Do you know where your mother is? On advising about sexual health

First off, the recommendations for pap smear exams have changed. After 65, if you’ve had at least 3 normal exams in ten years, you can stop getting an annual exam. What you should do after that is not clear to me, but an MD behind a major report says she tells her patients that they should have one every five years. (The MD is Dr. Sarah Feldman, a gynecologic oncologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and author of a recent editorial summarizing the expert consensus in The New England Journal of Medicine.)

One thing one notices in public health discussions is that daughters can easily become quite active in health decisions for older women. So it is important to realize that your mother may not be quite like what you think she is, as this anecdote from the same doctor illustrates:

Dr. Feldman was surprised to see an abnormal Pap result in an 80-year-old patient who had been a devoted caregiver for her husband of 55 years, who had dementia. “It seemed like an odd finding,” Dr. Feldman said, until she learned her patient was having an affair with a young man she had met at Starbucks.

“First come to grips with your own mediocrity”

If you really want to understand slaves, slave masters, poor black kids, poor white kids, rich people of colors, whoever, it is essential that you first come to grips with the disturbing facts of your own mediocrity. The first rule is this–You are not extraordinary. It’s all fine and good to declare that you would have freed your slaves. But it’s much more interesting to assume that you wouldn’t and then ask “Why?”

An excellent article from Ta-Nehisi Coates. One that reminds me of one of my first teaching experience, teaching political philosophy at an Ivy League school. To a man (and they were all men), my 20 students insisted that Nozick was right about everything. I asked what they would do if born into Nozick’s perfect society, to a family with no food on the table in a society with no state schools, etc etc. “I could do it” was the reply. I followed up, “Ok, you also have no arms and no legs and there is no health care for you.” No change: “I could do it”.

Query: Pregnant with an on-campus interview

A reader writes:

I am currently on the job market and am also pregnant with my first child. I am due in the late spring and the timing will be good in terms of starting a new position in August/September–”maternity leave” time will occur over the summer when I will not have teaching duties at my current position.

In terms of interviews, I will be well into and even possibly toward the end of my second trimester by the time flyout season comes along (assuming I have any flyouts!). Given my body shape/size, I suspect I might not appear identifiably pregnant until the bulk of flyouts are over. So my first instinct is to keep the fact that I am pregnant under wraps from search committee members, faculty, deans, etc. while on flyouts to avoid any conscious or unconscious bias.

However, I have to say I was not expecting pregnancy to be so taxing physically. The morning sickness is improving somewhat, but the second-trimester burst of energy I keep hearing about has definitely not happened for me (yet?). Just normal aspects of living (and I am lucky enough to not be teaching currently!) lately have me exhausted by 5 or 6pm.

I also in the last few weeks have started having what my partner calls “the pregnant lady walk.” I don’t know what it looks like from the outside, but internally I know I am walking strangely due to pains in my pelvis which runs down my inner thighs while walking or moving in any way. The pains (which my OB says are normal round ligament pain) get worse as the day goes on, the more walking and moving I do. I don’t mean to complain–they are completely bearable though annoying pains. But I imagine as the pregnancy progresses they will get worse. And in my experience, flyouts are very exhausting–10-12 hour days of interviewing, campus touring, standing while teaching a class, standing while presenting a paper, walking from building to building for meetings, etc. So I imagine myself on a flyout, limping from interview to interview after being dragged about campus on a walking tour and standing during a paper instead of sitting down for fear that sitting down (without explanation of being almost in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy) would create a bad impression. Thus I wonder if I am going to feel like crap on a flyout, if it is best to let the search committee no why I am sitting down or that I would prefer not to take a long tour of the campus and why. (So that I don’t appear uninterested or unprofessional.)

Any advice on what to do in such a situation? Is it better to tell my hosts what the situation is or keep mum and suck it up regarding the tiredness/uncomfortableness?

I haven’t been in the reader’s position, but I have been on a search committee in a similar situation, and like to think that a reasonably good search committee can accommodate the needs of others without  requiring detailed personal disclosure as to the reasons for accommodation.  My search committee chair emailed everyone we interviewed in advance, inviting their information as to accommodations we might provide with respect to our food, lodging, or schedule. (We didn’t ask *why* they might need, e.g., meatless food or a working elevator, we just asked if there were any accommodations they preferred to prearrange.)  One of the short-listed then showed up visibly pregnant, so it wasn’t a mystery why she noted a need for alternatives to caffeine and alcohol at meals, and inquired after the possibility of breaks at two-hour intervals and ready access to a restroom.  She neither hid, nor very much discussed, her reasons for requesting some accommodations, but then, nor did the man wearing the yarmulke or the woman with a cast on her leg.