How to attend a physical exam like a middle-aged man with high cholesterol

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Stay in the parking lot with your car running until “Monkey Wrench” finishes playing on the classic rock station. Realize that cosmic forces have aligned for this moment—a sonic convergence of the music of your youth with the sobering reality of your middle age. 

In 15 minutes you’re scheduled for your annual physical exam, and whatever you do, don’t compare yourself to Dave Grohl, who is only six years older but a few centuries cooler than you.

While sitting in the waiting room with four other patients—three younger and one your age—note that you’re the only person reading a paperback novel. The others are staring at their phones, catatonic-like, tapping their thumbs on the screen.

Try not to be supercilious. Try not to act your age. Check your phone. Try not to look disappointed that no one has messaged you.

When following the nurse into the examination room, maintain a pleasant disposition. You’re not an old man yet, although you’re old enough to be the nurse’s middle-aged father. Don’t be cantankerous or complain. Don’t groan when you sit.

When she takes your blood pressure and tells you it is running high, tell her that you drink a lot of coffee. When she asks you to step on the scale, step gingerly. When she says the number aloud, pretend you didn’t hear it.

Tell yourself you’ll diet as soon as football season ends, when beers and buffalo wings aren’t the centerpieces of Sundays.

Pick up the novel and try to read it while waiting for the doctor. Whatever you do, don’t stare at the BMI chart taped to the sterile gray cabinet. Don’t compare yourself to Dave Grohl. Don’t slip into existential dread.

I wonder if Dave Grohl reads paperback novels in doctor’s waiting rooms. Photo/ EJ Hersom, Wikipedia Creative Commons

The doctor will arrive and he is also younger than you, but not young enough to be your child, rather a little brother who was your parents’ late-life surprise. As the doctor reads your lab work, try small talk. Ask him if he watches The Patriots. Ask him if he listens to The Foo Fighters. Ask him if he likes buffalo wings.

When he tells you that your cholesterol is “a little high,” act surprised. Tell him you’re planning to go on a diet, kale and carrots and everything plant-based. Don’t tell him you’re waiting until the end of football season.

When he asks you about your drinking, seem breezy and aloof. Tell him what your grandfather told his doctor: “I quit drinking years ago; now I only drink beer.” Don’t tell him that your grandfather actually believed his lie.

When he asks you about drug use, feign shock. Tell him you’re scared to death of fentanyl and much too anxious to use cocaine. Don’t ask him if he knows where you can get some blow.

After he administers the check-up, rechecks your blood pressure (still running high; too much caffeine) and assures you that you’re not completely broken, dress quickly and see if you can scoot out of the room before—

“You’re at that age now,” he’ll say. “We’re going to have to schedule a colonoscopy.”

Nod. Know it’s for the best. Know you’re not ready to die yet. Tell yourself you’ll start that diet. Tell yourself that the novel will end in a wedding. Tell yourself that Dave Grohl will get a colonoscope up his ass, too.


About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: