DR Debbie

Yesterday I wrote about strange and hermit-worthy roommates. Today I will tell you about a discussion-group individual cut from the same cloth.

There’s something about a person who makes sure to mention their doctorate degree within the first few minutes of knowing them. Sometimes it’s fierce, overwhelming (I mean legitimately overwhelming) pride. Sometimes it’s a desperate need to appear legit (especially true in academic setting). Sometimes it’s an assertion of superiority.

Here are my notes about the type of doctor I met in my discussion group:

She’s rude to old people who mention shiny shoes.

Dr. Debbie is firmly established in the conference clan as one of the movers and shakers. No one calls her by her last name (in fact I have no idea what her last name is) and few people call her by her first name only. Nearly every calls her DOCTOR Debbie. This made me think of TV hucksters who work as talk-show side-shows. The doctors with first names only are the ones carted out by Oprah or Ellen to discuss the latest holistic miracle or why sunscreen really is a must this summer, guys.

Melanoma is no joke.

Anyways, my true distaste for Dr. Debbie occurred after a particularly fascinating talk by one of the general session speakers. The speaker was a renowned scientist, a biomedical engineer specializing in human tissue. Talk about engaging content. In addition to being interesting, the speaker was attractive. At one point I remember thinking “if only I looked that good when I was giving presentations… I would rule the world.”

The post-presentation discussion, then, touched not only on the speaker’s content but also on appearance. And what should have been a truly fascinating and thought-provoking discussion about the ways appearance influences credibility (particularly for women) it turned into a public lambasting of the first person who mentioned the speaker’s attire, with DR Debbie at the helm. I cut in a few times, but the group was on a “burn the witch” kinda roll, with the most vocal being those who had a vested interest in making sure all 30+ of us in the discussion group knew that they had no problem with a women wearing shiny shoes. Along with the comments to the group, there were sidelong glances, comments under breath(s), and a fair number of scoffs, tsks, and other non-verbals meant to demonstrate disgust.

doctor debbie | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.comInstead of being thought-provoking, or digging in and getting to the meat of WHY a speaker’s attire means so much to us, the group as a whole spent about 45 minutes reasserting that they don’t even NOTICE what people are wearing. They only care about the CONTENT. And how much of a RUBE do you have to BE to think that SHOES matter when a SCIENTIST is speaking? What IS this? The nineteen THIRTIES? JEEZ, old lady, get a grip on REALITY.

doctor debbie | a post from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.comIt’s been a while and I’m still disturbed by this episode.

One helpful realization, and one that I am thankful for, is that this exchange (and being around that cranky Dr. Debbie in particular) gave me some much-needed perspective on my daily work environment. I’ve been struggling with my workplace lately. A lot of stuff is less-than-awesome these days; there’s plenty of reason to dread going in and to count down the hours until I can go home. But then I meet someone like Dr. Debbie and spend some time in a group of people like her, led by her. And I realize that work is actually pretty damn good. It’s not the greatest; the problems still exist. However, blatant disrespect isn’t part of the zeitgeist. By and large, my coworkers are respectful and constructive in group settings.

That’s not something I was tuned into before meeting Dr. Debbie, but it sure is now. In that respect, Dr. Debbie is kind of like a terrible disease, isn’t she? She puts it all in perspective. Like a bad case of melanoma.

(See what I did, there? I brought it back around.)


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