I don’t know if it’s a sign of age, but lately, I find myself talking a lot about the state of my stomach. I will finish a meal, burp, rub my tummy and mutter, “Oy, I really shouldn’t have eaten so much!” And then, I’ll spend the rest of the day complaining that my tummy feels terrible.
“I’m incredibly gassy,” I will confide to my beloved adopted mongrel dog Pooch who I know will never judge me.
“Don’t walk so close behind me,” I instruct Saffy when we’re navigating the crowds along Orchard Road. Because I know she will be the first to judge me.
Of course, when this goes on for more than a couple of days, I start to worry. After all, you can’t be a card-carrying hypochondriac like me (and a fan of ‘House’, to boot) without thinking that even a simple case of indigestion might actually be early signs of advanced bowel cancer.
So I speed-dialed Dr Chan, my lovely gastroenterologist and demanded an immediate appointment.
“Next week?” I asked her receptionist. “Next week? Seriously? I could be dead next week! Do you want that on your conscience?”
Which is how, a few hours later, I found myself waiting my turn to see Dr Chan. From behind the surgery’s brand new copy of Tatler, I peeked at the two other people who were waiting and entertained myself wondering what specific gastroenterological problem had brought them here. I decided that the fat old man was here for his bi-yearly colonoscopy while the Indonesian lady with the big hair and Bottega Veneta bag was probably keeping her husband awake all night with her thunderous farts.
“Please, lah!” Dr Chan looked scandalized when I asked her. “Have you never heard of doctor-patient confidentiality?”
“Who am I going to tell?” I asked in a wounded tone while trying not to think too much about this column.
“So what’s the matter with you this time?” Dr Chan asked as she flipped through my thick file. So, I told her all about my rumbling stomach and the discomfort I felt whenever I sat for too long.
“Are you regular?” she asked as she began prodding my stomach.
“Listen, if you’re going to keep doing that,” I said urgently, “I suggest you get out your nose-plugs!”
“I’ve got a cold today, so I can’t smell a thing!” she giggled rather inappropriately for someone who got her medical degree from Oxford. “So are you regular?”
“Every morning, at 7 am,” I replied promptly. “You could set the clock by me.”
I blinked. “What?”
“What colour? And what shape?”
“What do you mean what shape?” I demanded.
Dr Chan sighed and looked up. “What is the colour and shape of your stools?”
“What sort of a question is that? How would I know?”
“Don’t you look?”
There might have been a brief moment when I squealed like a girl, but in my defence, I repeat, what sort of a question is that to ask someone who, at that moment, is lying in a very vulnerable position while someone is prodding you in the stomach?
“What do you mean you never look?” Saffy demanded later that night.
I was astonished. “You mean you do?”
“But why?” I cried.
It was Saffy’s turn to look a little put out. “I don’t know,” she said. “I just do. Just in case there are any nasty surprises!”
Amanda, who was brought up in a Catholic boarding school, looked ill. “That’s just disgusting, Saf,” she said. “You couldn’t pay me enough money to look!”
“But apparently, you’re meant to look,” I said, telling them that Dr Chan had spent a very unpleasant half hour explaining to me what healthy poo should look like. “And she says the shape is very important! We should all be aiming for an S shape,” I reported.
“I’ve never heard of anything more revolting in my life,” Amanda declared firmly, adding, “and since living with you two, I’ve heard a lot!”
Saffy looked intrigued. “Really? An S shape is good? You know, I’ve never noticed. Did she say what it meant if you had other letters?”
“Round balls aren’t good, she said. Apparently, that means you’re not getting enough roughage.”
Saffy sat back in her chair, more stunned by these revelations than she’d been after reading ‘The Da Vinci Code’. “Huh!” she said and you didn’t have to be a mind reader to know what she was planning to do the next morning in the toilet. Meanwhile, Amanda says that she’s been so disturbed by our conversation that she’s been constipated for the past two days.