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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Men in uniform

Sometimes the length I have to go to get attention from men is mind boggling.

Most of the time I feel completely invisible. Walking on the beach, shopping at Trader Joe's, or sitting in my favorite cafe, I am clearly not the kind of woman who makes men's heads turn in awe; and at work, well, my men colleagues have been so methodically indoctrinated in the prevention of sexual harassment, they dare not compliment a woman even on days she knows she deserves one, because several of her females colleagues have already commented on her hair, her muscle tone, or her snazzy outfit.

But yesterday things took an interesting turn. Not that I planned it that way. All I wanted to do was donate blood to the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP). And considering the scary procedure I was going to endure, men were the farthest thing from my mind. But little did I know.

The moment I walked into the gym where the lab team had set its mobile blood collection unit, I realized that things were not exactly the way I had expected them to be. My brain conducted a quick scan of the scenery - young men in uniform lying on folding beds with long plastic tubes hanging from their arms; more young men in uniform sitting on bleachers looking bored, waiting for their turn on the folding beds; young men playing basketball in the back of the gym; young men in uniform collecting information from prospective donors, and a tiny sprinkle of females who seemed to know what they were doing. I also noticed that I was way above the donors' median age; I was not wearing anything remotely similar to camouflage; and everyone but me had a tattoo.

I had no choice but to conclude that any attempt to blend in would be futile, so I decided to adjust to this very odd situation by trying to look professional, respectable and blasé.

But how respectable can one pretend to be when a very good looking young man in uniform asks you "Did you in the last 12 years have sex with a man who had sex with other men?" Or "Did you in the last 12 years have sex even once with a person who gets paid to have sex?" Then he checks how I answered the questions about having syphilis or gonorrhea and whether I had sex with a man from Africa after 1977.

Of course I couldn't keep a straight face. My inner child started cracking jokes with the very cute guy who checked my blood pressure and temperature, while simultaneously pricking my finger and collecting several drops of blood to make sure I was not anemic. While he was marking my blood donor questionnaire, I was shocked to see that my blood pressure shot to 140/70 but then I remembered that I was just poked in the finger by a very handsome stranger and was about to lose a pint of blood. No wonder my veins were misbehaving.

It was also pretty hard to stay serious when another guy checked again all the questions about my potential sex life with non-existent Africans and the exotic diseases I might have contracted in my travels since 1980 (please specify all the dates and names of places you visited). One of the diseases on the 50-questions list was called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. They wanted to know if I had rabies, too. I really had to hold myself back and not protest that all I wanted to do was donate blood, not brag about my extensive exposure to risky sexual activities, exotic diseases, and experimental drugs.

Next in line, I met the lab officer, who practically adopted me once he saw what blood type I was offering to donate to the U.S. armed services. He made me feel really special. Not because of my rare blood type, but because he noticed my purse!!! He liked it. My Moroccan style orange purse with the shiny coiny thingies that dangle on the edge. My $2.00 purse which I bought at Goodwill no less. No man has ever complimented me on my purse. But this captain, who served in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Tikrit (Saddam's hometown in Iraq) and many other scary place, had noticed my purse and my smile - which thankfully made me look younger than my years, he added after checking my age on the form. Thank you very much.

And then came the big moment. I was asked to pull up my sleeves and let a man in a white robe choose the lucky vein. But my sleeves were too tight. So I was sent to change into a blood donor t-shirt. When I said I could change right there, the person in charge nearly passed out. Too many guys around... changing a shirt in front of them...not a good idea. I insisted that I had a very nice undershirt to keep the modesty going, but he was not convinced. I think he thought that having me lie down in front of strangers while blood is flowing out of my body was more palatable than seeing me in my light-blue lacy undershirt. Oh, well.

Once the t-shirt drama was resolved the captain chose the phlebotomist who would draw my blood. It was the best man on the team, I was told. I asked for local anesthesia. They looked at me like I was crazy. Suddenly I felt as if I was going to give birth to my next baby. I was surrounded by a bunch of men, cheering me on, telling me I was doing a great job (doing what exactly, I wondered), and reminding me to squeeze the ball. When I said my hand felt weak and asked if I could squeeze the ball with my other hand, the guy who stuck the needle in my arm could not resist a smile. The captain, who stood by my side the whole time, making sure I was doing fine, was besides himself with pleasure when he saw the smile spread on the face of the guy. For him I was no longer just an exotic French woman with a pretty purse (yes, it's my accent again), I was also a comedian.

The entire affair ended on a very positive note. The armed forces got some good clean blood and in return I got a chocolate chip cookie, a pink squeeze ball, and a t-shirt.

Those of you who wonder what it feels like to donate blood, well, it's not as bad as going to the dentist. And considering the amount of attention a single woman can get from a bunch of dedicated men in uniform, let me tell you, it was worth the trouble.

So next time I feel an urge to be surrounded by men, you know where to find me.

One final comment: if you want to show your support for the troops, donate blood. They will really appreciate it. Check ASBP website to see if you can help.

And to my Israeli readers I say:

אני לא יודעת למה הם עשו מזה עניין כל כך גדול , בסך הכל רציתי לחזור הביתה בשלום

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