So I don't know if this trend is local, or cultural, or what, but here is what happens where I live in Brazil: People bring their whole extended families with them to doctor's appointments. I've seen it at all doctor's appointments that I've been to-- even the dermatologist. But it seems to be especially common with women bringing a parade of people to the gynecologist's office with them.
All right. These are a few reasons that I can imagine bringing someone with you to the gynecologist's appointment:
*You're pregnant and you want your husband to see the ultrasound.
*You're young and it's your first pap smear and either your mother has to drive you or you're nervous because it's your first one.
*You might be pregnant and you want someone for moral support.
*You bring your kid(s) because you didn't have the time or money to arrange a babysitter.
*You have to have some kind of procedure that renders you unable to drive after your appointment.
But based on the amount of people in the waiting room, I sincerely doubt that EVERY patient in the room was there for one of those reasons. I had a long wait, so I counted the patients. There were 10 of us. I was the ONLY PERSON who didn't bring any +1s (or +3s, as the standard seemed to be).
I mean, I know. It's the gynecologist. Not always blog-worthy material. But we've all gotta go sometimes, right ladies? Nothing to be shy about. But also nothing to party over.
The situation annoys me personally because the waiting room isn't exactly huge, and all these extra people take up all the seats, and drink all the complimentary coffee, and let their kids eat all the complimentary cookies, and talk on their cell phones and talk to each other. You know what I bring with me to the doctor's appointment? A book. I'm certainly not going to ask Alexandre to miss work just to make sure I don't have any trouble sitting in a waiting room by myself.
At my gynecologist's office, there are two doctors. One is in charge of ultrasounds, and one is the actual gynecologist. When you go, you technically have two appointments: one for the ultrasound (a routine part of the yearly pap smear here), and one for whatever gynecological exam you're receiving. So typically the patient goes in for the ultrasound, comes out, and waits again for the second exam.
But there was a girl. She looked about 22, 23. She definitely wasn't a teenager, because she had her own big purse and her own cell phone and an adult face. She brought her MOTHER AND HER FATHER with her to the appointment. I know it was just a run-of-the-mill pap smear, because the mother went into the ultrasound with her, and when they came back out again (HOLDING HANDS), the mother told the father all about it, in front of the daughter!
"The little tool just opened her right up, like this!" the mother explained, demonstrating with her fingers. "Then she put in like, a tampon with a camera!"
WHAT?! Anyone else totally blown away by this? The girl wasn't pregnant, but she brings both her parents to her goddamn pap smear. Then the mom tells the dad all the gory details.
Then there was the couple with the kid. The wife was pregnant with her second child, and just starting to show. My first thought was "fine, the dad wants to see the ultrasound, and they didn't have a babysitter." But then while they're waiting, GRANDMA shows up to join in on the fun! Why didn't they just leave the kid at grandma's house? Is the free coffee that good?
Then there was the girl (a little older than the first girl) with her mom and her boyfriend. She also went in, came back out, and went back in, which leads me to believe that she was also there for the usual. So I mean, did she have to bring the mom and the boyfriend? My appointment was on a Monday morning. Don't any of these people have jobs?? I mean, my private insurance plan isn't free. People have to work to pay for it, right?
The whole thing was totally bizarre and disturbing, and I think really reflected this creepy codependency that some Brazilian families seem to have. I mean, you can go ahead and call Americans "cold and closed off" for not holding family reunions at the doctor's office, but I call it independent and appropriate. If you're 22 and old enough to be sexually active and getting pap smears, you should be able to handle a doctor's appointment by yourself. And I don't think dad or grandma needs to know every detail about it. It also seems that parents are just way more involved in their daughter's pregnancy, even if she's married and the husband is involved, too. Good? Bad? I don't know.
But my other question is this: Is it some kind of damsel in distress thing, stemming from Brazilian culture's tendency toward machismo? I mean, do sons schedule these family reunions during their annual prostate exams? Or is it just like, "oh, my poor baby daughter! She can't handle the big scary doctor all by herself!"
The kicker was the lady next to me. She brought her husband, but she was about 25 months pregnant, so that makes more sense (she was about to pop, so I don't think she's allowed to drive). But while I was minding my own business (aside from the eavesdropping and quiet judging) and reading my book, she turned to me and asked, "So, what are you here for? An ultrasound? Pregnancy test?"
WHAT??? I'm in the gynecologist's office. I'm here to buy a used car. What does she think I'm here for? No matter what, it involves my lady parts, and is therefore none of her (or her eavsedropping husband's) business. I thought the question was totally inappropriate, especially to ask with her husband right there, looking at me expectantly. So that's exactly what I said: "That's kind of personal, don't you think?" It may be Brazilian culture to be "curious", but it's also my logical right not to discuss the goings-on of my reproductive organs with strangers.
The lady actually seemed kind of hurt, or something. I couldn't really read her face. So I added, "But you must be excited, any day now, right?" And then she lit up. So that makes me think she was less interested in what I was there for, and was more interested in finding an in to tell me all about her pregnancy, which she of course proceeded to do. I got to hear all the gory details, and I'm not even a relative.
So yeah. This super family involvement in your medical life is one of those things that borders on the line between cultural relativity and universally inappropriate. At the end of the day, it's your call. And my call is to go solo to any consult and not tell everyone and their brother (or all my brothers) about it (if I had any brothers).