April 28, 2012 by drandmrso
The other day I was riding in a car with a coworker to the airport when the subject of undergraduate major came up. She and her husband had both been English majors. We commiserated about the uncomfortable questions that typically ensued after announcing this while you were a student: “Oh…so what are you going to do with that major?” “What grade do you want to teach?” or–my favorite– “So your parents didn’t care which major you chose?” The discussion triggered a memory from a night with Dr. three years ago (almost to the day).
It was the Black Bag Ball, the annual semi-formal dance the medical school hosts for the students. Dr. had just finished up a set as the drummer for the med school band The Arrhythmias and was introducing me to one of the band members in the year ahead of him (we’ll call him Hapsburg since I don’t remember any of his physical characteristics as vividly as his giant chin). Hapsburg started off nice enough. He introduced us to his gorgeous blonde girlfriend, an MBA student. The question inevitably arose.
“So what do you do?” Hapsburg inquired.
“I’m an undergrad. I’m graduating next month,” I replied.
“Well that’s great! What’s your major?”
“Ah…so you’re focusing more on the soft skills.” He smiled in knowing way and he and Blonde floated off, presumably to talk to more highly functioning members of society. I was crushed. And fuming. Later, I came up with a scathing retort about how miserable the world would be if nobody could communicate effectively and how my degree doesn’t define me or limit me or…
As I’m writing this now I find it hard not to spin off into the same tirade that I would have three years ago had I been able to vocalize it to Hapsburg. But I’ve grown up. I’ve learned how to brush off misconceptions about my choices. When I think back to the Black Bag Ball three years ago I want to remember the great parts about the night. Getting dressed up in an old prom dress and doing my hair and nails and makeup (a big effort in those days). Having dinner with some really great future doctors and their significant others. Seeing Dr. up on stage with the band for the first time and dancing until my feet gave up. And of course: the white penny loafers.
One of Dr.’s closest friends (a fellow student at the medical school) had a pair of white penny loafers from India. When he announced he was taking another trip to India, Dr. convinced him to pick up three more pairs so the four friends could all wear them to the Black Bag Ball. Needless to say, he pulled through and the group made a major fashion statement:
The guys got a lot of comments on the shoes, but they didn’t mind; if any of them felt crushed they certainly didn’t show it. They took the inquisitive stares in stride–so to speak–and not one of them took off the shoes early. They rocked the shoes and, more importantly, they’re still great friends.
Dr. and I are slowly starting to pack up the apartment to move for his residency program. When I came across the white penny loafers in his closet, I smiled. Those are the types of people I want to remember from the last four years. And their confidence is a lesson I’ll take with me when the rounds of introductions start all over again.