An Interesting Case

Claire Polders

Photo Credit: William Patrick Butler/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Photo Credit: William Patrick Butler/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

In the matter of doctors, I prefer the ones who are young. They’re still interested in your body. When you put your ailments on display, they act as though you’re handing them a scientific article stuffed with fascinating, mind-blowing facts.

Some people wouldn’t dream of surrendering themselves into the care of great inexperience. A doctor’s face without wrinkles gives them the creeps. Not me.

Once I suffered a skin condition that wouldn’t let up after fighting it with the usual armory of moisturizers, cortisone creams, salt water baths, dry-brushing, soda-soaking, oils, ointments, cold compresses, disinfecting sprays, and long hours staring in awe. I went to see a dermatologist in Paris. He was an older man. As he listened to my complaints concerning my mysterious affliction, he worked hard at giving me the impression he had seen every possible human skin disease imaginable at least a thousand times. From across his desk, he glanced at the red patches on my lower arms and suggested he should test me for perfume and metal allergies. As if I hadn’t heard that one before. I was as bored listening to him as the man was of looking at me. So I got up and left.

I don’t like doctors all that much, generally speaking. And particularly speaking, I dislike the ones who are patronizing or uncurious. For years, I avoided doctors completely for that reason until I developed a peeling condition and went to see a podiatrist in Florence. She was a young woman. She had just graduated from whatever program you go through before they let you touch anyone real and alive. When I showed her my heels, she pushed her glasses all the way up her nose, which heartened me. She also turned on the spotlight above the white-papered gurney on which she had asked me to lay down. Afterwards, she bombarded me with personal questions that I couldn’t answer truthfully without telling her the truth.

But that old dermatologist in Paris? Not a single question. That is why, in the matter of doctors, I prefer the ones who are young.

If the older man in Paris had only asked about my habits, my likes and dislikes, my own suspicions, if he had been as curious as his younger colleague in Florence, he might have learned that I used crushed chili peppers to create these beautiful patches on my skin, not perfume or metals. The thing is: older doctors are not shocked easily, so you can be more truthful with them. The problem is, however, that in their eyes, I am lost, whereas in the eyes of a young doctor, I am an interesting case to be solved.

pencilClaire Polders is a published Dutch author of novels, short stories, and nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in anthologies and magazines in The Netherlands and in France. One of her pieces was included in 25 under 35, the Dutch equivalent of Granta’s 20 under 40. She’s currently writing her first novel in English and sending out her first short prose in English. Email: cp[at]