My knee hurt. Fiery daggers shot through it when I stepped down, tried to cross my legs or squatted to retrieve whatever Pussy (not her real name) batted under the kitchen stove. Privileged to have health insurance, I mustered my co-pay and went to the doctor. She referred me to an orthopedist who referred me to physical therapy. Triple co-pay.
Unfortunately, I discovered that my friendly neighborhood lesbian physical therapist isn’t authorized under my current health plan. I’d have to entrust my knee to a new practitioner, sight-unseen. If I’d been less under the influence of severe inflammation, I might have checked around, asked for references, looked on Angie’s List. I mean really, who knows what homophobes may lurk in the mysterious field of physical therapy?
In the waiting room, nervous, I leafed through a Time magazine (who reads Time?). My new PT opened the door and called my name. Athletic, buff, short hair, polo shirt and khakis — he looked so much like my beloved dyke PT that my nerves calmed right down. He shook my hand in a friendly grip. “I’m Peter,” he said. “Let’s have a look.”
Peter was low-key, all business, gentle. He walked me to the exam room, gestured toward the padded table. “Have a seat.” He proceeded to scrutinize my knee and the maypole of muscles, tendons, and ligaments attached to it. We moved to the gym, an apparatus-filled room which could easily double as a doggie agility course. “Step up, bend, crouch, lunge,” Peter instructed. “Close your eyes and balance on your left foot.”
I steadied myself, breathed, struggled to remain upright.
Back in the exam room Peter had me lie on the table, roll onto my left side, then right, face down, on my back. He maneuvered my leg this way and that. “Squeeze. Resist. Push. Lift.” Peter measured my lower extremity’s strength, range of motion, flexion, extension — pretty much everything except barometric pressure.
“Shoulders and feet flat on the table, arch your back into a bridge.” Peter said. “Hold.” In yoga, this would be known as the double-chin-asphyxiation posture. Peter focused on his watch and timed my endurance in this position. I squeezed my buns to maintain the pose. My breath made Darth Vader sounds. Peter asked, “So, what do you write?”
Oxygen deprivation made me hesitate before I remembered listing writer as my occupation on the PT intake form — anything to invoke the publishing goddesses. “Oh,” I grunted, still arched, straining, “A humor column.”
“Eugene Weekly, right?” Peter kept watching his timer.
Buttocks now on fire and neck folds strangling, I managed to murmur “Mmm-hmmm.”
“What’s it about?” A standard question. All my columns are about my lesbo life, but did I really want to come out at this moment? My pelvis thrust skyward and barely breathing, in pain, vulnerable. How exposed do I need to be? Now I sounded like Gollum, “This week’s is menopause.” True, but not the whole truth.
“Oh, right,” Peter chuckled. He rested his warm hand on my throbbing knee. “My wife and I read that and laughed our asses off.”
Asses? All I could think of was that my own ass was now in dire distress, fighting to maintain my seriously sagging arched bridge. At least we’d dispensed with the coming out thing.
Finally, the tush-torture test was over. Peter jotted notes in my chart and rolled close to the exam table on his wheeled stool. Turns out, Peter explained in strictly clinical terms, that my behind is what’s behind my knee problem. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my derriere, although unquestionably ample, is too weak to do its job of supporting my knee. De butt bone connected to de knee bone — who knew?
Peter sent me home with a stretchy band and two pages of exercises to strengthen my glutes — minimus, medius and maximus. My knee still hurts, but finding a new fan feels pretty good.
Award-winning writer Sally Sheklow has narrated her saga of pain for EW since 1999.