Sunday, February 28, 2016

That One Time When You Unknowingly Insulted Me

It was normal Wednesday and I was staring absentmindedly at the surgery white board. I searched its unending list of procedures and "ectomies" that stretched the entire length of the wall, until I was finally able to locate my string of minor surgeries. Lost deep in thought, I wondered if there was any feasible way the labor gods would be kind to me. What were the odds my labor patient would deliver while I was scrubbed in one of my many hysteroscopies? As I came to the conclusion that once again my day was hopelessly overbooked, I sighed only to feel a hand on my back.

Turning around I saw the familiar friendly face of a charge nurse. She looked concerned.

"Dr. RH+, poor thing, were you on call last night?" she asked.

"Actually, no. I slept all night." I chirped.

"Oh....." she said as we stared at each other, slowly realizing that she had just accused me of looking like total crap.

When the awkward silence became too much to bear, I faked a page and make a dash for the locker room, where I stat ordered eye cream from one of the 200 people on my Facebook feed who try to sell me overpriced fancy products endorsed by celebrity dermatologist. Maybe I can be the next before and after picture on their web site.

Asking a doctor if they are post call is like asking a woman if she's pregnant: Just don't do it, unless you already know the answer, then think twice. The "post call" look for me often means no sleep, no shower, puffy eyes and hair style that can only be described as "Beetlejuice"-esque.

Time, stress and life itself have had their naughty way with my appearance. My running addiction is great for my legs, but my crows feet have deepened without the extra layer of fat to cushion them.

While I can't remember the last time a patient asked if I was "really old enough" to be a doctor, I also haven't had anyone question my abilities in an equally long time. At 40, I am enjoying the comfort of my own skin. My patients confidence and my colleagues respect are far more important to me than a few fine lines. I look socially acceptable most of the time (at least I hope so). I wouldn't consider trading the peace and maturity of age for a baby smooth face, but also still it's not nice to tell me I look like a tired old bag either.


  1. Oh goodness! I can sympathize with both sides of this story. I've been asked if I was post-call/ pregnant/ sick, and been none of those things. I've also asked the same dumb questions, in efforts to (rather carelessly) express genuine concern. It does sort of suck in reality to be miserable with fatigue, pregnancy or illness, and no one notices the extra effort you're putting in to function. It's a tough situation, all around.

  2. Besides constant comments on how tired I look (regardless of whether I am postcall), my weight appears to be a news breaking story. I have had cleaning ladies stop me before going into the elevator to tell me I am losing weight. And have also had nurses comment on my larger derriere when I am "not losing weight".

    I often wonder why my appearance is such a hot topic around the OR. It certainly is not for my male counterparts.

    Now that I am pregnant I can only imagine what will happen when I start showing.

    1. Ohhhh.... We definitely talk about man-hotness too. Don't delude yourself!

    2. Glad to hear it's evenly distributed where you work. My male co residents certainly do not receive comments on their weight or their general appearance.

    3. Maybe they do when you're not in the room.

  3. I get asked all the time if I'm postcall--no, I am just sleep deprived and have permanent dark circles. What bothers me now is that I'm 32 weeks pregnant and at least 3x a day (starting from when I was 24 weeks), I am told a) I must be having twins or b) I must be delivering any day now. The surprised looks and dropped mouths when I reveal my due date are getting old. I know I'm big but I have 8 more weeks to go, so please don't make me feel any worse than I already do. My self-confidence is now next to nothing after hearing it day in and day out, even though I know the intention is not malicious.

  4. I will add this to my list of things NOT to ask! … I'm already well-trained - unless the person is in labor, crowning, than act SHOCKED that they are pregnant. Check. When asked to guess an age a) Don't b) Don't c) If you must, undershoot by as much as possible without totally revealing your strategy

  5. This has happened to me many times. I remember once in residency, I took particular care one day to wear a nice blouse, and even eye makeup, something I rarely did. The lunch lady asked me if I had been up all night. That certainly took the wind out of my sail. After that I thought why bother trying?

  6. Hahahaha. I think it's too late for eye cream for me. I would take it as a compliment that the charge nurse reached out to you.


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