This is not a column I am happy to write. Such things shouldn't happen; but they do. And unless we admit it, the whispers will undermine us all. In my book, that special place in hell can welcome one more group: women who play on the sisterly, feminist and instinctual trust many of us have for other women our age, women who have fought similar battles in their professions and paid heavy prices.
I call it the feminist blind, for the simple reason that it blinds feminists like me to the fact that untrustworthy unethical doctors and car salespeople come in both genders. The fact that you're a woman and she's a woman is often no reason to trust. It's sad.
The first time I was aware of these feminist blinders of mine is when a doctor nearly killed me. A reader has asked me if I am pursuing a malpractice case. No, I'm not, because my children worry that doing that will drag me down into a hole. So instead of trying to get money, I'm doing what's more important: trying to warn other women not to put on their blinders for one second.
This doctor convinced me to have half my insides removed. The cost of the surgery, if cited by a man, would have made me laugh; his claims of zero complications would have left me rolling my eyes. Instead, I ate it up. She is my age, has a similar education, has strong credentials and seemed to be a determined feminist. Did I mention that she withheld information about a second opinion given by a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, who said I should not have the surgery?
Many months later, the day before I left intensive care, the GI doctor, out of good conscience, came and told me that Dr. T had forbidden her from warning me of her second opinion. This is, of course, after Dr. T had perforated my colon and nicked my spleen, causing peritonitis. It was all an effort to show that the physicians at my local hospital are wimps. This happened at a Mayo clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Mayo Clinic's main office is in Minnesota. If anyone you know is going to Dr. T, tell them to get many more opinions so they can avoid those late night calls like the ones I got, where she told me how much she might've accomplished had it not been for sexism. It's all blarney.
Did I say blarney?
This next one is really my fault. I'll call her E. She is a Brit. She pushed me to buy a car (that I didn't want and don't want now), which really isn't much compared to damaging body parts. But she played me.
I walked into the dealership. It was an Audi dealership in Santa Monica, California. In some Audi dealerships, there are no female saleswomen in sight. I asked to work with a female associate. "Oh I'm being so smart," I think to myself. By helping her make a sale, I thought I might get a better deal and also send a message that having women on the sales floor is a business advantage.
She was standing over by the coffee pot; she was a perfect match for me. With all the modern technology in the car, E. still couldn't get the radio to work after three tries. Neither of us could get the voice-acted navigation to work, either. And oy, the color. It was hardly flattering for a woman my age. A man at the garage even wondered if I was driving my daughter's car.
She knew it was all wrong. She knew I didn't want the car the day I came to pick it up. But instead of telling me not to buy it, she sent me home with it. So it was mine. I'm a lawyer. I should have checked the cooling off period. And here's the worst part: I would've, had it been a man.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.