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Saturday, February 25, 2023

Sunset Boulevard On The Potomac - Aging Badly In The Corridors Of Power

Hedda Madison was ready for her knee replacement.  Walking a few blocks or up a flight of stairs was getting more and more difficult, lying on her favorite side impossible, and her off-kilter rhythmic gait a joke.

“No problem”, said Harbor Lansing, one of Washington’s top orthopedic surgeons. “We’ll have you in and out of here in a day, and before you know it, you will be the woman you once were”.  Ah, yes, she thought, a younger, more agile, more confident me with the stroke of a blade.  She was no stranger to the knife, having decided years ago that a few tucks and pulls would do wonders.  The surgery turned out well and indeed shaved a good ten years from advancing middle age.  Under the cover of COVID she had sequestered herself in a cabin in the New Hampshire woods and emerged a new woman, still recognizable (she didn’t opt for star surgery although she was given the choice of Hollywood beauties on which the surgeon would base his ‘reconfiguration’) and very much like the lively beauty she had been in her forties.

This knee thing was a whole different story, however.  There was nothing cosmetic about it except perhaps for her gait.  She was tired of walking the deck like a sailor on a listing ship.  No, this was about, ugh, mobility and range of motion; and besides, although she never would admit it, if anyone other than her husband were to touch her,  it should be Harbor Lansing.  Admittedly, this was not gynecology, and her preferences for male gynecologists was shamelessly sexual. Although she knew all about professional ethics, there was something erotic about an exam ‘down there’ despite the spreaders, probes, and lasers.  How could any woman not think of sexual penetration when she was being opened, manipulated, and explored?

Young Dr. Lansing was her go-to in the Washington Orthopedic Center.  Friends had suggested that she choose someone with more experience – more notches in his surgical belt – but if she had to have an operation, she might as well be under the care of someone whom she found physically and sexually attractive.

As far as Harbor Lansing was concerned, Hedda Madison was just one more fading Sunset Boulevard queen who had seen better days; and he ignored her flirtation with professional aplomb and complete indifference.  Why were all these old bags coming to me when others much older and much more experienced were right in the next office? 

Sunset Blvd. (1950) - IMDb

What is it with these women? Lansing wondered. Somehow knee replacement had become for them a strange elixir, a drink from the fountain of youth.  The saw themselves in frilly tennis skirts chasing backhands or parring the long par five at Congressional.  It would never happen.  His new knees would last another twenty years but they would not.  Better limp and whinge for a few more years before something out of his hands took them down.

Take Rosalind Mellors, la crème de la crème of the Philadelphia Main Line who kept herself in trim, balance, and svelte grace and who was, thanks to her beauty, sexual allure, and aristocratic carriage,  the belle of Rittenhouse Square society until she dropped dead on the eighth hole.  She had aligned her second shot on the edge of the sawgrass, chosen a six iron, and practiced a swing which would cut deep into the grass and send her ball high and arcing close to the pin.  As she stood firmly over the ball, she saw stars and black clouds, and fell lifeless into the rough.

The 25 Hottest Female Golfers of 2023

She had approached Harbor Lansing for a hip replacement, surgery she had been putting off for months because of a busy schedule, court dates, and litigation; but the discomfort had become unsettling.  Like Hedda Madison, the surgery was not just bionic but psychic.  Not only would her natural, beautifully a la Leonardo graceful arced swing return, but she would be a young woman again.

He had become, far from the simple mechanic and repairer of joints he had trained to be, a Ponce de Leon for fading, desperate women.  Who would have thought that a bone-pulling surgeon would ever become a rejuvenating icon, a restorer of youth?

So, he raised his rates.  Most of the women who came to him had well-packed investment portfolios and could easily spring for the extra thousands he charged.  Other surgeons also tried raising their rates, but they had nothing to offer other than partial joint replacement, resurfacing, or the latest in computer-enabled high-tech polymer protheses. 

Harbor Lansing was no Hollywood glamour boy by any means, but he had that indefinable male allure that women always fall for.  He listened to them; and after decades of being spoken to by clueless husbands, they were delighted to find a man who was interested in them as women, people,and persons.  When he said, “I will take good care of you”, he struck the most sensitive, resonant chord in a woman’s orchestral suite.  In an instant, they became his, and would do anything for this master, this god.

“I don’t get it”, he said to a colleague when he saw his calendar booked for six months with older women and his refusal rate nearing 100 percent.  “What have I done?”  Had anyone tried to answer the question, they would have been lost in a morass of sexual complex.  D.H. Lawrence in his most epiphanic or Freud at his most psychologically devious could never have anticipated such sexual desire in such a pedestrian orthopedic encounter.  Yet there it was. Women from all over the United States called for appointments not to be had.  The greater the demand, the lesser the supply, the more the reputation of transformative lover.

D.H. Lawrence | English writer | Britannica

Under normal circumstances, the likes of Harbor Lansing would alleviate the pain of thousands of men and women with debilitating osteoarthritis.  Orthopedics as a pedestrian specialty but a practical, worthwhile one.  No life and death brain or heart surgery, just advanced car repair.  Raise the patient on the hydraulic lift, open the hood, remove the accelerators and conductors, replace them, and be done.  Knee surgery was not meant to be an existential event.

The date for her knee replacement arrived, and Hedda was in a great state of anxiety and sexual arousal.  She would be put to sleep under Harbor Lansing’s knife and he could have his way with her.  She would wake up with a new knee, sexual satisfaction, and a renewed life ahead of her.

The surgery was a success and Hedda was delighted with the outcome.  The misery of rehabilitation was a Via Dolorosa, a slow, painful march to Golgotha and resurrection and at every post-operative visit to Dr. Lansing, she cried – not from the pain of physical restitution but from the joy of his miracle.

Despite the unexpected riches filling his bank account, and an enviable list of waiting list patients, Lansing was sick and tired of playing John the Baptist and Jesus Christ to this laggard line of old women.  He opted for retraining and studied pediatric orthopedics.  After graduation and internship, he joined a small practice in the Midwest and was never happier. 

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