Steeling myself, I walk through the door. Christmas music is playing. There are twinkle lights all around, red ribbons and wreaths. Festive, really. The room is full of other physicians, people I know and work with every day at the hospital.
The men are chatting each other up, talking shop.Their spouses laugh together about childbirth and children, extolling the virtues and woes of being a stay-at-home wife/mom. They look up briefly, going silent as they regard me with suspicion. I spend more time with their husbands than they do which makes me a threat. I do not understand them. They do not understand me.
The few other female physicians stand about, sprinkled around the room with their non-medical spouses, also eyeing each other with suspicion. I smile pleasantly at them, they smile pleasantly back. But no one moves and one speaks. We are in competition with each other, after all.
My husband didn’t come. He hates these functions even more than I hate them. I cannot decide if it is better to have him with me. His being uncomfortable makes me more uncomfortable. Still, a distraction would be nice.
When I am in the clinic, I am in a position of power. I can play the part of the outgoing, caring lady doc. I am a great actress. But here? I feel exposed and vulnerable and I hate it.
I move to a small group of my partners and nod as I stand silently near them trying look as if I fit in. I laugh at their jokes and smile as if I enjoy their company, waiting for dinner to be served. At least during the meal I can pretend to be busy with the food.
Money. That is what I am to all of these people. Hiring another female physician was a purely financial decision by the group. And the specialists? They just want my referrals. I don’t know if I am truly friends with any of them.
I am popular socially, outside of medicine, but some time ago I realized that it was not because I am a particularly good friend or because I am fun to hang out with. I serve a purpose, providing social standing to people who want to say they have a doctor in their inner circle. No one checks to see how I am doing unless they want me to diagnose their kid’s rash over text.
This is my life now.
I am a grown woman, though, not the scared little girl in the grade school lunch room.
So I turn and leave.