The Mile High Club

31 05 2009

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I’d been there less than 10 minutes, and already my face hurt. This was to be expected, as I’d been fake-smiling way too much. The fake smile is  something you must master when your spouse is a doctor, and you become by default the trophy wife/arm candy/gold digger accompanying him to all of his professional shindigs.

I’ve been going to these things for more than a decade, so by now, I’d become pretty familiar with what to expect: walk in the door, realize how many women went with backless dresses and how woefully underdressed you seem by comparison, shake hands with the chairman of the department, trade a few embarrassing stories about your kids, gorge on hors d’oeuvres, and then find the table closest to the door so you can slip out early without most people noticing.

The conversation at these gatherings has been something I’ve long wished I could bottle and sell, because believe me, it would soon put the makers of Ambien out of business. This one is planning an exquisite wedding for her son and lovely daughter-in-law at the art museum (aren’t all daughters-in-law lovely at first?); that one has been trying to sell his boat for months now, but can’t find any suckers takers in this market.

But now aside from the requisite face tightening I experienced on walking through the door, this party last night was different. I met some interesting people there, including:

  • An octogenarian who, in addition to practicing medicine, is writing a book about anesthesia during the Civil War. He misses the days when he was able to haul himself out to Civil War reenactments.  He doesn’t miss the days when work was your life, and anyone expecting otherwise could kiss a bright future goodbye.
  • A middle-aged woman who was two weeks away from her next medical mission in the Dominican Republic. During her last trip, a few members of her crew got heat exhaustion. To go out early in the morning or late at night would be missing the point, she said, because if you’re going to talk to people about God, you need to be out when they are.
  • A couple who have five children ranging in age from 20 to 3. I asked the wife how she could go back to the diaper stage having spaced the children out as they had. “Oh it gets easier,” she said cheerfully. “The older ones can do for themselves, and they help with the younger ones.” Then she lowered her voice and leaned in across the table. “Of course, it makes it hard to breastfeed because there’s always so much else going on, with schedules and all,” she said, mouthing the word “breastfeed” as there were a number of men at the table, and she was wearing a low-cut paisley dress with spaghetti straps.

Aside from these, there were gay doctors, amateur stand-up-comedian doctors, smokin’ hot doctors, manic doctors, wandering eye doctors, obnoxious doctors, rely-too-heavily-on-alcohol-to-loosen-up doctors. They come in all flavors. Choose yours wisely.

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