Sunday, 29 November 2009

The giftie

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
For some time I've suspected that I look older than I am. Patients are always confusing me with my partner who is over ten years my senior and approaching retirement. At first I put this down to the period of time that usually elapses between seeing the two of us. But on one memorable occasion recently I was buttonholed in the corridor by a patient who wished to continue the conversation he had been having with my partner just a few minutes earlier. Then the other day a patient asked me whether I intend to retire soon. He must have been the sixth person to enquire about that recently, so I asked him why. He looked a bit flustered and said “I didn't know how old you were”. I told him my age (early fifties) and he replied “oh well, in that case you've got years to go yet!”

So I'm looking old. Then there's the question of my weight. When I got married I was trim with a BMI of 21. When I applied for some insurance nine years ago my BMI had risen to 25. Now it is pushing 28. So, like the geese before Christmas, I am getting fat. But things get even better.

The other day I saw a patient with an unusual personality. He is dis-inhibited, talks a lot and is reluctant to have his views challenged. I was feeling uncomfortable because in the past he has become unhappy when his requests for medication were refused. Suddenly he caught sight of a photograph of my children. “Are they yours?” he asked. I admitted that they were, and he looked more closely at the photograph. “Is your wife Black?” he asked. I agreed that she might be. He was suddenly wreathed in smiles. “I'm so pleased!” he said. “I'm so pleased you're not racist. I mean, you look like someone who might be racist. Don't take it the wrong way.” I agreed that I wouldn't.

But if your GP looks like an old fat racist, it's probably me!

I tell this tale with tongue in cheek because I know that a number of charming people think well of me, including my wife. I'm fond of them too, and so the world goes around.


XE said...

Oh dear! The things people say, eh?

If this helps at all, I think people are more comfortable with physicians that are "regular" sized. As in, I saw a physician once who was a triathlete or some such thing (and tiny), and I was so self-conscious the whole time.

To counteract any future racism-related remarks a "safe space" marker on your door might be an idea -- I'm not sure if such things are around in England but it's fairly self-explanatory. It basically indicates explicitly to the patient that your office/exam room/whatever is a space where he or she will not ever be judged on the basis of race, sexual orientation, SES, etcetera. (The signs we've been offered are about three inches wide, and are circular with a rainbow around the edge and "Ally" printed in the middle). Then you would have a concrete marker to show that you're not racist, without having to resort to the colour of your children's skin!

Good to see you back by the way.

alhi said...

Welcome back! I've been missing your posts.

ageing student said...

And I note that you've 're-branded' your page with a new banner! Nice to see you back - at least we didn't get reports of your untimely death (unlike what happened to Doctor Crippen when he had a period of writer's block). Regarding age, people generally assume me to be about 10 years younger than I am - I have a theory that as one ages one can look haggard if too thin and, consequently, older than one's chronological age, so that is my excuse for not trying too hard to lose weight. Also I work with a group of people who, by and large, are all at least 25 years younger then me and some them nearer 40 years younger; maybe they just can't judge my age accurately at that distance. Anyway I am more than happy having reached my 60th this year - bus pass, free eye tests and free prescriptions for me.

ageing student said...

Actually, is it patients who are older than you, younger or around the same age who think you are older than you are? I ask this because, in my experience, most of of the younger doctors I've seen look like Doogie Howser (remember him?), whereas I tend to lump together anyone over 45-50 as being around my age. For instance, I was surprised to discover that my own doctor is still well under 50. He has grey hair which I suppose may make him look older, but I wouldn't put his BMI any higher than 21-22, so don't worry that it is your weight which adds gravitas. As I mentioned in my previous post,I consider a little surplus weight post-50 is a good thing. Keep up the blogging and remember you are as young (or old) as you feel.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant to see you posting again. Hope you're doing well.

Don't worry about how old you look. I'm still youngish myself but feel disconcerted when I am seen by one of those Doogie Howser doctors. Most patients equate age with experience.

Jellyhead said...

You're back! Wonderful.

I have no idea what you look like, but the blog world was less interesting without you around.

Sara said...

That's a pretty good story.

Tumtum said...

For some time I've suspected that I look older than I am


Maybe you need to smile a bit more doc ... and maybe buy a new suit and a bit of gretion 2000 (sp), after all, a BMI of 28 is not really that heavy, I bet you look beautiful with it too :-)

Elderly lady in training said...

I was quite pleased when someone said I was an inspiration recently, just for running.

And then I remembered the last time I had used the same expression - it was when I came across someone doing something which I considered to be a bit unusual *for their age*.

So I began to see that what I was actually being told was that I looked rather old to be out running.

Having seen how it feels to be on the receiving end now, I think I'll avoid telling people they are inspirations in the future(especially if they're getting on a bit).

Now you've restarted blogging I hope you'll be able to continue enlightening and amusing us (maybe even being an inspiraton to us too!)

steph said...

It's a real treat to see you back on the block.

I don't mind what you look like as long as you keep up your great blogging.

A fortunate fan.

Anonymous said...

Clicked on the bookmark expecting you to be still "gone away" and hurrah, you're back!

BMI of 28 and early fifties eh? I feel sure you must have been bony and uncomfortable when you were younger and now you are an attractive, thoughtful and charming person. If you are feeling you look older you should go and see a good tailor or clothes shop; clothes don't make you younger but they can make you look older if they're drab, don't fit and emphasise the wrong points.

Was at a (work) Christmas party last night and the nice but ordinary people with whom I work all looked sensational, sexy and younger when poshed up. Even me!

Great to see you back. Keep it up!

Scribbler said...

Blimey doc, I'm always trying to work my way down to a BMI of 28, not up!

And what an extraordinary thing for someone to say...but then again, at least it was interesting. I think you're lucky to see such a huge variety of people in your job, and all their fascinating foibles.

Dr Andrew Brown said...

Wow! Thank you all very much for your kind comments and good wishes. As usual you make some good points too.

The idea of a "safe space" marker is an interesting one, but I'm not convinced. It's the sort of thing our Government would come up with, to prove that 95% of GPs were non-judgmental. Unfortunately you can only really know someone's attitudes my getting to know them.

And I'm not quite as paranoid (or vain) as my posting might suggest. I just thought it made a humorous little story. I'd certainly like to get my weight down a little but the main thing is to stop it rising further. And I don't think I'm unduly worried about my appearance. To be honest, the main reason I don't like being mistaken for my partner is that our relationship is sometimes a little uneasy.

Pondering Practitioner said...

I have the opposite problem of; "Are you old enough to be a doctor?" or one of my favourites; "Are you allowed to be out of school?"
I wonder if there is a middle ground?! Perhaps in years to come someone will tell me that I look just the right age to be a GP...

Dr Andrew Brown said...

I'm sure they are just trying to flatter you. Whatever age you are is exactly the right age to be!