I am not keen on sharing my medical history. What I suffer is typical and boring. Perhaps I am blessed with being better off than most, completing 67 orbits of the sun and still overlooked by cancer. Besides, who wants to read anyone’s account of a colonoscopy? But now that I am old, I feel compelled to drone on about – well, the Ides of March had consequences.
Caesar was stabbed 23 times. He was 55-years-old. He did not fare well from the experience. Caesar does not need another account from me; you can read the details in Plutarch or Suetonius or Shakespeare. I, too, suffered discomfort, having made two afternoon appointments for the Ides of March.
The first appointment was with the Beauty Advance Skin & Laser Clinic. This is not a promotion for their business. I have no idea how their services might compare with their competition. Ms Keogh, my cherished companion, discovered the place and suggested it. Well, why not? They are located in our building's arcade, a stroll of less than a minute without stepping out into the rain, although it wasn't raining that afternoon. And the reason for availing myself of their services?
Like plenty of elderly Jewish men, I am decorated with skin tags. I was told by a geneticist they result from a millennium of inbreeding. I suspect it is more likely because I am overweight and do not partake in the healthiest diet. I love bacon. The skin tags (acrochorda) grow more numerous and larger with time. They are benign tumors and yet I hate them. It is not only their appearance I hate, I especially hate detecting them with my fingertips. I have been known to rip them off, but usually I just obsessively tug at them until they hurt. Such growths are incongruous and ought not to be found hanging from some smooth field of skin. The way they catch the attention of my fingers, they might as well be grapefruits. There was one peduncle hanging from my right armpit that had grown larger than a pea and I was fed up with its existence. So, I made the appointment.
I was not comfortable at Beauty Advance. Their office had a feminine ambience. There were women's magazines splayed out on low tables in the waiting room. The walls were hung with images of smooth-skinned models. Brochures focused on anti-aging treatments. I did not like being there. The purpose of this agency was to make their clients beautiful. They adhered to the philosophy that a younger appearance was more attractive. Of course it is, but I was not there in the interest of being less ugly or made to look younger. I was interested only in becoming more tactilely pleasant to myself.
Years ago, I had had skin tags removed when I lived in the States. The doctor applied a local anesthetic and using some antique electrical device, burnt the buggers off. I remember the smell of the burning flesh. The doctor would remove three or four, then announced that was enough for one visit. He had a way of making me feel ashamed, but I think I might prefer it to my experience at Beauty Advance.
At this girly clinic, the obsequiousness of the women, and only women worked there, embarrassed me. It made me feel infantile. It reminded me of the way young women representing “gentlemen's” clubs are sent out to drum up business. They are too solicitous and I am not that delusional. For example, one night I was coming home from Café Jazz when a pretty young woman stepped in front of me and, smiling, tried to hand me a card inviting me to visit one of the gentlemen’s clubs on Saint Mary Street. I smiled back and said, “No thank you.” She wouldn’t let me pass, tilted her head down and gave me a slyer glance. In a seductive voice she enticed me with, “There are pretty women.” Holding my smile, I replied, “Why are you trying to exploit me with sexual desire just to get money from me? Nothing’s going to come of it.” She looked insulted and rushed away. I’m sure President Trump would have handled it differently.
The receptionist - I almost wrote hostess – at Beauty Advance showed me a little area in which I could wait where there was a small machine for making coffee. I wanted coffee, but I was too sleepy to be bothered with figuring out how to use the machine and didn’t want to appear awkward. Then the receptionist came over and offered to make the coffee for me. I must impress upon the reader that the staff were trying hard to put me at my ease, but it only made me more sensitive about my shortcomings. I declined her offer to make the coffee for me.
I was taken downstairs. They were prepared to remove as many skin tags as there was time for, at no additional cost. The woman who did the surgery showed me the needle she would use. This was the diathermy method, perhaps the same system used on me in the States, but newer. There would be no anesthetic; the British are stoic. She took off the worst candidate first, the very reason I came, but using up the allotted time, she removed sixteen more. I was happy with the results and that was just the right side, which is all there was time for. I might go back to do the left, but then again, I might try some over-the-counter product and do it at home with Ms Keogh’s assistance.
The staff were all very nice and are to be commended. They tried to make me feel comfortable and that they couldn’t was because of my own baggage. Each one in turn advised me to exfoliate - like I'm really going to do that. Then I went off to my next appointment, to have my teeth cleaned.
Selected Suburban Soliloquies, the best of Mr Bentzman's earlier series of Snakeskin essays, is available as a book or as an ebook, from Amazon and elsewhere.