Patriarchy in the news – January 25, 2015

(warning: graphic content)

patriarchal principle: Men are entitled to take up space

“Manspreading” refers to men sitting in public spaces with their legs spread wide apart. Anyone – and especially a woman – who has sat in a movie theater, airplane, or any sort of public transportation is all too familiar with the phenomenon. All too many men seem willing to rudely spread out beyond their little designated spaces in places like those I’ve mentioned. I’d really like to have a dollar for every time I’ve been squeezed out of my space in a movie theater by a man manspreading next to me – I could buy most of the books on my wish list at Amazon. Some speculate that this behavior is an act of dominance or is about male privilege. Personally, I have always thought the message is, “Hey,everybody look at me – my balls are so big that I can not even close my legs!”  The problem is widespread – if you will – enough that now, the New York City subway authority is mounting a campaign against the practice, using the slogan “Dude, stop the spread please. It’s a space issue.” Continue reading


Too many people + unbridled consumption = trauma for billions

Does disaster loom, brought on by population increases and a governing economic system predicated on ever more growth?

Scratch a problem involving homo sapiens. Smog choking cities. Carbon dioxide and methane warming atmosphere or ocean. Forests rapaciously slashed. No fish where fish used to be. Nuclear waste with no safe home (ever). Pollution everywhere. Children without education. Billions of poor without hope or safe drinking water or adequate food. Disease and death induced by the absence of health care.

And wars. Plenty of wars.

In such examples of human trauma amid conflicts over life-sustaining resources, there’s a centrality rarely discussed.

Too. Many. People.

When I was born, in 1946, America housed just over 141 million people. Today, the 50 states approach 320 million people. Despite a declining birth rate, America gains a person every 16 seconds, thanks largely to the admission of about 1.5 million legal foreign workers each year.

When I was born, the Earth had about 2.5 billion people. The Census Bureau anticipates 9.3 billion people globally in 2050. That would be almost a four-fold increase in the people Earth would seek but likely fail to adequately support.
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CATEGORY: PersonalNarrative

Dear Woody Paige: thank you for saving my life

Woody-PaigeHi Woody.

I’ve been posting the poems from my latest book to Ello lately – one per day – and this morning’s entry was “Old Ethan’s Quantum Diary.” It’s an especially difficult and painful piece of a larger work that is, in many ways, the most tortured effort of my 35-year creative writing journey.

As I explained in the preface to the post, there was a time a few years ago when I thought I had very little time left. Since I do not believe in any kind of afterlife, I found myself thinking a lot about what science has to say on the subject. It tormented me that it would all just be over. Fade to black. The void, and not even an awareness of the void. As hard, as painful, as frustrating and unfulfilling as the low spots have been, I love life and the thought of losing it terrified me. Continue reading


Hysterectomy – who needs one anyway?

Warning, ladies – you probably don’t!

Wait, gentlemen, please don’t run away! Yes, I am about to start throwing around words like uterus, ovaries, vagina, clitoris, nipples, orgasm, and hysterectomy. Here under the shameful for-profit health care system we have, an astonishing one-third of American women are hysterectomized, leading to physical side-effects, emotional side-effects, loss of sex drive and sexual response, and total loss of overall vitality. Surely you have a wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister, mother, or aunt vulnerable to this outrage, so please do read on. I have read of so many men being devastated by the changes in women they love following hysterectomy – it is your issue too.


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CVS announces it will stop beating its wife


Perhaps you heard: CVS has announced that it will stop selling cigarettes.

I know what you’re thinking – this is awesome! But before we all break out the kneepads and chapstick, let’s ask ourselves a question: why the fuck was a HEALTHCARE COMPANY selling GODDAMNED CIGARETTES in the first place?!

Here’s a fun question. How many people who bought cigarettes at CVS are now dead from cancer? Continue reading


Conspiracies against progress: why the rise of the modern conspiracy theory should concern us all

by David Lambert

Contrails are the wispy white clouds of frozen water vapor that streak across the sky in the wake of jet engines. But according to 17 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds—my generation—contrails are actually “chemtrails,” poisonous chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons. As the world becomes an increasingly scary and complex place with no simple answers, the temptation to create narratives explaining all of its evil will grow. And here lies the heart of the modern conspiracy theory. Yet when fantasy overtakes reality, progress suffers.

Whenever anything bad happens in the world today, from September 11th to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, there is a growing gaggle quick to cry, “wake up sheeple!” Continue reading

CATEGORY: PersonalNarrative

A bad case of Schrödinger’s Flu

Losing myself. Literally.

