A few years back I celebrated the 55th anniversary of my rhythm ‘n blues addiction. The starting point was my purchase of a Ray Charles album in 1959. At the time, “LP’s” as they were known to hip DJ’s, cost $3.98–not including tax. I accumulated this enormous stash of cash from well-meaning but naive relatives who gave it to me in $1 tranches, as the investment bankers say, for my eighth birthday, assuming I’d spend it on a pogo stick or some other fresh air amusement device.
Ray wasn’t the first to make a connection between love (read: sex) and the private-payor component of America’s health care industry, but he was the first who brought the subject to my attention, with “I Don’t Need No Doctor.”
Aretha Franklin followed, with “Dr. Feelgood” in 1967. Apparently Ray wasn’t the only medical scholar who had noted a connection between one’s physical well-being and the stuff they were singing about on these records. It wasn’t, by the way, something that was covered extensively in health class.
Finally, I submit as Exhibit C, Marvin Gaye’s 1982 hit “Sexual Healing,” which brought to a close my initial twenty-three year period of observation. I note that the original cohort of subjects examined by the Framingham Heart Study, the much-ballyhooed longitudinal project to determine the common factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease, was examined for–are you ready for this–exactly twenty-three years. So my research was just as thorough as the National Heart Institute’s and I, like they, am still at it!
The love doctors who are referred to in these songs are clearly unlicensed specialists, but then so is the goofy homeopath my wife used to see who claimed to be able to cure people over the telephone. You can imagine how this might work out in practice:
PATIENT: Hi, Sandy, I was wondering if I could get in for a session today?
DOCTOR: Where are you now?
PATIENT: In the car, I just dropped the kids off at school.
DOCTOR: Somebody just cancelled on me–I can take you right now.
PATIENT: Over a cell phone?
DOCTOR: As long as you don’t go through a tunnel or something.
Despite a trend towards candor in the discussion of health issues, we as a society have remained remarkably reticent on this one; just what kind of doctor ministers to love needs?
You can bet it’s not a chiropodist, or a dermatologist. (“That is one bodacious-looking mole you’ve got there Mrs. Ortwein!”). There’s no point in mincing words any longer; for men, the love doctor is a urologist, and for women, it’s their OB/GYN. The nether regions are, after all, where the action takes place.
My wife’s gynecologist used to have an office over a liquor store–a nice liquor store, but nonetheless a “packy” (for package store) as they are known in New England. This made for much mirth-making among her and her fellow mothers–and try saying that five times fast. “A pap and a pop,” or “White wine with your whine,” etc. It also made for some poignant moments of the type that are treated with sensitivity by Lifetime “disease of the week” movies, and Sunday supplement tell-alls by fading television actresses (“I Conquered Toenail Fungus–And You Can Too!”).
ME: So your . . . appointment’s today?
HER: Yes. Three o’clock.
ME: And . . . what are you going in for?
HER: They want to check my dysplasia.
ME: Oh, uh, right. Well, I’ll be thinking about you.
ME: You know, at a time like this, it’s kind of hard to say certain things–
HER: I know . . .
ME: (sensitive pause) I love you . . .
HER: Love you too . . .
ME: So, would you mind picking up a suitcase of Bud Light for me?
HER: (pregnant pause) A suitcase of beer?
ME: It’s the twelve-pack, with the convenient built-in handle that fits your on-the-go lifestyle.
HER: I’m going through a tunnel–I’m going to lose you.