I’ve never been one to get along with conventionally attractive people – probably a residual internal bias against the “popular” crowd in grade school that incessantly teased me for my Otherness. As an adult, my wariness of attractive people has manifested in awkward conversations (which I’ve masked well with my quirky personality… I hope).
Interviews are the worst – whether I’m interviewing for a job or being interviewed by the media. If the person I’m supposed to make eye contact with is attractive, I know immediately that the interview will go badly. Fortunately, in my line of work as an activist/organizer, I don’t interact with ridiculously gorgeous people too often.
It’s not that I have a crush on them – it’s just that attractive people have the ability to make me lose all my conversational skills. (It almost makes me empathize with those religious types who argue that women should be covered up to keep the male of the species from getting distracted. Almost.)
This is why it should be no surprise that I have terribly awkward doctor visits. Because my doctor is incredibly attractive.
The first time I tried to make an appointment with my female, Desi doctor for my annual exam, she was booked for three months in advance.
“We can set you up with another doctor for now if you want to be seen sooner? Your primary care physician will remain the same,” the receptionist said. I agreed without thinking much about it.
As I waited in the lobby before my appointment, I peeked through the window at the busy doctors. I noticed a chubby, middle-aged Desi man – dare I say, “uncle”? – and wondered if he was going to be my doctor that day. The thought made me shift uncomfortably in my seat.
The reason I’d chosen this practice was because, as a South Asian woman, I wanted another South Asian woman to be my primary care physician. She would understand my culture and health context, we could joke about eating gulab jaman, and she wouldn’t question why I wanted birth control “for acne.”
Maybe I have high expectations – but these are all things most women think about when choosing a doctor.
As soon as I saw Doctor Uncle, I immediately thought of all the potential judgments he might hold against me – exercise, get married, reproduce!, he’d bark. I tried to drown my qualms in the pages of a reception room magazine.
After the nurse had taken my vitals, I sat awkwardly on the bed in my paper gown, waiting for the doctor. As I tried patting down the paper underneath me to look respectable, I heard a rip. I had tugged too hard. I was still trying to fix the rip when the doctor walked in.
I looked up into his bright hazel eyes, dropped my gaze down to his welcoming smile, then onto his chiseled jaw line, and finally down to his hand – unadorned of a wedding ring.
“Oh, for the love of God,” I thought to myself, “I had to get the hot AND unmarried doctor?!”
He looked about my age, tall, fit, dressed in jeans and a casual hipster plaid button down, with sleeves rolled up just so. He could easily have been a model, or the perfect Doctor Next Door in a romantic comedy.
“I’m Hot Doctor. How are you feeling today?” he asked kindly, extending his hand. He probably didn’t say “Hot Doctor.” I was just too dazed to catch his name.
Here’s the thing about doctor visits – you are required to have vulnerable conversations while they prod your intimate bits to make sure that you are healthy. The worst part? You can’t lie to your doctor – about your weight or anything else – because the nurse has already written it down in that folder.
He asked me how many sexual partners I’d had in the past year – which I really feel is more of a third date type of question. His hands grazed my skin while he looked at the bottom of my feet; I had a minor panic attack for not having had a pedicure before coming in.
As his warm hands rubbed in a circular motion palpating my breasts, I tried not to look him in the eyes – which is really difficult when another person’s face is that close to your own.
When he inserted the duckbilled metal speculum and told me that my “cervix looked healthy,” I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a medical professional’s idea of a pickup line.
All jokes aside, I’m pretty sure we were both feeling awkward by the end of that first appointment because the way I cope with really attractive people is by avoiding eye contact, not smiling or talking, and maintaining a really curt persona.
Not awkward at all, right?
“All you need to do,” my married co-worker Joanna told me after my appointment, “is to find one fault in him, to make him human. You know, knock him down a peg. Does he have a crooked tooth? Something that’s just off about him?”
I shook my head. Nope.
“Well, what’s his name? Let’s google him! I’ll find a fault in him,” she said.
The confidence of married people can never be overestimated.
“His name is ‘Hot Doctor’!,” I responded. “I don’t know his name because he’s not my primary physician! And I forgot to pick up his business card! And it’d be weird to call the office now and ask the receptionist his name!”