I haven’t posted in a while, because I had to take some time to lose myself. Literally, I’m not the man I used to be, because I didn’t like going upstairs.

On a good day I would make three trips upstairs. I didn’t like going upstairs. It was work, and all my toys were downstairs.

But one cold January day, when I got the top of the stairs on trip number 2, I shuffled over to the bed to take a nap. My wife was concerned.

“You know, you really shouldn’t get so out of breath from just walking up the steps,” she said.

“I was carrying something,” I gasped.

“You’re carrying a diet coke and a pencil,” she replied. “You just don’t sound right. When is the last time you went to the doctor for a physical?” Continue reading

San Francisco junk time

Skewed Priorities Dept.: While you’re debating funding Israel, what are American tax dollars doing for people like this?

The two men were clearly friends. The man in the cap was young, baby-faced, and probably still in his late teens. The man on the ground, well, he was probably a few years older than his companion, but his frailty, ugly bruises, and generally wretched appearance made it hard to tell.

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Why can’t you ladyfolk be nicer when explaining feminism to us? [trigger warning]

A personal perspective from the front lines of the war on women

Oh. I see. Share this if you get it.

Source: name withheld for safety

In the quote that follows, “I Blame the Patriarchy” blogger Twisty addresses a question I, like all feminists, have SO often been asked: “Don’t you think you could win more men to your cause if you were nicer?” And now, now, in my late forties, my answer is a firm “NO! NO I FUCKING DON’T.”

In my thirties, while I was also busy volunteering at and raising funds for battered women’s shelters (did you know the most requested item at a women’s shelter is hair dye, to make the women harder for their abusers to spot? If you ever run across a great sale price on hair dye, buy some extra and donate it to a women’s shelter, please – they always need it) and I was volunteering at the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant, and producing “The Feminist Papers” and “The Vagina Monologues” on my campus and marching in “Take Back the Night,” and taking the stage at “Speak out against rape” and being active in my campus Women’s Studies club and writing and editing the biweekly social justice newsletter for my church, and going to college with a near-perfect 3.9 grade point average, and raising a female child under the patriarchy, often as a single parent having to bring my daughter to classes with me as my military husband was frequently deployed during this period, I was also willing to take precious time to talk to men, both online and off, who demanded that I explain feminism to them, convince them – and it was required to be sweetly, nicely, patiently, with a smiling, pleasing feminine demeanor, and I complied, used up lots of time complying. Continue reading

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Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg: you owe us one hell of an explanation

Did Facebook’s scientific study contribute to user suicides? We’ll never know, but statistics demand that we ask the question.

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

As the title of this post indicates, you owe us one hell of an explanation. Indulge me, if you will.

As you are undoubtedly aware, your company, Facebook, recently had a scientific study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). I would naturally assume, social media being your element, that you are aware of a degree of outcry about the ethical lapses that appear evident in your study’s methodology. I doubt you registered my own outrage, so ICYMI, here it is.

A key element of my expressed outrage is this:

Did you know that you were consenting to have your emotional state manipulated? Continue reading


Even high jumpers get the yips

The yips plague athletes in many sports, and even musicians. Hopefully sports psychologists can find a cure.

Golfers know all about “the yips.” If they’ve never experienced it themselves, they’ve probably played with someone who has. And they certainly know the stories of famous golfers whose careers were challenged, if not devastated by the phenomenon. This list includes Tommy Armour, who coined the term to describe the condition that forced him to abandon tournament play. He was hardly the only one.

Golfers seriously afflicted by the yips include Bernhard Langer, Ben Hogan, Harry Vardon, Sam Snead, and Keegan Bradley, who missed a simple 6 inch putt in the final round of the 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship due to the condition (although he may also have been suffering from Strabismus).

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How to drink without getting drunk: does the yeast method work? (Food & Drink Week)

Esquire blog discusses a famous brewer’s secret for staying (relatively) sober. We test it out.

You may have seen Aaron Goldfarb’s recent Esquire blog entitled “How to Drink All Night Without Getting Drunk.” Great headline, and how cool would that be, right? I was skeptical, for obvious reasons, but it turns out that what is proposed is an idea developed by Joseph Owades, who Samuel Adams co-founder Jim Koch calls “the best brewer who ever lived.”

I figured I’d test the method myself, and not just because it would give me an excuse to drink too much.

