Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Flowers for Algernon Phenomenon (Taboo Subject Warning)

In the story “Flowers for Algernon” Charlie falls in love with his former teacher, Miss Kinnian, but as his intelligence increases, he surpasses her intellectually and they become unable to relate to each other.

Story Summary http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/algernon/summary.html

Once med school was over and I began being invited to the “real” doctors wives group in town I noticed something. These long-time wives seemed to have a common thread. It seemed like every Dr. Wife I met was a doctor herself, a pharmacist, a lawyer, an optometrist or a dentist. (I’m sure there were exceptions to this rule; I just didn’t meet any.)

I had thought myself sufficiently educated. I had worked a while after college and gone back for my masters and finished that up the May before medical school started.

I won’t lie. I felt SERIOUSLY undereducated around this crowd. So undereducated that I studied for and took the LSAT thinking I would at least get a Juris Doctorate. But with 3 small children at home this was a pipe dream, and I gave it up.

I mention “Flowers for Algernon” because I thought of this story frequently while Chad was in Medical School. He seemed so young and at times VERY immature his first year of medical school. I was by far the mature adult in the relationship.

The process was gradual. As medical school went on and he started residency he became quite different. Not only did he gain knowledge and wisdom, he gained maturity. Family and friends call him for advice now frequently and I turn to him for advice as well. I literally felt him passing me by intellectually.

Let me just say many of the smartest people I know personally never went or finished college. However, I am curious if anyone else has felt insecure about our husband surpassing us in education?

Will he get bored with my childish blabbering and go marry someone else he can have a real conversation with?

On the other hand, I did notice that he named his fantasy football team “Huge Hairy Ball Sack.” Perhaps I don’t have anything to worry about.


  1. I was seriously thinking the opposite. Is this a grass is greener thing? I look around the blogging community and like, 2 out of 30 bloggers have any of the professional graduate degrees you've mentioned.

    I wonder if me applying to medical school will benefit my marriage. I hear anecdotes all the time that medical marriages can be competitive which isn't healthy. I've also heard that it can be awkward if the wife picks a more "high gear" specialty and consequently makes more money than the husband. I've also heard of physician (and corporate lawyer and business-savvy pharmacist) mothers doubting their ability to be there for their kids and if it is all "worth it" to miss out on so many wonderful things at home.

    I want to be able to make a fantastic turkey dinner this weekend with nice linen napkins and cute decorations I took three months to make or find, but even as a young-ish, full of energy pre-med, I'm dead tired and I just want to study this thanksgiving so I don't bomb my finals.

    You feel insecure about your education and they may feel that their insecurities have caused them to become highly educated at the expense of enjoying "real life." (Not saying all female physicians are somehow driven by insecurities, but I do know of 2 in real life. You just never know.)

  2. PS - by "blogging community" i actually meant Dr's Wife Blogging Community.

  3. This hit home... I ask Coy sometime things like "do you feel I am uneducated compared to you?" or "are you going to leave me someday for your hott nurse?" Because let's be honest she can talk medicine better than I can... Normally I pretend I'm joking but deep down I really do have these huge insecurities that just need to be soothed... I'm really trying to work on it though. Thanks for posting this.

  4. I am not educated.
    Okay, that's a lie - but honestly, I got married the first time when I was 21. I had three kids and then was divorced. I went back to school while I had kids and earned a bit of education but nothing that would make me an equal to S "intellectually" or those nurses and techs he works with everyday.

    I am like Kris, I worry that he will become bored with me. That I won't stimulate him mentally the way his coworkers do.

    And I too, need soothing here and there because of this.

    Perhaps like K said, the grass being greener? I think S and I work because we are a good match. I hope that keeps us together forever!

  5. I'm a little late to the party here, but I worry about "matching" my husband a lot. It's hard, because he's always been smarter than I am. BUT we went to the same college and I have a master's degree, so you'd think I'd stop feeling insecure. But NO. Not secure at all because I have this chip on my shoulder that other people will always see me as just The Wife and somehow less smart and less successful than my husband. Which honestly? Shouldn't matter one iota. Who cares about other people? Well, apparently I do. Because I fret about it a LOT.

