Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wrong Sex Corrigan

OK, folks, it's official! I'm now 60 years old, having been born some time in the first three months of the year. And as people go, I'm definitely one who's getting "more bang for his buck" for being 60, since I've had a million thoughts, happy, sad, and in between, about this milestone. It sounds very aged, and yet I don't feel completely different; I just can't quit thinking about it. It's given me a lot of opportunities to reflect back on my life.

One of the facts of my life that I can't help thinking of, for some reason, is that I was proclaimed a girl when I was born! And I'm a guy! That sounds weird, and I know it is, but it was actually fairly common here in my town in the early 1950s. And my parents probably should have questioned the situation, being familiar with the problem, but in the excitement of the birth of their "little girl" they forgot. One thing to note: This was back when babies were immediately whisked out of the room away from the mother, to be tended by professionals. It wasn't like now, where the mother and father's care is seen as primary. So, being absent from them, they just had to take their word for what I was.

I said it was common for babies to be misidentified as to their gender back then, but it was only in our town, because the town's main obstetrician had problems seeing. In fact, he made so many mistakes, he was nicknamed "Dr. Wrong Sex Corrigan," a play on the famed aviator who ended up somewhere he wasn't going. Our "Dr. Corrigan," not his real name, had problems in making the right call, presumably when a baby was moving too much. I'm guessing here, but I'm thinking he just didn't want to second-guess himself, or seem less than professional, so the way he called it was the way it was. It took my parents a lot of money, time, and trouble to get the official birth certificate finally changed! Not to mention the embarrassing exams I was subjected to...

So here's the way it went down. I was born, I must have moved too much when "Corrigan" was making the identification, and he declared to my mother, "Madam, you have just given live birth to a female baby, a real doll, who will someday truly make the boys' heads turn!" She was like, "Thank you, doctor, for a successful delivery and the exceedingly good news! A girl in my own image!" Then I was whisked out of the room, not to be seen by her again till sometime early the next morning, when they allowed her to watch the nurse feed me.

In the years since, of course, I've heard many tales of Dr. Wrong Sex Corrigan, that in delivering girls he was proclaiming, "You have given birth to a fine, strong, bouncing man child," and the like. Sometimes he was right, but thanks to movement, he was more often wrong. This is one of the dangers of having poor eyesight, being cross-eyed or whatever, and trying to be an obstetrician. You give people big problems, and the child him- or herself can develop all kinds of complexes. To this day I like the color pink and hate jockstraps.

After a while, "Dr. Corrigan" either died or retired. Which was good, because people didn't like him, thanks to this whole gender business. I remember my grandpa -- I remember this clearly -- saying if he ever saw the SOB in the crosswalk he would run over him. Grandpa used words like "son of a bitch" all the time, and probably would've run over him, indeed, had he ever seen him in the crosswalk. But "Corrigan" was spared this fate by the fact that you never see a doctor in public, apart from the office. This is true: The only doctor I've ever seen in public was a doctor people liked.

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