Sunday, May 22, 2016

Professional Mourners, Gwendolyn, and Prince

These are professional mourners. I don't know through what service they were contracted, but I'll include a link for another mourning service in the event that anyone is interested.

The only time I've taken off from studying for the infamous USMLE, other than the two days when I recuperated from a tonsillectomy (and even then I put in study hours once I came out from under the effects of anaesthesia) was a grand total of  1.5 days. The days I did study, I consistently exceeded the recommended hours. It seems that even as the USMLE date looms near, I'm due for a bit of respite. My mom says I cannot stay in any home owned by her (which includes the condo in which I reside while at school) if I don't take time off from studying. She's convinced all relatives living within 800 miles of her (except for the aunt and uncle who almost let me die of smoke inhalation when I was immobilized due to multiple fractures, and I wouldn't stay at their place if the only other choices were the Central California Prison for Women in Chowchilla or some spot under a bridge in east Los Angeles) to refuse to allow me to bunk in their homes, either, unless I agree to a moratorium on studying. If I really wanted to continue my USMLE studies, I could use my own money to rent a room at the Marriott or some similar accommodation. 

The bottom line here, however, is that my mother is once again overreacting. I'm more than ready for a break from the drudgery of USMLE prep. I need to visit my namesake heifer for only the second time in her brief life at some point late next week. I also have other plans of a more recreational nature which I shall share at some point in the near future. 

I'm changing the topic drastically, as in a most non sequitur manner, but who gives a rip? I shall now write about Prince's death. Speaking of Prince and his death, when did he become "Prince" again? Didn't he develop some sort of symbol to which he didn't attach any pronunciation, and then insist that he be known as "the artist formerly known as 'Prince' "? At some point later in his life, did he rescind all of that weirdness and once again start calling himself "Prince," or did the press and the public just decide to call him Prince again in his death since it was so much simpler than saying or writing "the artist formerly known as 'Prince' " every time a reference to him was needed?

Gwendolyn, a girl in one of my study groups, who will not remain strictly in my cohort for much longer as she's going to follow the five-year plan through medical school (the five-year plan is actually recommended for all of us, though I assume it's so that those who are later given  either the option to follow the five-year-plan or are given their walking papers, will not feel quite so much as though they were forced to settle for the consolation prize) broke into hysterical wailing during a post-final pre-USMLE lecture we were required to sit through when she read on her cell phone (which she shouldn't have been consulting for news at the time, which in part explains why she was invited to join the five-year plan) that Prince had succumbed to whatever it was that had done him in. She was sitting catty-corner in front of me. She turned to me as Larry Bakman was lecturing about something not terribly relevant  to explain just how important Prince had been in her life. I asked her what songs Prince had done that meant the most to her. "Little Red Corvette" was the only Prince song (at least I think it's a Prince song) that she even knew. Gwendolyn said that her most compelling connection to Prince was that she had briefly considered converting from her Christian Science faith to become a Jehovah's Witness, as Prince was. I have no clue as to how Gwendolyn plans to reconcile her Christian Science beliefs with the practice of medicine, for which the obligation will begin very soon. Sometimes I'm guilty of thinking too much, though. Either Gwendolyn will practice medicine as taught or she will be unceremoniously tossed from the program. Let us all hope and pray that she does not maim or kill too many patients in the process. Perhaps Gwendolyn should be required  to wear  huge boldly emblazoned "C S"  letters  on the front of her white lab coat. much as Hester Prynne wore the scarlet "A" on her chest, for the purpose of giving patients fair warning that the medical care they are about to receive might be ever so slightly on the sub-standard side. Oh, well. We've been told as medical school students that we'll all kill at least one patient before all has been said and done. It's just that "at least one patient" may very well be a conservative estimate where Gwendolyn and her Christian Science form of medical practice are concerned.

Gwedolyn routinely shares intimate details -- both of her in-the-flesh life and her virtual and imaginary lives -- with everyone who sits around her and with everyone who has the misfortune of being in a study group with her.  I know, for example, that she was forced on Wednesday to purchase Q-tips brand cotton swabs because her preferred brand -- Johnson & Johnson's Safety swabs -- was out of stock at the Walgreen's at which she shops. I know about her recent yeast infection. I know that her DVR malfunctioned on Tuesday and that she missed entire episodes of Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless. (Speaking of  The  Young and the Restless, did you know that the character of Victor Newman, played by the original actor, is still on the show? He's got to be approximately as old as Mt. Rushmore by now. I wonder if they have paramedics standing by for his eventual "I've fallen and I can't get up" moment, or if he has a DNR order in place on the set. But that's neither here nor there.)

