Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Joyeux Anniversaire a Moi

Disclaimer: Dad, you may want to bypass this one. Disclaimer: Dad, you may want to bypass this one.

Some people have cake. Some people do parties, celebrations, take vacations, open presents-- you know, The Works-- and I am usually one of them. Last year, there was my Red and White (Wine) Theme Party. The year before that, there was the L-Theme Party. The Rock Star Theme Party, the 80's Theme Party, the New Orleans Theme Party, and who could forget the Super Sweet 16+7 Party for my 23rd?! Not to mention, the dinners at nice restaurants, the family parties and celebrations that took place. But let me tell you this: You have not lived a real birthday, you have not experienced it to the fullest, you have not become cultured until you've spent it at the French gynecologist's office getting your yearly woman’s exam (aka The Dreaded Pap Smear) as I did. It's true. Yes, I know, I'm an adventurer.

It wasn't my intention, nor was it on my Bucket List to spend a birthday being poked and prodded by a sixty year-old French doctor; but when you're an Au Pair with little availability, and Madame Gynecologue says there's an opening September 20th at 3:00 pm, (which will give you just enough time to get in, get out and pick up the girls from school by 4:30) you say, "Oui, merci" and add it to your planner.

So how'd it go you ask? With a grain of salt and mild chagrin, I confess that it was…it was… well, it was definitely something. You see, I'm used to the routine and privacy (or as much privacy as one can have during this type of exam) of the American doctors, where you're given a moment alone to undress, slip on the complimentary (albeit paper) robe and drape the neatly pliéd sheet over your lap as you perch yourself on the exam table to catch up on some light reading. After a tap-tap on the door, "Are you ready?" the doctor comes in, dims the lights and voila…does the exam. I wouldn't go so far to call it an enjoyable affair but it's not dreadful.

Fast forward to September 20th, 2010, 3:26 pm Western European Time, and you'll find me pillared nervously in the French exam room because yes, I've been warned these sort of things in France are different. For starters, the place looks like it could be someone's home office--desk, sofa, pictures of family, etc, but with a bunch of French sex and birth control brochures spread about the bookshelves. Just off to the side of the office is small exam room, barely big enough to fit the exam table and a four foot long counter. After reviewing my medical history en Francais, I stand, waiting for the doctor to politely leave me in peace so I can undress. But as I look around, I see that something's missing. Where is my paper robe and where is my sheet?! I ask in my most articulate French, but I'm received with a blank stare. Thinking that maybe it's the language barrier, I do the hand motions for putting on a robe. Still, nothing. Disregarding my agitation, she instructs me to undress and lie on the table. Lights stayed on; I'm completely exposed and suffice it to say, vulnerable. And maybe it was just me, but I swear there was a draft in the room. The exam and I had to be asked continuously to stop scooting away. By four o'clock, I walked out of the office with my 50 euro receipt and medical certificate (which I need for an upcoming race), swearing that the next time I need a pap, I'll book a flight home, first. But on a positive note, here's to being 26 and disease-free!

The rest of my birthday was a flawless success, as my very French boyfriend surprised me with a night aboard une Peniche (a French houseboat) with its very own indoor pool and spa. There was We sat down to the most delicious (butter-infused, I'm sure) Fruits de Mer (seafood) dinner accompanied by a bottle of Rose wine and spent the evening poolside with champagne (because yes, on the inside of our houseboat was our own swimming pool and spa). I did miss my friends in California; I did miss my family; and there was a part of me that longed for some Peanut Butter Golden Spoon, but, but turning 26 and celebrating my birthday in France (and seaside for that matter) was pretty unforgettable. When it came time to blow out my birthday candles and cut the cake, I got out of the pool and there waiting for me on the wall hook, was my very own robe. They do exist in France.

So here's to another year with new endeavors, new experiences, open doors and opportunities ahead; here's a wish for a little more insight, a little more courage, a bit of bliss and lasting strength. Here goes nothin'

  • For my birthday, my mom bought me a massage and a local spa, which was nothing short of wonderful--although again, there were no sheets.
  • My birthday horoscope had good things to say. I feel motivated for the year ahead.
  • My host family threw a birthday dinner for me last night which was followed by raspberry birthday cake and yes, more champagne.
  • This guy reviewed my blog... it's always nice to get feedback.
  • The birthday messages from my family and friends made my week :)
  • Dinner party this weekend :)


  1. What ze heck? This all came out as a bunch of symbols. I can't read it...though I see one very cool picture. Help?

  2. How cool that your blog got reviewed :) You know I'm a fan. That's hilarious about the exam. Sheesh. I'm glad you had a good birthday though. I miss you, but you know this.

  3. Happy birthday!
    With the exception of that horrible exam, it sounds brilliant.
    Now I'm shuddering because you have reminded me that I too am do for an exam and I'm actually considering flying somewhere to do it!

  4. Wow that peniche looks amazing Lauren!!!! love the blog as always :)

  5. I stumbled upon you through my friend Emily's blog. I traveled in France as a college student, so I have a tiny bit of understanding for what you are saying. This post made me giggle. Really enjoyed reading!

  6. I can understand. I had a baby in Toulouse. Went to my first check up with my husband and we sat and did the medical history with the doctor in his office. I wanted my husband there since his French was better. On the walls were these very sexy nudes in an office with modern furniture and a beautiful wood desk. The doctor asked all the medical questions and then said please lets go in the exam room and put off all your clothes. Your husband can wait here while "examinate" you. The exam room was a little doorless room in full view of the desk where my husband was sitting except the exam table was off to the side that was behind a wall.

    I went in looked for a gown. None. Looked for a sheet. None. Stuck my head out in panic, but he was chatting with my husband. I even looked in a closet and cabinet. So I undressed behind the wall by the exam table as I could not bring myself to undress in front of both the doctor and my husband. The doctor came in, I was completely naked and he started a 10 minute conversation about whether I liked france, how I was coming along with the language, where we went for sight seeing, the good resturants in town, what my husband did, little weekends where the doctor took his wife for romantic weekends and I should consider as it would all change when the baby came. He was professional and nice, but he was my age, handsome and I would catch his eyes wondering to down there and then slowly making there way back up to my meet my eyes. I never felt so naked in my life.

    Breast check, listened to my heart and breathing, listened to my baby's heart, felt around on my stomach, put me up in the stirrups, then blood pressure check (weird, while in the stirrups), then the dreaded internal exam. After the exam he weighed me and at this point I was standing naked on the scale while he weighed me in a part of the exam room where my husband could see us from where he was sitting in front of the doctors desk. Being a good french men, he caught my husband watching us and looked over at my husband and said, "Your wife, she looks good no? When the mother looks that good, I have found both the mother and baby will be fine and your wife, I have "examinated" her and I can tell you that she does look very good." Rather then leaving me at that point he stood and chatted and watched me as I dressed. We came out of the exam room, sat back down at the desk with my hubbie and chatted as if it was all normal. I was going to change doctors, but my French female friends said this is typical and he was handsome.

    My husband still teases me about that first appointment and will say put off all your clothes so I can examinate you. You were lucky to have a female doctor.