I used to be pretty.
Theoretically, I still could be. I have some decent raw material. Taller than average. Slender, athletic frame, if a little pear-shaped. Hair that is straight without intervention, light brown with natural strawberry highlights. Brown eyes, dark eyelashes, full lips. Clear skin with a few freckles. Maybe not beautiful, but okay. More than some people have to start out with, and I feel like I should make the most of it.
I’m working in the clinic right now. I adore office work. Things that most people take for granted- sleeping at night, wearing your own clothes to work, eating lunch- are joys that I get to experience in clinic that I don’t usually get while working on the wards. I can put on pants that fit, a purple shirt that looks good with my skin tone, and put on thirty seconds worth of makeup. Undereye concealer, powder, a little blush, a lipstick that has been in my white coat for months. Four people stop me this morning to tell me how great I look. “Wow, are you wearing makeup?” “You look great!” “I like you in your clothes” (side note: does this sound inappropriate to you? Would you also like me out of my clothes?) “You are really pretty.” They always sound a little surprised when they say that.
I smile and laugh a little. I tell them thank you, that this is how I used to look in my other life. This is how I looked before I went to medical school, became a doctor, and worked harder/got less sleep than a mother of perpetually newborn twins.
When I’m at the hospital, I wear the required men’s scrubs. They are too short, hug my hips too tight, and gap in the chest. My hair is always up and never combed. Sometimes I wear my surgical hat even when I’m not going to the OR, just because I feel like it’s cuter than my head. My skin is dull, I have pimples from my surgical mask, and I look bruised on the thin skin under my eyes. My joints ache with tiredness. I look weary. I feel old.
I always sort of wondered when I would start looking older. I look young for my age, and always have. Indeed, the “little doc” came out of people’s surprise that I was old enough and accomplished enough to be wearing a white coat. When would I stop looking like the “little doc” and just a doctor? Now I know.
I think this process will age me. Like the presidents. Those guys always start out looking okay, and gradually their wrinkles form and deepen, the skin looks sallow, their hair goes gray. By the end of the term, they have aged much more than four years. And I think this four years of residency will do the same to me.
However, hopefully then I will have a stable practice that I love, a little more sleep at night, and more working hours during the daytime. I can wear comfortable scrubs that are made for women. I’ll feel better, even though I’ll be older.
And hopefully I’ll make enough money to buy more expensive cosmetics, and afford a few units of Botox. I think I’ll probably need them.
Medelita Guest Blogger: Dr. Anne Kennard. Anne is an OB/GYN resident in Phoenix. She has kept a collection of writings about medicine/becoming a doctor since her second year of medical school, and we’re honored to welcome her as a guest blogger for Medelita.