The event is a rather common one. The chief residents throw a graduation party every year. Surgeon has managed to skip out of half of them so far, but being chief in a month now requires his presence.
This evening for me, however, is going to be a first of many things. Among them are:
1. I’ll be meeting Surgeon’s co-workers
2. I’ll be dining at the Ritz
3. I’ll be introduced as his WIFE
Number one is a little nerve-racking because here I am, a humble teacher of writing, about to mingle and converse with people who quite literally save lives on a daily basis. While doctors/surgeons individually are not intimidating (I’ll have to tell you what Surgeon looked liked on our first date one day), when they are massed together, it’s like entering a world that a plebeian like myself will never quite grasp. The jargon is completely beyond me sometimes, and I often marvel at the jokes they laugh at. I suppose this gathering is especially trying because I’ll finally be able to put faces to the many nicknames Surgeon and I have given to his many attendings, interns and fellow residents. Surgeon’s stories and complaints about his hospital and the people he works with abound, but one of the things I adore about him is that he never puts a name to anyone. That’s when I started giving people three word sobriquets: “Oh, you mean The Animal Lover?” Well, tonight, The Animal Lover is going to have a face… and part of me doesn’t want to know all these faces. There is a joy and a freedom in keeping certain groups of people unknown to a certain degree. Your spouse’s co-workers fit this category quite perfectly.
Number two is a little exciting, actually. As a foodie, I am curious to know what exactly will be served on my plate tonight. A chickpea patty? A summer risotto? A completely unknown but extremely marvelous vegetarian delicacy? Bring it on.
Finally, number three. While calling Surgeon “husband” seems exceptionally natural at this point (I don’t, for example, forget and call him boyfriend or whatever), being called a “wife” is still a little surprising. What’s more, people are expecting to meet me as Surgeon’s brand new wife. Surgeon and I were pretty private about our relationship and marriage, so I suppose the allure for everyone else is amped up, but for Surgeon and I, it’s all the more uncomfortable.
It’s the sentiment behind number three that’s causing a slight dilemma for me at the moment, and it’s perhaps one that you’ll scoff at: what the hell am I gonna wear!?
Surgeon didn’t give much advice. He grinned at my worry and said, “Think of this thing as the Resident’s Prom. Dress whatever way you like!”
So do I wear an evening gown, or do I wear a sari?
As a child and teenager, I donned many Indian outfits, be it for Indian parties or American ones. Part of this was because my mother forbade us girls to wear dresses after we turned seven or eight. Actually, she forbade pretty much anything except for loose jeans and long-sleeved shirts. I look like the ultimate nerd in many of my old pictures (glasses and all). While I loved the way a sari looked on me, I longed to wear American dresses with their many cuts and shapes. So when I finally got my freedom in college, I went out and bought some. Cheap ones at first, but once grad school hit, I started collecting glorious pieces.
This is the one I have in mind to wear tonight:
Yet, another part of me wants to be traditional. I want to bring my culture. All of these people I am going to meet tonight will see my skin, of course, and will assume I am Indian, but marrying Surgeon makes me even more so American. This made me panic just a tiny bit and I found myself sifting through the many, many, many saris I own but have never worn. They are all so beautiful, intricately decorated with embroidery and beads on bright, lush colors, like this one:
They both sing to me. They both identify with my tastes.
So what do I wear? What the hell do I wear?