Hax: Med school student disses friend's path

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • October 18, 2012 - 5:06 PM

Dear Carolyn: A close friend and I are entering health science careers via graduate school. We are pretty competitive individuals, and she puts a lot of her competitive emphasis on the academic realm. She is going through medical school now, and I am going to school this spring for physical therapy.

My problem is that she consistently, unintentionally dismisses my profession as easier than hers or less difficult to get into. The fact is, many universities are seeing more applications for physical therapy than for their medical programs, for fewer available slots. Both of our programs culminate in doctoral degrees, by the way.

She often makes comments such as, "I know you'll be offended by this, but most medical students who are close to failing out choose to go instead for physical therapy." I'm hurt that she could think so little of me and this profession.

Carolyn says: Define "unintentionally." The competitiveness of your degrees and professions (and any defensiveness thereof, ahem) is irrelevant. There's just this:

She: "I know you'll be offended by this, but ..."

You: "Then why say it?"

Or ...

She, paraphrased: "Dropouts from my program skulk into yours."

You: "You do know how pompous you sound when you say things like that, right?"

Consider it a public service to all the non-M.D.s this eventual M.D. will rely upon -- heavily -- over the course of her wow career.

'Not that into you'?

Dear Carolyn: What are your views on whether a man, if he is truly interested, will make a move to ask out a woman? I feel like we are bombarded with ideas and celebrity figures telling us that if a man doesn't make the first move, he is "just not that into you." This doesn't seem to leave room for the inherent fact that every person is different and responds to situations uniquely.

Is this just another tactic to keep women from feeling too powerful, keeping them from stepping up by promoting fear of rejection? Or does this simple idea ring true for the majority of people?

Carolyn says: Countless traditions and expectations don't "leave room for the inherent fact that every person is different." (The rest are the ones that don't leave room for the inherent fact that all people are equal. But I digress.)

Yes, boys are culturally influenced to understand that it's incumbent on them to act on their romantic interests, so, yes, a man who hasn't asked you out often is not interested.

Sometimes, though, he just hasn't noticed you (yet), or he assumed you were out of his league, or is shy, or etc., so the uniqueness of the people and situation has to prevail over "rules." Calling it a "tactic" ignores individual differences, too, no?

As for the expectations of girls ... I could say girls are too preoccupied by the task of finding one coherent thread out of a snarl of mixed messages to have the wherewithal to ask boys out. But I'd be digressing.

When women do take the initiative, they, just like men, win a few, lose a few, and slip into a few lackluster, I-hate-to-say-no relationships. The women who threaten men with their empowerment will duly scare off such men, sure, but I await news of a downside to that.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at, or chat with her at 11 a.m. each Friday at

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