Fast forward two years to this past month when I found three of Hot Doctor’s business cards buried at the bottom of my purse. I’d forgotten that after my last exam with him over the summer, I’d grabbed a handful on my way out. For Joanna, of course.
I like to think that I was properly prepared for my most recent visit with Hot Doctor: I’d had a pedicure, my makeup was on point, and I’d shaved. I also had an index card of talking points so hopefully I was less awkward too.I also googled him. The first thing to pop up was a picture of him doing humanitarian doctoring on South American children.
“Of COURSE he does humanitarian work – that’s not not-hot at all,” I thought to myself.
Then, I found a video of him giving medical advice on one of those medical talk shows.
“How typical,” I thought. “Only in L.A. would your doctor also play one on T.V. “
Next, I found a headshot, with him looking into the distance, shadows dancing on his chiseled chin.
Followed by…. a photo of him wearing nothing but a Speedo.
And then, an acting reel which featured the muscular, shirtless and Spanish-speaking Hot Doctor – in a post-coital bedroom scene.
With a little more digging…er, research, I realized that he’s all over the Internet because he is one of the leads in a South American telenovela series. Telenovelas are basically soap operas where the actors job is to play Hot. To the telenovela crowd, he’s like Brad Pitt.
Yup. You read that right. My Hot Doctor is so hot that he has a secret double life where he plays the hot romantic lead in a telenovela.
“See? I told you he was hot,” I said to Joanna. “How am I supposed to maintain a straight, non-blushing face when I go in for appointments?”
“Just picture him as a good -looking version of Adam Levine. Maybe that will make it easier.”
“That’s terrible advice – because I actually think Adam Levine is kind of attractive!” I said.
“Also, your little plan about googling Hot Doctor so that we could find a fatal flaw? Well, that royally backfired. I will never be able to get a breast exam from him again without blushing.”
“I guess, I’m going to have to find a new doctor.”
“This is why I always google my doctors first,” Joanna replied, dryly.
So here we are ringing in a new year, with new resolutions and new challenges. As I recommit to “putting myself out there” and being “open to love opportunities the universe sends my way,” I realize that being open can also mean facing up to uneasiness too – specifically embodied in the form of really attractive men.
After my mother died in 2011, I found it really hard to make eye contact with people – if eyes are the window to the soul, then my soul was too raw to be shared.
In 2014, one of my resolutions was to make more eye contact. It symbolized making more real connections and living in the present again. Clearly, this Hot Doctor situation was a direct challenge to my resolution. It’s not just about getting over my fear of attractive people; the situation taught me that I also had to be prepared for whatever twists and turns the universe throws my way.
Where’s the radical love and Muslimah feminist angle to this post? – I know some of you are thinking. With all the heaviness and turmoil going on in this world – sometimes you just need a good laugh at the absurdity of this journey we’re all on, as well as the real life hijinx of a single 30-something woman looking for love.
I used to live by the motto “take the path that leads to the better story.”
Sometimes, even when you aren’t consciously choosing that path, the universe will pick it for you.
For more hijinx, check out Taz’s latest project: a podcast! The #GoodMuslimBadMuslim Podcast is a monthly conversation between comedian and fellow Love Inshallah anthology contributor Zahra Noorbakhsh and Taz, on navigating American Muslimah life.
The first podcast will be up next week: visit www.goodmuslimbadmuslim.com for more information and follow the duo @tazzystar and @zahranoo.
Also, Valentine’s Day is around the corner & what better way to celebrate than with Taz’s hilarious #MuslimVDay cards? Check ’em out, here!
Read more columns by Taz, here.
Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in Los Angeles currently working as the Voter Engagement Manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. She was a long-time writer for Sepia Mutiny, and was published in the anthology Love, Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women and both zines from Totally Radical Muslims. Her personal projects include curating images for Mutinous Mind State and writing about Desi music at Mishthi Music where she co-produced Beats for Bangladesh: A Benefit Album in Solidarity with the Garment Workers of Rana Plaza. Taz also organizes with Bay Area Solidarity Summer and South Asians for Justice – Los Angeles. You can find her rant at @tazzystar.