How Not to Talk With Your Baby Boomer Man About Seeing a Physician
Waiting room #1
I mean I don’t actually dislike looking at my doctor. I just don’t like anything about the process of going to see my physician. Calling and having to explain to someone I don’t know about why I want to see the doctor makes me very uncomfortable. Sitting in the waiting room and having people peeking over their Time magazine and looking at me is weird. With each new person entering the office I begin to wonder things like, “What illness do they have?” or “Do I know them?”
Waiting room #2
Then, I get to sit in the sterile half room with diagrams of human organs on the wall, bottles of odd-looking instruments on the counter, and the dreaded latex glove box affixed to the same, aforementioned wall. The odd questions from the physician’s assistant or nurse are disconcerting and the blood pressure contraption feels like it’s going to explode my bicep. This is all before the same aforementioned doctor waltzes in 28 minutes later.
What not to say
I get it. Going to the doctor is not fun, but it’s necessary and for those of you out there who are trying to get your guy to see his physician, here are some thoughts and I hope this helps. In my experience, guys around my age (55) and older will respond best if you don’t say these things:
- “You need to see the doctor, you are not getting any younger.” We know this part already. We see the hairs dropping off our heads and sprouting up in other places. We look in the mirror, too.
- “(Name the disease/condition) runs in your family.” We know this, too.
- “Going to the doctor is not bad. It’s probably nothing.” It might not be bad for you, but I’m afraid what he might find and that feels very bad.
- “You can take the time off. The plant/office/store can run without you.” Have you met my co-workers/subordinates? The place needs me! I’m indispensable!
- “Don’t you want to see your grandkids grow up!?” Of course, I do, but this shaming is not helping me.
- “I got you a morning appointment, no one you know will be there.” There might be people I know there?
- “The needles are really small.” Enough said.
- “You can see the male doctor on Wednesday about your men’s issues.” What if he takes the day off and I get someone else...!?!
Now, of course, not all men think this way. With my disclaimer out of the way, here is what I think about the best to communicate with us. Be sensitive and realize that underneath our seemingly tough exterior lie insecurities and fear. We fear being sick, losing loved ones, not providing for our family, and letting others down. We don’t want to seem weak. Like all humans, we need care and understanding, it’s just sometimes we don’t do a great job at expressing this.
We can still be someone’s hero
Appeal to our sense of duty by pointing out the very real benefits of good health in providing for those who rely on us. We may no longer be the financial breadwinners, but underneath we still want to feel that we are contributing and being in good health can allow us to do this. We still want to feel needed in a healthy way. Appealing to our continued important role in our family and community is very motivating to men who grew up with a deep sense of obligation.
Be honest about what we will experience and what we are facing. Let us know that you will be there for us no matter what the doctor says. Offer to come with us, but don’t insist on it. We just want to know that it is safe to ask for help and be vulnerable. We just want you there for us.
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?