I finally got to my dermatologist’s appointment and it turns out that my dermatologist has spent considerable time in Adelaide visiting one of his friends who was working at the Institute for Something Highly Scientific on North Terrace.
‘It’s a pretty city, but it’s boring, isn’t it?’
I forgive him his blunt assessment, because he’s German. That’s how we do things in Abu Dhabi. With cultural labels. ‘He’s German. She’s French. Sorry, it’s how I am. I’m Australian.’ It’s disconcerting at first, all this labelling, especially if you’ve spent years immersed in diversity and inclusion and cultural awareness training, but you get used to it. It’s disconcerting how easily you get used to it.
He says he’ll do a full body check of all my moles. But then, with a laugh, he says, ‘I bet you’re prudish, aren’t you? Why are Australians so prudish?’ Which makes me laugh, because I am a little prudish. And because, at the pool or beach, I have often wondered where Germans learn to be so devil-may-care about their bodies. Surely their climate promotes inhibition where Australia’s does not? I mean surely we wander around much more often much less dressed than they.
Except these days of course. In the wake of the slip slop slap and the hole in the ozone layer and no hat no play and so on. I never feel more Australian than when I’m at the pool almost entirely covered and the Europeans loll about in bikinis.
Which is not unrelated to the reason I am visiting the dermatologist and it turns out that the spot first spotted by youngest is, more likely than not, a basal cell carcinoma which is kind of unjust because I was, thanks to my red-haired once-burned father, wearing sunblock even while everyone else was still roasting themselves in coconut oil. Nonetheless I’m not surprised to discover it. A fair-skinned child of the Australian seventies, even one who did find sunbathing boring, is a likely skin growth candidate.
I’ve read on the internet the doctor tells me this pearly wee growth is harmless once removed. He will just give me a local anaesthetic, pop it out, ten minutes and, (bonus!) he promised not to make me ugly. Of course, I’d rather have a hole in my face than a malignant growth, but I’m vain enough that, given the spot’s position on the bridge of my nose, I was, ever-so-slightly concerned about how things would look.
Reading this, you might think it sounds like an inappropriate thing for him to have said. That he won’t make me ugly. But said in a German accent I found it kind and reassuring. You learn to speak a different kind of English living in a city like this.