Sunday, December 21, 2008

What's in your title?

We had our first holiday party this weekend; the Big One, by which I mean 80 or so extended family members all gathered at a VFW hall, tables piled high with gifts, Santa Claus visiting with a sack of presents for all the kids (18 and under), a plethora of pot luck food items, and lots of chatter, laughter, and fun.

We've had these parties ever since I can remember; as a kid I loved dressing up in my best Christmas dress, running around with all my cousins, and opening the first round of Christmas gifts. Also, since eating was unsupervised, I filled up on junk food and soda, and the best ham and cheese sandwiches that I have never been able to duplicate. And I've never tried to figure out who brought them to ask the secret recipe, either.

Now I am there with my own girls, watching them with a weird sort of deja vu. Of course my cousins and I have all grown and had kids; we talk about families and careers now, and lately a curious thing has been happening: my younger cousins have begun to ask me for advice. I have transitioned out of the "younger" generation.It is a strange transition... to go from that of "child" to that of "wise adult."

The problem is that most of my family don't quite understand what it is that I really do. Today I was asked about the nursing curriculum; I was asked about some of the other (medical) doctors in my department; I was asked for advice about some good educational videos for biochemistry class. And then the worst thing of all happened... someone said "You're a doctor! You can tell me why my... (long painful description about some unpleasant sounding medical issues)".

First of all, it is often the same uncle who asks me for medical advice. He also inevitably jokes "You are the big doctor, you can look after your favorite uncle in his old age." I laugh, haha, funny, and then have one of those Ally McBeal moments where I visualize myself throttling him as he slowly drowns in a downpour of his own pills.

Don't you hate those moments when you have to explain "I am not an M.D."? I feel like Ross, on Friends, who constantly had to defend himself "But I am a real doctor!" I remember once when my graduate advisor told me "A PhD is actually harder to get then an MD". At the time, I thought he was wise. Now, I realize he was probably having an "But I am a real doctor!" moment, too- because I often fight off the urge to explain "A PhD is a higher degree then an MD". If that isn't bad enough... forget about making them understand how little money I actually do make. My poor Prince Charming. Last month he made as much as I make in a year. And yet, my whole family thinks that it is I who support us. Putting aside our feminist ideologies, just imagine for a minute how irritatingly emasculating it is for him. To his credit, he just shrugs his shoulders and goes to get another beer. He knows the truth.

I do relish my teaching, as that is one of the only times when people are appropriately required to call me "Dr." Outside of that, it is fuzzy: I never correct people when they call me "Mrs." I just sigh and write in "Mr. & Dr." as a response to the invitations addressed to Mr & Mrs... and laugh that the only people who get it right are my in laws (I do love them!) and my colleagues. But oh, I wish I could just get over it and correct people when they say "Hi Mrs. Grumpy!" but I'm just not there yet.

1 comment:

PhizzleDizzle said...

That is funny and sad - it seems like lots of academe-bloggers suffer the problem of people not understanding what it really means to have a PhD. After I get mine, I plan on telling everyone that I'm a doctor, but not the kind that helps people, and leave it at that. :)

Good luck!