First, how does it work? Continue reading

CATEGORY: PoliticsReligion

Hobby Lobby hypocrisy: 401k plan invests in contraception

HobbyLobbyEverydayObamacare litigant secretly profiting from the very immorality it publicly opposes.

The story by Molly Redden in Mother Jones, “Hobby Lobby’s Hypocrisy: The Company’s Retirement Plan Invests in Contraception Manufacturers,” is absolutely worth a few minutes of your time. In short: three-quarters of the Hobby Lobby retirement plan investments are in funds that invest in pharmaceutical companies that produce contraceptive devices that Hobby Lobby’s owners object to having covered by their insurance plans: Continue reading


Tackling poverty means that there will be more KFCs in Africa

Photo credit: CIMMYT.

Smallholder farmer prepares maize plot for planting with CIMMYT improved varieties, Embu, Kenya

Gates Foundation and KFC initiatives are better news than many understand.

Rural villages in Africa are not just poor, their demography is hollowed out. Continue reading


Infographic: Commuting can be hazardous to your health. Fatal, even.

One in six Americans commutes an hour and a half a day. It makes us more angry, less happy, increases back pain and triples our risk of heart attack.

I hate commuting. Hate. It. Not only is it simply no fun sitting in a rush hour parking lot, I’m stingy about my time. Even if I’m wasting it sitting on the couch, it’s my time. If I have to commute an hour or two a day, that’s time devoted to work that I’m not being paid for. Continue reading

CATEGORY: TuesdayMorningRAW

Tuesday Morning RAW: WTF is WWE Creative thinking?

Sometimes I have no clue what the WWE Creative team is doing. Which is appropriate, because I don’t think they do, either.

Case #1: Recently the WWE made a token donation to Chris Nowinski’s organization, which is dedicated to studying and preventing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

The gift is being made to the Sports Legacy Institute, a Boston non-profit with a mission to advance treatment and prevention of the effects of concussions in athletes and others, such as soldiers concussed by blasts. The Sports Legacy Institute has a pro wrestling connection: Co-founder Chris Nowinski played football at Harvard but also wrestled in the WWE under names that included Chris Harvard.

Nice gesture, and one that’s potentially even more powerful if Creative can put a storyline behind it. Almost immediately they had HHH, aka Paul Levesque, the company’s COO and one of its biggest stars, sustain a storyline concussion in a pay-per-view match with Brock Lesnar. Excellent, I thought – they’re now going to use this to illustrate the dangers of messing with a head injury.

Well, not exactly. They had HHH attempting to get back in the ring immediately, where his symptoms manifested in a match against Curtis Axel and he was unable to continue. So far, so good. But then they trot out his wife, VP of Creative Stephanie McMahon, and his father-in-law, CEO Vince McMahon, to explain that he was being withheld from further competition in the interests of his health. Great.

Except that they played Vince and Stephanie as heels and HHH as the good guy for wanting to come back and endanger his physical and neurological well being. They worked the angle so as to incite the crowd to scream for HHH’s return.

WTF? Do these people even read the company’s own press releases?

CATEGORY: TuesdayMorningRAWCase 2: In another extended program, Creative pitted Sheamus against the Intellectual Savior of the Masses, Damien Sandow. If you don’t follow WWE, Sandow plays an insufferable elitist snob and Sheamus is the lovable rough-and-tumbler from the mean streets of Dublin. In show after show, Sandow attempted to outsmart Sheamus and to make him look foolish in the process. Each time Sheamus comes out on top via a boot to the face.

Now, there are a couple of issues here. First off, Sheamus was being played as a straight-up schoolyard bully. And second, he’s the face. The storyline set the smart kid up as the smarmy asshole, the bully up as the good guy, and the payoff was when the bully beat up the brainiac.

The crowd goes wild!

So yes, WWE Creative concocted a program where the bully was the hero. Well, so what, you say? You don’t necessarily expect pro wrestling to be a font of intellectual enlightenment, right?

No, but it might not be unreasonable to expect better of a company that’s explicitly pushing a goddamned no-bullying initiative!

Be a STAR (Show Tolerance And Respect) was founded by The Creative Coalition and WWE in April 2011. The mission of Be a STAR is to ensure a positive and equitable social environment for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation through grassroots efforts beginning with education and awareness. Be a STAR promotes positive methods of social interaction and encourages people to treat others as equals and with respect because everyone is a star in their own right.