I know every essential detail of Gwendolyn's life, as well as a whole lot of details that wouldn't be considered by most of us to be all that essential. I know that her aunt's hot flashes are even worse than her mom's are, and that hot flashes run rampant in the maternal side of her family. I know that her family, who lives in a rural area not covered by municipal water and sewage systems, moved their septic tank, and within a week, their well mysteriously dried up. (That factoid was actually a bit interesting if gross.) I know that she's attending a Carly Rae Jepsen concert in Chicago at some time in July, and that she paid just over $150.00 for the ticket (to the concert; the round-trip plane ticket will cost more than twice the cost of the concert ticket.)  I know that her mother's boss has an ingrown toenail and that her sister's sister-in-law put diesel in an engine that should have had gasoline and that it caused thousands of dollars of damage. I know that Gwendolyn never misses an episode of  Keeping Up With the Kardashians unless her DVR malfunctions.  I know that she can only use white toilet paper because she had sensitivity to the dyes used in colored toilet paper. I know that she had a philosophical opposition to the business practices of In-N-Out Burger, but that her love of In-N-Out Burger's fare caused her to violate her conscience and to patronize the establishment anyway. (I have a philosophical opposition to the way In-N-Out Burger's french fries taste [like cardboard], but I know of nothing any more sinister about how they operate their business than are the practices of any other business of which I'm aware, but again, that has absolutely nothing to do with the price of tea in China.) I know that her IPOD is filled with Rebecca Black, Ted Nugent, the Spice Girls, Justin Bieber, One Direction, Kanye West, Chris Brown, and Carly Rae Jepsen.  I heard about it when one of the clownfish in her parents' aquarium attacked and killed two firefish gobies. Yet I had no idea about any affinity she felt toward Prince until, as soon as she learned of his death,  she began carrying on as though she had just been informed that she had only thirty seconds left to live. 

Incidentally, I also learned of when her grandmother, who had been a relatively healthy 58 years old, leaned against a balcony railing at an old and poorly maintained opera house. The railing gave way and her grandmother fell roughly thirty feet, breaking her neck and dying as a result of  the fall. Interestingly enough, at least at school when she learned of her grandmother's fate, Gwendolyn shed no tears. Yet ten days or so earlier when Prince passed on, Gwendolyn cried like she was one of those professional mourners who used to be (and still are in some circles, apparently) hired by funeral homes to ensure that adequate grief would be expressed at funerals. Professor Larry Bakman suggested that Gwendolyn cried so much when Prince died that ten days later she had no tears left to cry for her grandmother. Larry was being sarcastic. He was every bit as baffled by her bizarre display as were the rest of us. And it wasn't as though she had no connection with her grandmother. Her grandma used to drive to our medical school from Flagstaff, Arizona, several times each year to see Gwendolyn, and would take Gwendolyn and several of Gwendolyn's study group members out to dinner each time she came. I went to dinner with the woman on three occasions. To be perfectly honest, and even keeping in mind that we all grieve in our own unique ways, I suspect I was sadder at Gwendolyn's grandmother's passing than Gwendolyn was. I would have written it off as Gwendolyn being one of those people who simply does not cry about things except that I had witnessed her shrieking like a banshee when she read that Prince, or whatever he called himself, died.

A group of us in our cohort discussed the idea of the display of emotion upon the death of a celebrity. If a President of the United States were to die while in office, whether or not it was one I would have chosen, I might conceivably shed a few tears over it. If a celebrity I actually knew personally, whether in the flesh or online and through phone conversations (God forbid that such a thing should EVER happen to Judge Alex) I would probably cry. On the other hand, as much as I like Josh Groban and his music, or Marco Rubio and his lack of music, and as saddened as I would be by their untimely passings, I probably would not cry. If the elderly man who lives next door to my parents fails to wake up one morning, I probably will cry. I cried when my dog died. When my cat cries, I'll cry then, too.  When George Clooney eventually moves on to the next world, however, assuming I don't beat him to it, I'll most likely manage to hold back my tears. Such was the consensus of my cohort -- not so much about George Clooney but about celebrity deaths in general.

I don't think it's inherently wrong to cry when Prince or another celebrity dies. I just think it's a bit strange, especially when the person crying over him had a connection that could at best be described as tenuous.

Because I have an adventure planned for tomorrow and because it is past 2:00 a.m. here, I must end this somewhat frivolous missive.

Gwendolyn's excessive display of grief notwithstanding, may Prince rest in peace.

Note: Edited for numerous typographical errors!

1 comment:

  1. Prince started going by his name again when he was finished with his record deal. I think it was Warner Bros. he had a dispute with. He claimed they were stealing the rights to his music and treating him like a slave.