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COLUMNIST: Mentally harmed starting at birth

A recent injury on a Friday was a possible reason to visit the emergency ward of the local hospital the next day, a Saturday. Maybe a bone in my foot was broken. It hurt like hell to step on it, plus there seemed to be something wrong with my knee, too. Men hate going to the doctor. That's a given, but it's nothing compared to how we hate going into emergency rooms, which are created for lesser individuals.

Real men don't "go" to the emergency room; we are carried into them. To just up and volunteer while still clinging to consciousness really seems a mistake of some sort. Before we do go, we call other men and consult about it. There is A Guys' Club, and there are Rules, and one must follow them or forever feel that one doesn't belong.

So I called my brother. Look, I said, my tractor did this to my foot and knee, and there may or may not be one or more broken bones in my foot. What should I do about this dilemma of whether or not to visit the emergency room (of course it had to be a Saturday; crap like this always happens on the weekend, because men are protected from themselves where they work).

He said the words that real men must say: "If there is any doubt at all, don't go." A brilliant man. Words to live by. Heroes often say things like this.

"But it really hurts," I said, "and it's making snapping sounds when I run on it." (Really, I was just barely walking on it, but real men say stuff like that, which makes them realer real men.)

Later that morning, all doubt faded with more pain, and so I next found myself in the emergency entrance of the hospital, where everything seemed calm and Saturday morning-ish. They got my name, I sat a bit, and some nurse came and led me into an examining room, where I gave her the particulars on what the tractor had done to me.

She asked me some specific questions, which were pretty boring, like how's the pain on a one to five scale: "Oh, just a one if I'm sitting, but a five otherwise." I said this in a matter-of-fact style. Five, heck, what's a five? Real men don't quibble over a digit more or less.

Then she asked me: "Are you in a relationship where you are being or have been physically or mentally harmed?"

She looked at me expectantly. A hundred things ran through my mind. Finally, I thought, someone had asked me. Now I could unburden my soul of all those years of harmful, um, harm. From here on, I cannot honestly remember what I said, and what I thought, or what I wanted to say and think. But here's the conversation I wanted to have.

"Oh, yes," I replied. "Thank you. Finally someone has asked me, and having asked me, I must answer as truthfully as possible, right?" I looked at this angel of mercy. She glowed white in the light from yonder window.

She began eying me closely, ready to take notes. I could see anticipation in her eyes. Finally, the big one. Probably make her an honorary doctor or something.

I began. I say "began" because this story of abuse would take a while, depending upon at what age I started. I started at the beginning.

"Well," I said, "I was first both mentally and physically harmed when, at the vulnerable age of a couple of weeks, grownups hauled me into a room and circumcised me, mangled my, um, well, you know."

Boy, that was rough, spitting that out. I immediately felt a lot better, and thought that this was quite an advanced age of medicine we had entered while I was being healthy and staying away from hospitals. Healing through confession. Wonderful. I was feeling much better.

The nurse looked at me. It appeared she wanted more. I had more. But it was buried down deep. I would really have to work to spit it out.

"Plus," I said, a tear forming in one eye, "there are much worse examples of how I am still being abused, even as we speak." I looked sideways at her. She seemed to be recovering from the circumcision tragedy, and apparently was poised to tolerate another blow.

"I don't know how I'm going to recover from what's going on in my life right now."

She made those small purring sounds of sympathy that women with good empathy always make. She said: "Go ahead. It'll be alright."

"Well," I said, ready to deliver this information about how unable I was to tolerate this continuing level of mental and physical abuse.

She said: "Yes? Yes?"

"It's just that," I said, "well, ...."

"Yes? Yes?" She really was paying attention.

"I'm afraid they're going to kick me out of The Men's Club for coming to the emergency room." What would I do? Where would I go? They'd all know, and shun me.

There was more. I wanted to tell her that I thought the bill for this little chat would also be abusive, but she appeared to be emotionally drained.

Well, if that isn't abuse, what is?