Friday, July 3, 2015

The Back Story

All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.
- James Baldwin

Nothing like a family holiday to remind me of the gastrointestinal tract. Many of my friends are in their late 50's and 60's and by now they have experienced the dreaded colonoscopy. Each of us who have survived it have been given reports about what kind of "guts" we have. Two friends of mine had tortured colons. One had extra long intestines and two other friends just loved the drugs they were given to knock them out and can't wait to have another.

"My childhood was one big colonoscopy," I told Dr. Shaechter's compassionate nurse. "I've had the GI series every year since I was five and forced to drink Metamucil, and take Milk of Magnesia. My mother practically called in the National Guard. In high school when my peers were dating, blushing and going to the prom, I was dragged off repeatedly to have barium enemas, radioactive malteds so the doctors could watch my guts on closed circuit TV monitors. I was taken to specialist after specialist until my mother found one drastic enough. Dr. Mossberg of New Rochelle prescribed that I drink 11 oz of Squibb brand heavy mineral oil three times a day for months to liquidate my insides and "shrink" my intestine. Think melted Vaseline. My mother was thrilled because she fancied herself as being my savior and at the center of a drama centered on HER. She was not a medical professional by any means. She was an artistic housewife albeit a neurotic narcissistic privileged one. She didn't know how electricity, cars, or toasters worked let alone the human body. My mother never drank or smoked but she was Cyclothymic and addicted to diet pills and Valium! I was supposed to be HER sick and dying child prodigy, genius.

Now I understand that this was an archetypal Rapunzel story she was acting out the role of the witch but instead of my having Rapunzel's long braided hair (she cut it off), I had Rapunzel's long intestines which she was threatening to cut off too! My mother put rubber sheets on my bed and made sure I was locked away for the summer alone in the woods. Thank god I had some amazing high school teachers (Thanks Patti Bellantoni and John Perlman) and close friends (Jon Frankel, Andy Henry, Al Giordano, Karen Streuning, Jessica Brown, and Cathy Lightfoot) all of whom lovingly helped me escape in tact. See Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy.This was why I put off getting a colonoscopy for 4 years. After my childhood, having a colonoscopy was a piece of cake.