "Well, it looks from the handout like you're supposed to have an erection to do this wrapping right, and I just can't seem to...."
Now THAT was one day I was reeeeeeeeeeally glad I had practiced my poker face.