Currently, Be a STAR has 58 alliance members, including National Education Association Health Information Network (NEA HIN), GLAAD, STOMP Out Bullying, The Ad Council and the United Federation of Teachers all partnering together to take action against bullying.

Furthermore, The Alliance debuted Be a STAR Chapter Toolkits to help schools and communities start their own Be a STAR chapters. The free kit includes a guide on how to start a Be a STAR chapter, suggested activities, resources, a poster and other useful tools to combat bullying. The chapter toolkit has been downloaded by more than 4,000 students across the country.
Through the Be a STAR website, over 30,000 people from all 50 US states and from 91 international countries have taken the pledge to end bullying through WWE’s Be a STAR program.

In an ongoing effort to spread the word about tolerance and respect, WWE Superstars and Divas visit two – three schools or community centers per month to speak with students about bullying issues including sharing their own personal stories.

I repeat, WTF?

It’s like Creative is somehow engaged in a battle for the soul of the organization. By golly, corporate and diversity can go out and fund all the prosocial bullshit they like, but tune into Monday Night RAW to see us undermine every bit of it. Take that, goody-goody bitches.

If we ever see the company unveiling an anti-racism campaign, I guess we’ll know to expect an R-Truth heel turn where he’ll team his Negro Drug Dealer persona with “The Minstrel” Cody Rhodes (wearing blackface, of course) in a program against a fan favorite Ku Klux Klansman character. And since he speaks German, maybe you add in Antonio Cesaro as The Midnight Rider’s cool Nazi sidekick.

It makes every bit as much sense as some of the other angles we’ve seen lately…


Komen Foundation circling the drain? Good riddance, and good news for cancer research

CATEGORY: KomenThe Susan Komen Foundation announced this past week that it’s slashing the number of cancer walks it stages in half.

In a decision “not made lightly,” the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure announced Wednesday that it was canceling seven of its signature three-day fundraising walks next year.

The decision comes about 18 months after the organization stoked considerable rage from some supporters when then-Komen Vice President Karen Handel pushed the organization to end funding for Planned Parenthood. Komen eventually reversed the decision, angering some other supporters.

Leaving aside for a second that the last sentence there is fundamentally incorrect – Komen did not reverse the decision and everyone, including the usually on-the-spot Ragan.com staff and, I don’t know, seemingly every news organization in America, fell for the PR misdirection – this is dire news for the foundation and good news for everybody else, including those who lives depend on finding a cure for breast cancer.

If you recall, S&R was brutally critical of Komen’s decision to put social conservative ideology ahead of women’s health, and until such time as the organization is fully rid of those responsible for the Planned Parenthood decision (primarily founder/CEO Nancy Brinker and, one assumes, all of her close associates), the conviction here remains the same: burn it to the ground, scrape the lot and dedicate our resources to those whose commitment to curing breast cancer has as its top and only priority, you know, curing breast cancer.

In this light, Komen shutting down half its events strikes us as good news, but the job is only half done. And don’t be fooled by the foundation’s slickly-crafted official statement, which is, not surprisingly, more PR smoke and mirrors:

“Many participants have reported that enthusiasm for the series remains very high, but it is more difficult for people to donate at levels they had in the past,” she said in a statement.

Yes, it’s more difficult because millions of former supporters are now done with Komen because of its conservative religious agenda.

But wait – it gets worse. Komen has been dinged a couple other times in recent months, as the Ragan article notes.

First, Komen has cut the proportion of its revenue that goes to actual research by half, with only 15% of the cash it rakes in finding its way into actual cancer research programs. That may not get them on the 50 Worst Charities list, but it has them closer to the neighborhood than a prospective donor might like.

Second, many potential supporters couldn’t have been happy to learn that Brinker’s salary jumped. Boy howdy, did it jump.

The embattled former CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure made $684,717 in 2012, Dallas News reported.

That’s 64 percent more in 2012 than she earned from April 2010 to April 2011.

Maybe this, plus the decision to hire a high-profile PR firm, helps explain why they had to trim their proportional commitment to research funding.

As I say, this is all potentially very good news for cancer research. There are a lot of very good cancer charities out there, and 11 of them earned an A- grade or better from CharityWatch.org. At least three of their top-rated organizations are explicitly dedicated to breast cancer, including the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund (A) and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (A+). The latter says it dedicates more than 90 cents of every dollar it collects to research and awareness programs, and while I’d like to see the details on the “awareness” component, which might well include the in-house marketing and development budget, the available evidence suggests that their on-point expenditures come in well north of Komen’s.

