Don't Ask, Don't Tell

With three active boys in the house, we have managed to become semi regulars at the local Center for Sports Medicine. A fractured wrist here, a broken toe there. We have accumulated enough orthopedic wraps and hardware to open our own clinic. So when I walked into the center a few weeks ago, it was no surprise that the doctor wasn't too surprised to see me. Until he realized that I was actually the patient.

            "What happened to you, young lady?" he asked. I usually appreciate the "young lady" line he uses on me and I assume every other woman over the age of 40. But as I hobbled towards him with my swollen foot, still wearing my heels, and in compete denial that it was anything more than a bad sprain, I felt neither young nor ladylike.

            He carefully reviewed my X-Rays and examined my ankle, while using words like "fracture" and "chipped bone." I just nodded my head, ignored the finer details and waited for him to give me two Advil and a pat on the back so I could go about my day. Instead, he sent me to the next room where I exchanged my beautiful leather wedge for a bulky gray boot that went to my knee. I told the nurse I'd prefer the smaller version and she told me that was for a broken toe, not a broken ankle. I asked if I could at least get one in black to help heal my broken ego, but she only offered me a cold smile and told me to come back in four weeks.

            Four weeks? I couldn't possibly wear this monstrosity for four weeks. As I was  checking out I started to think about all of the meetings I had planned and the upcoming international travel I had scheduled and then it dawned on me that the boot was on my right foot. How was I even going to drive home? "Oh, honey, the doctor didn't tell you?" the receptionist said. "You can't drive in that boot." Which I chose to interpret as, "When you get in the car just remove the boot to drive and then put it back on to walk." This seemed like a fair compromise to me.

            When our boys came home from school that day, their reactions ranged from shock and disbelief to polite indifference. Our oldest gave me an obligatory, "Sorry, that stinks." Our middle gave me an in-depth tutorial on proper boot care and how to run in the event of an emergency, like being late to class. Our youngest gave me his best Home Alone impersonation. At the sight of my injury he gasped, his eyes and mouth went wide open and he yelled, "Noooooooo!!! Mom, this is terrrrrrrible!" It was finally the response I was looking for, until he added, "How in the world are you going to do housework or cook dinner now?" Unfortunately for him those are the same things I wonder on a daily basis, even when I have two healthy legs.

            When people realize you're wearing a boot, they immediately want to know what happened to you. I am sure anyone reading this column is still wondering the same thing. But the truth is, no one wants to hear the truth. No one really cares what happened to me. Everyone just wants to hear a great story. Or they want an excuse to share their own harrowing boot tale as if commiserating will make me feel better. (By the way, it does not.) So, instead of telling people what really happened I have resorted to telling people what they want to hear. I never let the truth get in the way of a good story anyway. So I turn every casual inquiry it into an improv game by saying the first thing that comes to mind, no matter how ridiculous it might sound. It sort of goes like this:

Them: What happened?

Me: Hopscotch. That darn number ten. Don't ask.

Them: What happened?

Me: Punch buggy. No punch backs. Don't ask.

Them: What happened?

Me: Revolving door. Don't ask. Revolving door. Don't ask. Revolving...

Them: What happened?

Me: Hide and Seek. I'm very competitive. Don't ask.

             I have also realized when you add the words "don't ask" to the end of any story, it gives the tale an entirely new dimension and air of mystery. It lets people use their own imaginations to fill in the blanks, and their versions are always infinitely more interesting than my own. So what really happened to my ankle? I could say I was skiing a double black diamond in Colorado or training for the next Ironman in Chattanooga, but the truth is not quite as elaborate or entertaining. The truth is...

            Don't ask.