Monday, October 10, 2011

life as a med student's wife

Our friend T's homemade table, site of many dinners with medical students

I wrote this for the Real Simple blogger contest this summer, which asked bloggers to write about the friend they were most surprised to have. At the last minute I decided it didn't really answer the question, so I didn't enter it, but I thought it might be worth sharing. 


My only memory of high school science is the day we thought it would be funny to ask our teacher what “sodomy” meant (it wasn’t). My most vivid memory of college science is my elation that attendance wasn’t enforced.

And yet, here I sit at a restaurant with a medical student (my husband), two surgeons, a dentist, and a physician’s assistant. They talk about medicine, science, break to discuss the food, then more medicine, more science. I chime in to comment on the risotto but remain silent when talk returns to bodily fluids. Though discussing discharge over dinner no longer fazes me, I have nothing to add.  

Our waiter reads the specials. When he leaves, the table huddles together. I lean in, in case it’s layperson gossip.

“Did you see that?” someone asks. “How about the lump on that guy's neck?” The rest of the table agrees, throwing out potential diagnoses. I realize I’m the only one at my table who doesn’t perform a secret physical examination on every passing human.

Born to be a liberal arts student, I was shocked when I married someone who was so thoroughly a scientist. Though I know he accepts me mass communication degree and all, it’s hard not to be intimidated when we meet friends for drinks and discuss the experience of delivering a baby.

It’s a daily test, but I’m becoming acclimated to my unexpected social circle. I’ve learned when complaining about my terrible day in the office is in poor taste (right after a friend shares that his patient died, for instance).  I’ve absorbed enough to comment on medicine occasionally. Most importantly, I’ve discovered that as intense as these very smart people are, they sometimes crave tales of life outside the hospital. And that’s where I come in.


  1. I LOVE THIS, it is soooo true. Sometimes I feel so outside the group when we go out. I really just sit back, quiet, and sadly almost, wait for someone to ask me about my job cause they feel bad that the subject tends to circle around strictly medicine. I do know just like I like to go to HH with work friends and talk about my wonderfully exciting job (bore) in International Business he needs to vent too, but with busy schedules his HH's are few and far between, meaning planned well in advance and since they have no time, gf's are always welcome.

    I have absorbed as well, understanding what a vfib is, and diagnosis when they are very high level, but its almost like being in a group of German speaking people and you can barely say "hello."

    But your soooo right, he has told me time and again he could never date someone in the medicine industry cause his life would be sooooo borrrrring.

  2. I'm so happy you posted this because it's exactly how I feel when we get together with friends. And everyone likes to know that they aren't alone, right? ;)

    I was nodding my head throughout and agree completely with Amy's comment.

    It's hard to feel "left out" or like the outsider at these gatherings, but I know that what makes me different from those guys is why Russ and I work so well together - we balance each other out.

  3. This {and the two comments above} made me smile. I tried starting to protest that HELLO IM EATING, but it didn't make any difference haha. I like the thought of all of us dr. significant others balancing each other out. :)

  4. This was 100% spot on and it doesn't change after medical school. Sure, some people begin to diversify their interests and dinner topics but not really.

    This past year we had friends come through NYC and we met them in the city for dinner. Over dinner the poo scale came up (friends BF is a GI doctor) we then proceeded to share where our poo fell on the poo scale. All of this was over mexican food.

    Yup. Life as a doctors spouse is never dull and always keep you on your toes.

  5. What a great little essay!

    This all indeed can be a daily test. Sometimes I have to remember that I have lots of smarts too - just about things other than medicine - when I'm with dr. people who are talking about things I know nothing of...

    But that's a very insightful conclusion that we can be there to bring a little non-hospital perspective to their lives. And I consider myself quite blessed to be able to have some balance in my own!

  6. How have I not "met" your blog until now!!
    I love it. I love your honesty and I love all the people commenting because it makes me feel like I'm not alone.

    One night I was having dinner and drinks with the mister and his best friend and his gfriend (all doctors) and I almost burst out laughing at my own thought of how ridiculous the whole thing felt.. and I wanted to laugh at them a little because they were so engrossed in some sort of medical chat that it was laughable.

    My mister always tells me that he would never have wanted to be with someone in the medical field... he likes that I bring the balance to the relationship. I love him for that!