Of course I was excited to be asked to write a column about pre-med life at Yale. Ever since “Sex and the City” aired, I’ve harbored a secret fantasy of being a chain-smoking columnist. Since I’ve been “in the pre-med way” for three years now, I think I have it figured out.
What I’ve realized is that the bad part about being pre-med isn’t the work. In fact — and keep this under your hat — it’s full of perks. After all, we watch an explicit film in Repro that makes “The Staxxx” sound like an Olsen Twins movie. We know organic chemistry has a homoerotic leitmotif that rivals an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue. (Nucleophilic “back-side attacks,” anyone?) We know climbing Science Hill gives you a killer body. And every finals period, sleepless nights give me that much sought-after heroin chic look.
The dark cloud that hangs over my pre-med life is, quite simply, other pre-meds.
“But Nancy,” you ask, “I’m pre-med. Are you referring to me?” Yes. Yes I am. Pre-meds have personalities that hover slightly above sea lettuce. And here’s why:
The first problem is many of them hate science. They hate numbers, hard facts, equations, diagrams and in general anything that must be memorized. Their mating call is, “I can’t wait to get my sciences out of the way so I can take classes I’m really interested in.” They complain loudly in lectures, turning a potentially innocuous situation into something about as fun as a tonsillectomy. And plus, I just don’t get them. A pre-med who hates science? That’s like a Footie who hates Nalgenes.
Concerned about the welfare of the science hater, I interrogated officials from several of the top medical schools in the northeast, including Harvard, Yale and Johns Hopkins. I asked each one, “What do you offer in the way of interpretive dance classes?” Each time, I was met with dead silence. “Do you mean biochemistry?” the admissions officers replied. “No, interpretive dance. You know, creative movement.”
Again, nothing. I tried again. “What about Spanish soap operas? History of the Mafia?” No and no. Bottom line: Things were looking grim for the science hater. So why, then, is the science hater putting himself through the grueling mill of problem sets and lab quizzes? Perhaps his family has a line of doctors going back to Pangea and his first word was “residency.”
For these people, I can only say: Get out while you can. We find your constant complaining caustic and irritating. I can guarantee each time one of you pipes up with some comment on how much science sucks, someone within earshot is wishing scurvy on you.
The second problem is the “nuh-nuh-nuh-no” syndrome. Imagine this conversation:
Me: I’m really busy this week. I have a lot to do.
Pre-med: Nuh-nuh-nuh-no. I’m so stressed out. Listen to what I have to do.
Then they list all of their upcoming midterms and lab reports, while you replay scenes from the last “Temptation Island” in your head to keep looking interested. The secret to these people is they secretly like the stress and the complaining. They like to think they’re doing more work than other people at Yale. They’re the people who come to science finals and advertise how little sleep they got. They don’t think for one minute you are stressed out and that last night, you had to sprinkle Vivarin on your ice cream instead of M&Ms.
Hopefully, most are in it for the right reasons. Being pre-med certainly compromises the fun you have at Yale — but one day I’ll realize my dream, which is to be the next Albert Schweitzer-meets-Patch Adams-meets-what’s-her-name-on-Temptation-Island. And in the meantime, little payoffs along the way make me happy.
On April 21, I’m taking the MCAT. That night, you’re all invited to celebrate with me and a bunch of other pre-meds who, having sacrificed many Saturday nights to their studies, will have tolerances that make you green with envy. Spring Fling is the next day — if you see someone rush the stage and pounce Ben Harper, muttering something about “getting my just desserts,” it’ll be me.
Nancy Levy is a junior in Pierson College.