Earlier this week I visited my friend Bryan at UNMH. We met in Haven, he visited me at Pres, and I visited him at UNMH. If we didn’t end up hospitalized with sporadic regularity (sharp/dull) we’d never see each other. I suppose it’s my turn to be inpatient now.

I cleared my afternoon to chill with Bryan because, heck, we had a lot of catching up to do. And, he was totally bed-dependent so my audience was captive. People who can’t move away from me and leave tend to be my best friends.

As with any inpatient stay and when visitors are in the room, the docs and nurses and techs choose the most intimate moment to come in and do medical talky stuff and body pokey stuff. This chases away the visitors and the medical staff can feel powerful and important.

Since my afternoon was scored to visit with Bryan I was chased from his room numerous times. This allowed me to explore UNMH and identify the best restrooms and best drinking fountains. In order to have purpose in visiting each restroom I had to visit each drinking fountain first … “Tank Up & Tinkle” is the widely accepted term.

I don’t remember the best restroom, I only remember the worst. The location of the urinal in the restroom near the Burn ICU forces you to make eye contact with every person entering. This is the worst restroom in UNMH.

I noticed something in my adventures while waiting for Bryan to be available again. Something odd was going on, something more unsettling than making eye contact with other men while vacating my bladder. Wandering the halls I became accutely aware women were staring at my chest. Now, it’s not unknown for me to have rigid nipples when it’s brisk and frigid. My friends have commented on this many times, and I’ve demonstrated how I can cut glass with my nipples many times. There. Now we’re both in the wrong.

The thing is it was tropical in the hospital and my nipples were subdued. So what the heck were these women staring at? Some were even smiling at my chest. Weird to nearly creepy. No, it was full-on creepy. Way creepy.

It’s warmer again and I have been building up my upper body and there is much keener definition to my chest, arms, and everything else torso-related. Perhaps the ogling was a consequence of me being fit. Perhaps.

Riding the elevator, women staring at my chest. Sitting in the waiting room, women staring at my chest. Exiting the restroom near the Burn ICU, women and one man staring at my chest.

When I returned to Bryan’s room, my uncomfortable awareness was reinforced when I realized even the medical staff was staring at my chest, some openly smiling while staring at my chest.

Is this what women endure? Is this how uncomfortable men make them feel? I don’t have any cleavage from buffing up and I wasn’t wearing a low-cut blouse. I had on a plain old t-shirt.

Nearly to Bryan’s room, a nurse was staring at my chest and said:

“I love your shirt!!!”

Comprehension! Relief! I was wearing my “Consent Is Sexy” t-shirt. It all made sense. Finally. That self-conscious paranoia borne of lechery is exhausting. It was the excellent message on my shirt drawing attention.

She said, “I love your shirt!!!”

I said, “I love you. Oh, I didn’t just make things weird between us, did I? Sorry, my emotions got away from me. I take it back.”

She laughed.

I told Bryan. We laughed.

While visiting with Bryan we recorded an excellent Stand Up To Stigma podcast. Unplanned. Impromptu. Opportunistic. One of our best.

Bryan got tired and hungry.

I bid him good morrow and headed for the elevator.

The nurse asked if I wanted to get drinks later.

I told her thank you, but I don’t drink.

Maybe coffee, she suggested.

Sure maybe coffee. Although, I will wear a different shirt. I won’t be quite so sexy.

She laughed again.