I have a Very Big Birthday coming up in two months. REALLY BIG.
As if to celebrate that fact, my body has started to disintegrate. I have this twingey thing in my knee, and then there’s that little hitch in my hip, and my neck sounds like there are cornflakes in it. Plus I have a shoulder thing. I don’t know if years of waitressing, back in the twentieth century, have finally exacted their toll, or if I hurt myself doing something stupid, like exercising, but my shoulder has been out of whack for almost a year.
I went to an orthopedist and we did the whole healing-by-technology thing: MRI, Xray, electro-stim. The shoulder got better . . . but it didn’t get fixed. But now, with that big birthday looming in front of me, I decided that dammit, I don’t want to take a crunchy stiff shoulder into my next half century, so I went to an acupuncturist.
I’ve never been to an acupuncturist before, not out of any sense of doubt but because I am a freaking coward and so why would I deliberately choose to have someone stick needles into my flesh?
I walked into the office and saw these on the little table:
Well, I thought to myself, I’m here for the needles. Not the glass cup flambé.
Wrong. Before I could say “gwyneth paltrow,” the doctor had a wad of flaming cotton waving way too close to my hair, thank you very much. Like a magician, she waved the flame, then did a press, twist, and pop with about ten little glass jars, all along my shoulder and collarbone. “Thousands of years old, this cupping practice,” she said. “Dries out humidity in the muscle. But don’t worry,” – press, twist, pop – “I’m not doing it for long enough to leave marks.”
Humidity in the muscles? Sounds dangerously close to the Elizabethean idea of each body being composed of four humors (sanguine, choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic), but I didn’t want to argue with someone holding fire so close to my head.
Then the needles came out. I expected needles in my right shoulder because that’s the shoulder with the problem.
The needles were carefully stuck along my eyebrows, on both sides.
And as for those people who told me “don’t worry, the needles don’t hurt” … wrong again.
Ouch. And ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch. One ouch per needle stuck along my eye socket. I could see the needles in my peripheral vision, waving slightly, like whiskers or oddly placed tentacles. It’s not a look I recommend.
Those needles went out and another set went in on my left knee and left calf, which are still really marked up from the horrible fall I took this summer. The doctor tsk-tsked at my injuries. “You are very active,” she said. I think perhaps she meant that I should cease and desist from all forms of exercise, advice that I’d be glad to take except then my incipient insomnia would come roaring back, I’d stop sleeping, become even grumpier with my children than I already am, take up drinking in order to help myself sleep, give myself a headache, and the entire grumpy cycle would start again. So I will have to keep exercising in order to prevent verbal child-abuse and alcoholism.
Here’s the thing: when a needle goes into my left calf? It sends stabbing pains up and down my leg. “Yes, that’s an old injury you have,” said the doctor, noticing my white-knuckled clutch on the edge of the table. “It’s going to take a while for the pain to go away.”
I wish I could say that after my session with needles and cups, which sounds more like I went to a tarot reading than a doctor, I went off to play three sets of tennis with no problem.
Not exactly. The shoulder feels better but still makes a whole variety of odd noises as I move; clearly it’s going to be a while before I’m ready to challenge Nadal on the court (like, um, never).
In the meantime, though, I’m feeling quite goop-y in my use of alternative medicine and have a strange desire to re-name my children after pieces of fruit and old testament prophets. I think maybe the needles along my eye socket went into my frontal lobe.