Wednesday 6 June 2007
After his lightning visit the day after the operation, Dr Foldès indicated that I had to return to see him 2 to 3 weeks later. All I had to do was to call the secretary to find out when he would be there and to turn up without an appointment.
So on Monday morning I called the Louis XIV clinic. His secretary told me that this week Dr Foldès was consulting Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon from 14:00.
I didn’t want to go at all. So much so that instead of choosing Monday afternoon I decided not to go until Tuesday. I arrived just on time on Tuesday afternoon and not at least half an hour early as I had been in the habit of doing.
While going to the clinic, I tried to analyse my concern. There was the fact that Dr Foldès had impressed me a lot. And yet there was also another component which I couldn’t manage to express. All I could grasp of it was that I had no wish to meet other of Dr Foldès’ patients.
When I entered the clinic, I exchanged glances with a woman sitting where I had waited when they came to find me on the day of my admission, the night before the operation.
She was black. And I couldn’t stop myself from thinking she was surely there to be operated on by Dr Foldès.
Dismissing that thought, I went up the few steps which led to the surgeons’ secretaries.
And there, bingo, I met Dr Iceberg. As usual, as expressive as a prison door, he didn’t recognise me. At about that moment a lump appeared in my throat and my morale began to waver seriously.
Dr Foldès’ secretary put my name in the margin of her book. As a result I had no idea what time I would have to wait.
I thought that I would be given priority but, once settled in the jam-packed and stifling waiting room, I noticed the surgeon talking to his secretary. I felt my body tensing and I was ridiculously relieved to hear him call an older man. In the end I preferred to wait until after everyone else who had an appointment.
Dr Foldès is basically a urologist. That occurred to me when, two or three times, he came to look for a man in the waiting room.
During this time the waiting room didn’t become any emptier, to the contrary. There wasn’t a single free chair and new arrivals crowded standing up along the cubicles of the surgeons’ secretaries.
Seeing black women appearing, I once again immediately though that they were Dr Foldès’ patients. That was confirmed by their going to his secretary.
A young woman of about 25, with her head in a turban, arrived first, followed closely by a woman of about fifty. Then a very young girl (she hardly seemed to have come of age) came into the waiting room briskly. A few minutes later another woman in her twenties arrived, accompanied by a woman who could have been her sister of her friend.
These women had no doubt been circumcised too. And they no doubt had also come to have their mutilated sex repaired.
I studied them to work out at which stage in their long journey to reconstruction they were. The last arrivals were wearing slim fitting jeans and crossed their legs. The two first were wearing loose clothes but had a lively gait. So I deduced that it was either their first consultation or it was more than six weeks since their operations and they had come for a check up.
The lump in my throat was growing, my morale was sinking. I felt vulnerable and sad. For myself, for them. Each black woman present was very likely a circumcised woman. I found that distressing.
We weren’t patients like the others in the waiting room. Unlike the others who had come to battle with an stroke of fate, we were there to repair an abomination which had been inflicted by the hand or wish of our own people, of a member of our own family.
And we took all these actions, these round trips to St Germain en Laye, these pains, this fear, anxieties, to restore our dignity plundered without our consent.
In a real mess, that outraged me so much that the lump in my throat doubled in size and my morale dropped to the abyss of depression. I wanted to cry.
At that moment I thought that I really would like my parents to say they were sorry one day.
Lost in these black thoughts, I hardly heard Dr Foldès calling me, and I didn’t have time to be afraid.
In his office Dr Foldès smiled at me, which heartened me a little. He asked when I had had the operation. He didn’t remember me and that was curiously a relief. I really wanted to be ordinary and anonymous come to be examined, not a victim of circumcision. I was no longer a circumcised woman. It was over.
On his desk he had an information leaflet about a young Malian woman born in 1988 and circumcised at the age of 5. That weighed down my already not very brave morale.
He asked me to get on to the examining table and to bend my legs. Then he did an rapid examination. “Superb! It’s perfect!” he said. That pleased me, I felt very proud. “It’s healing well, the labia minora as much as the clitoris. It’s very good”.
He added that it’s normal to have a hole at the front (but what hole exactly? I feel I’m going to have to explore again with my little mirror, I didn’t know what he was talking about at all) and that there will still be a little discharge.
He recommended continuing cleaning the whole genital area with well diluted iodine three or four times a day.
Then he explained that this visit was a check up just to establish that everything was going well. And everything was going well.
Then he said he would see me again in 3 to 5 weeks. That consultation would be very important, even essential, because he would prescribe a further treatment.
He smiled at me again and my morale got a second wind. I was even fairly happy and reassured. In the end all the pain was worth it …
I made an appointment for 4 July before leaving.
Leaving for the RER station, I was split between the joy of knowing my healing was going well and a burst of anger over the mutilation.
Damn, I WISH my parents would say they are sorry.
I need someone to say they are sorry for the pain they have given me ….
[original in French]