Let’s do a little math here. The Reuters article says that Komen spent $63M on research in 2011, and that this represented 15% of the donations they received. Which means their total donations were roughly $420M, right? Let’s be extremely generous and take Komen at their word about their expenditures. If we do, and if we attempt to parallel them with what BCRF’s “research and awareness” probably entails, then we get to around 75% of Komen’s total spend on education, research awards and grants, screening and treatment.

Now, say that instead of all that money going to Komen, it went to the BCRF. And let’s suppose that the BCRF managed those funds the way they manage the ones they already take in. Komen’s theoretical 75 cents on the dollar vs. BCRF’s 91 cents on the dollar adds up to a difference of $67M and change, if my calculations are accurate. Again, this is being as generous to Komen as we can possibly be.

So let’s not lament the Komen Foundation’s self-inflicted downfall. Their demise doesn’t hurt our search for a cure in the least – in fact, if all that energy and enthusiasm that Komen so effectively harnessed is simply redirected toward better organizations, it should actually be a good thing.

Seven down, seven to go.

A surprise at the urologist’s office #NSFW

NOTE: “NSFW” isn’t quite right. Not Safe To Read, period, is closer. WARNING: This article contains depictions of a doctor inserting a hypodermic needle into a man’s penis and may leave readers lying in a fetal ball on the floor.


by Patrick Vecchio

The local urologist is a nice guy, but I wish he and I had not come to know each other so well over the past months. I’ve learned about his personality, sense of humor, professional demeanor and medical acumen. As for what he has learned about me—well, let’s call it inside information. Three times, he has slipped on a latex glove and lubricated his index finger for what I call the “Star Trek procedure.” That is, he boldly goes where no man has gone before. He was almost apologetic the third time and laughed when I shrugged and said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
He and I met about a year ago after a kidney stone sent me to the hospital pleading for industrial-strength pain medication. I knew what I was dealing with; X-rays simply confirmed it. I was hospitalized for two days, spending the first in a narcotic fog. He discharged me after the pain inexplicably vanished the second day and said if the stone didn’t pass in a week, he’d go in after it.

After a week, I didn’t need more X-rays to tell me the stone hadn’t budged. I’ve passed somewhere between a half-dozen and a dozen kidney stones over the years, and as they scrape their way to the outside world, the stone-passer is in what I’ve seen referred to as “exquisite agony.”


The last half-inch of the stone’s journey is particularly unpleasant. I force myself to drink lots of water so my urine stream can blast the stone out. When a stone shoots out, it announces itself with a little “tink!” when it hits the porcelain of a toilet or urinal. During the week after I was discharged from the hospital, none of those things happened.

So the doctor booked me for surgery. There is, of course, just one open passageway from the outside world into the kidney, and he took that path while sliding a minuscule camera inside me to find the kidney stone. Fortunately, I was blissfully anesthetized.

After the brain fog lifted, I asked him how big the stone had been. He said he didn’t find one. “You must have passed it,” he said, to which I replied, “I’ve passed kidney stones before, and believe me, I know when they pass.” And the X-rays showed this one was the size of El Capitan.
The only trouble with my theory was that I had been pain-free after being discharged from the hospital, and considering that this particular stone announced itself by putting me in the hospital in the first place, my argument didn’t hold. So I went along with the urologist: I had unknowingly fired an asteroid through my apparatus. “You’re not a doctor,” I reminded myself. “Stranger things have happened.”

Earlier this month, strange things started happening again. My first signal something was amiss came when I was standing at a urinal at work and noticed not one, but two colors: the usual mellow yellow, and red.

Blood in the urine is a tad unsettling. Nonetheless, I tried to rationalize it away. “It must have been my workout on the treadmill last night,” I thought. “I really pushed it. I probably just banged up my guttyworks a bit.” And sure enough, the next day the blood was gone. I congratulated myself for the self-diagnosis.

A week later the bleeding resumed, this time after I’d spent the day mowing my lawn. With a riding mower. Workout? Strenuous? Probably not. I went to bed hoping the situation would again resolve itself overnight.

The next morning, after I had finished peeing, it looked like somebody had poured a carafe of Merlot into the toilet bowl. I couldn’t see to the bottom. This was more than a tad unsettling. As the week passed, so did more blood. Clots, too. I looked into the mirror. “‘Tis but a scratch,” I said. “I’ve had worse.” The guy in the mirror didn’t believe me.

