Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wearing Yoiur Own Skin

My Seven T-shirts

Whoever invented the concept of putting captions on T-shirts has got to be lying beneath an umbrella -- on their own beach -- on their own island -- off the coast of Tahiti, wearing one that reads, "Made in the Shade." I don't know where all this got started (probably California) but there are some phrases I dearly love.

"Don't trust anyone under 14,000 feet" is a quote I've worn, and worn out T-shirts bearing it, for years. The words surround a map of Colorado with all of the peaks marked that meet or exceed altitudes of 14,000 feet. It's a humorous way of calling attention to one of the assets of which we are most proud.

Here's another: "It's not the pace of life that bothers me, it's the sudden stop at the end," from a No-Fear T-shirt. I think that's great and it's perfect for medical students. It reminds me of the lyric from an old country song, "going 90 miles an hour down a dead-end street."

"Wear Your Own Skin," a piece of sound advice offered by a T-shirt-clad stranger standing on a street corner, reminds me of a chance encounter last night at dancing class. I've been sick the past two weeks, as you know, and didn't think it was right to show up, coughing, hacking, sneezing, and passing along virus particles to anyone who had the misfortune of being my partner. So, I've stayed home, hoping I wouldn't forget everything I'd learned in the meantime.

There were several new members present, two of which, it turns out, are doctors in the area. What tipped me off to one was the fact that she kept checking a pager at her waist -- doctors are wedded to their pagers, even when they're supposed to be having a good time. While she and I stood talking in the middle of the floor, oblivious to the fact that the music would be starting momentarily, the other, a physician-in-training, came up and introduced herself. In a matter of seconds, we were chatting like we'd known each other for years.

I love medicine and this is one of the reasons why. It creates an instant community among persons who might ordinarily have little to say to one another. Both of them had studied internal medicine, and of course, my area is psychiatry, but they valued the role of psychology in patient care and I'd had experiences that paralleled theirs with medical patients. I imagined we must have looked funny to the rest of the dancers, our little circle of animated conversation moving to its own unique rhythm. But it made my night and we all made new friends. Dancing class has been fun and I expect it to be a lot more, now that there are three of us, learning together and wearing our own skin.

(Creative Commons image by swan-t via Flickr; 90 Miles an Hour by Hank Snow, also covered by Bob Dylan)
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