February 3rd, 2013
My dignity has been escaping at about an ounce-and-a-half a day. Until HumanCare International came along, it required half a box of kleenex to remediate the leak. Dignity Pads, or ThinSerts, as they call them also, are mens’ diapers. Six or seven years ago I became aware of the product. A seventy-five year old vet demonstrated his need for “something to contain the goddam mess!” to one of the techs in prosthetics. There’s no privacy at the VA, so three or four of us were kept abreast of his agony. He had his pants unzipped and the outline of Rumania (a darker yellow than the interior) was clear on his jockey shorts. The stain was not yet visible on his jeans, but, as he pointed out, “that patch would look pretty horrible if these were my dress pants.” Normally prosthetics isn’t the domain of incontinence. The technician disappeared from the room. Before he was gone for ten seconds the pants-wetter addressed us, “Sorry you had to go through this, fellas.” I muttered something. The two other guys just looked away. In a moment he tech returned with a stack of papery inserts for the man’s underpants. He included a leaflet with pictures and instructions as to their placement along with a comforting overview: Dignity Thinserts are discreet, comfortable and highly absorbent. They cause no rustling sounds, and can be used in any garment. They are undetectable under clothing.
Today, I am the Dignity Thinserts customer. Like most of my incontinent fellows, I just say Dignity Pads. I should write ad copy for the product. About three years ago my incontinence problem approached loss of dignity proportions. I’d had a fairly radical and invasive radiation procedure after which I had zero bladder control. The operation controlled the spread of cancer, but the tradeoff was bad weather for life. I’m used to Dignity Pads now and I don’t expect the life of misery I used to fear.
One day I picked up my pads at the very busy VA pharmacy. A tall and hefty man wearing a red flannel shirt and blue suspenders, which held up a pair of big-pocketed blue jeans, took note of my large paper bag. “Gotcher diapers,” he said, flapping his notebook at them. “I can always tell who uses Dignity Pads by that big-ass bag they stuff ‘em in.” “Nice work, Sherlock,” I thought, almost out loud.
He sat across from me on the 38 bus heading into town. He acknowledged me with a nod early on, but said nothing. That was as I wished. It was afternoon and high-school kids boarded until the bus was packed, but most of them got off around Van Ness. The remainder of the ride was not too crowded. “Still gotcher diapers, I see.” He was loud. He said it as though it was a witticism. He nodded and winked at me when it became apparent that the remark registered with a few of the other riders — mostly women. “That’s one hell of a good product. I know. I had to use them for a coupla months last year.” What is with this bastard? Is he bragging that his situation improved, or is he just an idiot? And why do I care? Who am I trying to impress? I decided to engage him on the subject. “I think it’s an excellent diaper.” I said. I had a bunch of catchy nonsense to say once we got going. I was sure I could embarrass the hell out of him. Get going in my sincere therapist mode. Bring him out. “Big man like you, I’d guess you really must have gone through a lot of these here diapers.” But by the time I got to “these here diapers” I knew I sounded inauthentic. The guy just shook his head no, smiled, and turned away.
I try not to talk about my diapers now. I just thought I should let you know why.