  6. You know, there is no doubt in my mind that the boy is smarter than me...and will continue to be. The way I see it though, docs are always surrounded by other brilliant people. I believe when they come home they want to be with someone they love who will laugh at/with them. Someone they have built a family with...someone who remembers the kid they used to be. So I don't worry about my husband, but I do worry about other docs wives...but in the end I am who I am, and as long as I continue to learn for the rest of my life I don't see any problems. :)Don't forget, you're raising his children too- they don't give degrees for that but I'm sure you have learned plenty!

    I think his fantasy team name is a good sign that he doesn't take himself too seriously!

  7. It is important for me to feel valued by my husband. If he lets up at all - I just let him know. My husband has to value the things I do and who I am - otherwise I would not have married him. If he ever forgets then I just remind him.

    I liked your thoughts.

    I read your posts on livesofdoctorswives and wasn't upset by them at all. I feel grateful often for the opportunities we are having living in the lowest poverty level. It has definitely given us both a sense of compassion for the poor that we may never have developed otherwise. The lessons come fast and are often painful, but what I yearn for most is that I will never forget the lessons I have learned and the feelings I have felt during this time. I hope that they will inspire us to give back when our opportunities allow us to.

  8. My husband and I are completely opposites in areas of intelligence. For instance, I know- KNOW- that he is far superior to me in math and science. In fact, he gives me random math "lessons" to try and help me out with fractions from time to time.

    On the flip side, I am FAR better than him with English and language in general. I teach language for a living. I am always attempting to give him lessons in how to write properly and he has me edit papers so that he doesn't turn in some horrifically written H&P to his preceptors. The medicine may be good in it, but his presentation needs work.

    I mean, I'm not an idiot at math and he's not illiterate, but we each have those weaknesses. Together we make one whole brained, intelligent person. I think because I know he has certain academic weaknesses that happen to be my strengths I never feel insecure. On the flip side, I have certain academic weakness that are his strengths. It's a balance.

    Where I do sometimes feel insecure is when people ooh and ahh over how wonderful and even-keeled he is. This compared to my tendency to be emotional and moody. I get in a huff thinking, "Everyone thinks he's perfect but he is SO not. He is pretty great, but he has weaknesses too!" I just don't ever want him to think he's perfect. Too perfect for me who happens to cry a lot. For me there has never been an insecurity about the intelligence thing, but an overall "perfection" kind of thing... if that makes sense.

    And his fantasy football team? Made me laugh my face off.

  9. Ok that blog ending was hilarious! So funny, in fact, I read it to Ben, and we both laughed!!

    I understand your feelings and I feel that way, too, sometimes. I think my insecurities are more focused on the physical though, because I have already had one husband have an affair and it is hard not to take that personally. I work out like a crazy person, and I am worried about him leaving me for some hot nurse all the time.

    Of course, all of that is unfounded because Ben is not at all like my ex, and very trustworthy, and while, yes, he makes it clear that he doesn't want me to "let myself go," (nor do I) I know we (me and the boys) are the most important thing in his life. He loves medicine as a job he goes to and comes home from, not as his life. He does it as a means to an end. What he lives for are his family and his extra-curricular activities, so I feel safe in that regard. Outside of medicine, we have all the same interests and values. We have fun together and make each other laugh. I am his respite from his stressful day. He doesn't want to have stimulating conversation when he gets home, he wants to relax and turn his brain off.

    Not that I am saying I am dumb. I'm not. I have a bachelor's degree in Education, and I, too, have helped him edit his papers as I am stronger in English and Writing than he is. I don't feel like I need to prove how smart I am compared to him. He is smart, way smarter than me. I'm okay with that. I'm grateful he is. Someday, I will go back and get my Master's and my PhD and I'd like to be a college professor, maybe in the field of Education, but for now, my children are my number one priority. That is the way Ben and I both want it to be.

    But I do hate having to make conversation with those intellectual doctor's wives. Ben doesn't put me in situations like that very often though because he hates it, too.