I called the urologist, who ordered a whirlpool of tests. I had blood drawn for analysis so often that I felt whiter than the Pillsbury Doughboy. Soon, just one procedure remained. I had been X-rayed. I had been ultrasounded. This time, I was CT scanned. Immediately after the scan, I had an appointment with the urologist so he could discuss the fresh images with me.

I checked in at his office and waited a few minutes. The usually crowded waiting area was vacant. Then the nurse showed me into what I thought would be one of the routine exam rooms where the doctor and I had met before. But I knew something was amiss when she left the room saying, “Take off your pants and underpants and lie on the table on your back.”

Hmmm, I thought, lying on the table and studying the ceiling tiles. This is a change in the routine. I figured she had told me to take my pants off because the starship USS Enterprise was on its way. But a nagging little voice in my brain told me I was wrong.

I sat up and looked around. I saw strange machines with weird knobs and baffling gauges. I saw mysterious instruments and vaguely menacing medical accessories. The inside of my mouth started to feel like I had eaten a tablespoon of flour. Thinking back to the empty waiting area, I hoped for a moment that I was in this room because the other rooms were full—but the moment passed. My anxiety started to spread like bacteria in an infected urine culture. I had the caffeine shakes even though I hadn’t had any coffee. Trying to breathe was like inhaling cotton.

My adrenaline surged, but before I could flee, the urologist wrapped on the door twice with his knuckles. He and the nurse came into the room, and he said, “You have a bladder stone.” It sounded benign, considering the other possibilities, and relief washed over me like a cool sheet on a July night. I sat up and started to step off the exam table so I could start putting my pants back on.

Then he asked me to lie back down. The nurse was still in the room. She drew a curtain so that nobody opening the door could see what was going on. The cartoon thought balloon over my head was filled with three letters and a punctuation mark: WTF?

And then he started swabbing the tip of my—well, let’s just say he wasn’t swabbing the tip of my big toe. I bolted half-upright, elbows on the table.

“You’re not going in, are you?”



Male readers—and female readers, for that matter—have no doubt begun to wince, shudder, make horrified faces or cross their legs—maybe all four. I say this because I was doing the same thing. And I was doing the same thing because I immediately remembered being in the exact same situation with a different doctor many, many years ago. It had not gone well—at least until they gave me an IV shot of something; I think it was Valium. Once it kicked in, they could have been going in with a chain saw, for all I cared.

As the doctor continued swabbing, there was no talking my way out of it. Couldn’t I get a shot of something first? Did we have to do it today? Before long, the urologist demanded that I lie back and relax because the more I moved and the more I resisted, the more uncomfortable I was going to be. I tried to relax, but it’s never a good sign when doctors use words like “uncomfortable.”

So I tried not to pay too much attention as he began slipping what felt like a needle into me. This was to numb me—or a particular part of me, anyway. “You may feel some discomfort at first,” he said in an all-business voice. Given what I was feeling and where I was feeling it, I wasn’t sure the word “discomfort” was appropriate, but at the time I couldn’t describe exactly how it felt as he was treating my equipment like it was a pincushion.

Next, he threaded one of those tiny cameras inside so he could take a look around. “I’m inside your bladder now,” he said in a voice that sounded like it was coming from another room. “You have a bladder stone.” After a pause, he said, “I don’t see any tumors.” At that moment I realized why he had looked inside instead of simply relying on images from X-rays and ultrasound and the CT scan: He wanted to see for himself. He was finished moments later. I was dazed but grateful.

We met a few minutes later in his office, where he showed me the pictures from the test earlier that morning. “There’s the stone,” he said. “This is causing the blood in your urine.” It looked like it was the size of a black bean. Clearly, it wasn’t going to go anywhere.

For the briefest of moments, I considered asking him whether this was the missing kidney stone. Had it dropped from the ureter into a bladder backwater—and no farther—where it had rolled around and accumulated a mineral coating like a peanut inside an M&M? At that point, though, I only wanted to get out of his office as quickly as possible, so I didn’t ask. I suspect there’s no way to know, anyway.

So now he’s going to go back in again with a laser to break the stone into small enough pieces to pass. Before the surgery, I am flying to Florida for a family get-together. I am not a good flier. At the slightest bump in the flight, I start death-gripping the armrests and watching the flight attendants’ faces for signs of alarm.

But if the ride gets at all choppy either on my way South or on my way home, I’ll simply think of my reaction when the urologist began swabbing me down. That should take my mind off any bumps in the air.

I just hope the passengers next to me don’t freak out when I start wincing and crossing my legs.