By the time you read this, I will have visited my doctor’s office for the really important part of my annual physical. No, not the part where he listens to my chest, donks my knee with a hammer, shines bright lights in my eyes, ears, nose and throat and inserts a finger where it has no business being. That’s a week from now.
Rather the part I’ve been dreading for the year since the last physical. The part where early in the morning you have to appear at the office, fasting, to give up blood, urine and any other bodily fluids they can think of. By now, some machine has already tallied the telltale numbers. And the verdict is waiting to be revealed. So sing along with me to the tune of “My Favorite Things.”
HDL, LDL and bilirubin,
Thyroid and prostate, lipids, albumin,
Blood counts and measures of triglycerides,
These are some things that I wish I could hide.
But I can’t hide the evidence of another year’s dissipation. Like fingerprints and traces of DNA, my liver function panel and blood work have already ratted me out. I assume the magic of modern bio-snooping can tell the doctor about a teaspoon of hollandaise last February, an artery-clogging pulled pork plate in May.
This despite the fact that for the last several months I’ve been trying to beat the rap by losing a few pounds, exercising a few extra minutes at day, trying to say no to cheese, eggs, butter, ice cream, fatty meat, fried food, salty snacks and, in short, everything that makes life worth living.
Or rather, the only vices I have left to me. In previous Come-to-Jesus encounters with various doctors I’ve been scared off smoking and drinking and flogged into exercising, though I’m convinced the latter has done more to ruin my joints and spine than to save my life.
All I’ve got left in the way of bad habits is “food, glorious food, three banquets a day, my favorite diet.” I am half in love with easeful fat. Unreformed voluptuary that I am, I fully subscribe to the sentiment behind the view of the late, great Cyril Connolly who said in “The Unquiet Grave,” I quote from memory, “I know my vices are bad for me, but life is intolerable.”
That may be a tad strong, but it is certainly true that practicing puritan austerity in order to eke out a few more years in which to practice puritan austerity is too bleak to contemplate.
So, though I have vowed to be “good,” tried manfully to at least fake it long enough to get through another year’s annual physical, I have failed and now expect to get a bad report card. The only question is how bad. I expect a tongue-lashing at the least, a death sentence at worst, but probably a middling helping of abuse, another pill, a substantial bill.
Will all this make me want to behave better? No, it will make me want to have a drink, a smoke, and a twelve course dinner. What I will do, of course, is slink home and have one of those omelets made with fake eggs, cooked in fake butter, with a side of fake bacon. Or as we sad-sack oldsters call it, Feggs, Facon and Flutter. There will probably be a plate of something only a rabbit could love alongside it. And no fun whatsoever.
Not for nothing am I the author of a poem called “Annual Physical” that begins:
Sooner now than later,
In a windowless, anonymous,
Dead white, fluorescent room,
Seated on a padded table,
You’ll get the news…
It doesn’t have a happy ending.