Do You Still Know How To Blush?

As some of you may know, my immune system is broken. Once a month I have to give it a boost with an intravenous infusion that lasts three plus hours. I am thankful beyond expression for these treatments that have kept me out of emergency rooms and free of major respiratory infections, but lately a sense of dread has come over me as infusion day approaches.

I suppose it’s not inconsequential that this change of attitude coincides with my infusion center’s relocation and new configuration as an open bay treatment facility.  Gone is my private hospital room with couch for supporters to rest on, private bathroom, TV and a wide variety of foods available from the hospital cafeteria.

I now lower the seat in a common use bathroom, witness bags with the unmistakable markings of blood being administered to patient’s less than 12 feet away, and have my dutifully paid for cold, lunch de jour mistakenly served to another patient.  At first I blamed myself for being a spoiled brat who missed being pampered and tried to get on with the new program.  But yesterday, what’s really been bothering me came to the fore.

Call me chicken, but I always look away when an IV needle is shoved into my hand.  Yesterday as I averted my eyes, I saw another patient, a man, staring at me from across the room.  This uninvited interloper was watching what I perceive to be a very private medical moment between me and my nurse.  My shocked embarrassment quickly turned to anger.  I wanted to shame him for his audacious rudeness with a shout in my latent but time-honored New York accent, “Ey! Whadda you looking at?”

His unapologetic stare creeped me out. It was like catching a Peeping Tom at the window. I asked my nurse to pull the curtain and as she did, I realized something very telling. I was the only person in the bay with a curtain being drawn and it made me feel awkwardly prudish—almost snobby.

Maybe I am a prude. I hit the mute button every time a drug advertisement tries to invade the decency of our home by addressing every bodily function imaginable. Nothing—absolutely nothing—is considered inappropriate for what we used to call “mixed company”, off limits for “little ears,” or something to be disdained.  Nothing is categorically “wrong” because everything is relative.  It all “depends”…

And that’s what’s been bugging me.  The invasion of privacy I feel and the disturbing, sad realization that modesty— universally accepted, respectable,   and appropriate behavior—probably no longer exists.  Not one patient with me yesterday seemed unnerved by undergoing their medical treatment, in a position of reclined vulnerability on display for all to see.  Nor did it bother them when they became the focus of attention as their infusion device sounded its alarm.

Have we really become a culture of seared sensibilities? A people described by the prophet Jeremiah as having no shame who don’t even know how to blush?  (Jeremiah 6:15)

Is modesty just an old-fashioned way of thinking—or is it stone cold dead?

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Penny L. Hunt

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