Annoying Assumptions-Vent!

So, I’m in Physics today and a fellow student approaches me asking what I think of Physics. I answer honestly that I don’t love Physics, never have, but I hold my own, work hard, etc. Well, it annoys me that this person then asks, “Nursing major?” To which I answer “No, I’m premed.” To which this person answers he is also. Okay, great, we’re in the same boat, yadda yadda yadda. Nothing is wrong with nursing, don’t get me wrong, but why would that be the first assumption? Because I’m an older student? (So is this fellow student by the way!) Because I’m a woman? Even more maddening. So, that annoyed me first. Like I said, nothing wrong with Nursing at all I just am very surprised that this person would even think a nursing major would need this type of physics class and that I somehow must be a nursing major for whatever reason.

Secondly, this fellow student proceeded to tell me how he knows this stuff already and spends no time on this physics class whatsoever. Like I care anyway. Apparently, I’m told, that he took this stuff in grade school (yes, he says grade school). Then, why are you here, I want to say, if you know it all already? Why didn’t you just test out? Take the AP Physics exam, take a CLEP, whatever you have to do? Why waste the time and money if there is nothing to teach you that you don’t already know? I don’t say any of this. After waxing on about his physics knowledge he then decides to offer me any help I may need in this class. (Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m such a helpless, feeble minded single mom with no brain for this complex physics. You’ve rescued me and now can hold my hand through the class as I struggle just to pass! Was that sarcastic enough?) I don’t say anything to this offer of his. I don’t want to get into it. I do however make a mention of how I am a self directed student who is doing just fine, thank you very much.I’m nice about it because that is who I am. But, this guy doesn’t seem to get it. As of our last exam(last week Thurs.), my thus far letter grade is an A. As of our last exam, only 8% of us are getting A’s. As of our last exam, the majority of the class is getting a C-. I did not tell my fellow student that I was getting an A already, so I must be doing something right even though I don’t love physics, but I wonder if I should have said something. I’m not a grade gloater by any means eventhough I have the gpa to do so, but it really ticked me off that this person assumed that I needed help or something.

It’s true that I don’t love physics and I have to spend more time on it than other courses I’ve taken, but I grasp it quite well once I do spend the time on it. Clearly I do if I’m getting an A. However, this guy doesn’t know me from Eve. For all he knows, I’m at the top or bottom of the class. Why assume I need help at all, much less his? At one point I think I did say something to the effect that I don’t assume anyone I’m in class with, or students from last semester who “tutor” know what they are doing. And, he sort of chuckled at this comment. It’s true. I’ve seen many “know it all’s” in classes whose false confidence and lack of true knowledge of something(ie: many years of training in a specific subject) has led vulnerable students far astray. I know better than that. If I need to grasp a concept better, I won’t go to a fellow student. There are too many other more reliable sources! I’m just so ticked off that it was even assumed that I need this guys help! Ridiculous. I’m at the top of the class as I have been in every other of my classes since returning to school two 1/2 years ago. Who the heck is this guy to think I need his advice or tutoring? Frustrating!!! Not to mention, his few comments about his previous attempts at education and his expected course of action as a premed makes me really wonder how much he has researched what deciding to try for med school really means. However, I may just have taken his comments the wrong way, so I will also try not to make gross assumptions about someone I know nothing about. I can still be annoyed for today anyway.

You are doing great! Shrug this guy off and stay on your path.

I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before. There’s always a buffoon like this in every class. You know the one. When this person starts to go into “know-it-all” mode, everyone else starts to glance sideways at each other with a smirk and an eyeroll. You’ll hear pens drop, see glasses come off, and see folks sit back in their chair as if to take a little break until they finish their speech or the prof cuts them off. Yea, they’re annoying but whaddya gonna do? I know what I do. I sit there knowing that adcoms will see right through this guys line of crap just like everyone else does. You’ll be a doctor and he will be figuring out how to pay off his undergrad loans. Don’t sweat it!

  • shanport7300 Said:
Because I'm a woman? Even more maddening.

Yes, this is the conclusion I've come to. On multiple occasions over the course of this journey (including just this past Thursday), I've been asked what I'm going to school for. Typically when education comes up in conversation with new people, I just say I'm "in school" but don't specify for what because, oddly, it makes people mad. But on occasion people press further and I end up saying I'm pre-med (or, more recently, starting medical school). Every. single. time. the reply is: "Oh, to be a nurse?" I want to say: "Yes, because people attend MEDICAL SCHOOL to be a NURSE." As you said, it has nothing to do with nursing itself, but I do find it irritating because I've come to realize it's because I'm female - therefore, it must be nursing! I just don't think if my husband told people he was going to medical school that anyone would answer "to be a nurse?" Unfortunately I think this is something we'll have to deal with in medicine - from doctors and patients alike. One of the female physicians I shadowed told me flat out that it's a major problem. I'm not a women's libber by any stretch, believe me, but...are these people for real?!

I feel your frustration. I always respond nicely, though my husband says I should be a little more forceful in my reply, just to make the point. Eh, maybe I will at some point, but right now it just seems like wasted energy. (end of my own rant haha - thanks for the opportunity to vent)

Switz – I got that too, “I’m going to medical school” – “to be a nurse?” which always baffled me. Luckily I had a good comeback - “No, I’m already a nurse-practitioner. I’m going BACK to school - medical school - to become a doctor.” Usually they followed that.


Med school has it’s fair share of “i want to ask you a question so I can show you how smart I am” people. Identify, avoid and ignore to the best of your ability!

I think he might have been hitting on you. Can’t say for sure without having actually witnessed the exchange, but I can’t think of any other reason to randomly offer help to a classmate he’s never interacted with before.

Obviously he’s quite a bad at it if that’s the case

Thanks for replies all! Maybe he was hitting on me and I’m just so not in that mind set that I missed it. I don’t know, though.

I usually keep to myself so as to avoid these types of people. The know it alls make me crazy, but I find it best to just stay quiet or as Captain Obvious pointed out, be just another student rolling her eyes. I’ve just never had anyone blatantly approach me like this. It’s probably due in part that I am at a larger campus now. The past two years I was at a smaller school where most people in my classes I had seen in other courses and most everyone knew I was an A student and if anything, would ask me questions. So, this guy just took me aback a little. I just hate gross assumptions and I have zero idea why any stranger would assume I needed help or was struggling! Just like that, out of the blue, and I never have that dumbfounded look. So, it really irked me.

And, yes, Switz and Kate, it’s wild to think that there are still gender biases and inequalities. From pay to attitude there is still an unfortunate gap. I am not one to cry sexism because I’ve always proved myself on my own and never blatantly felt it personally. Clearly, I may have had a taste of it directed right at me. It’s so frustrating. I just read a blog post the other day where a female doctor was regretful about her choice of specialty. As an undergrad she was a Mechanical Engineering major and loved it and had immense interest and talent for orthopedics with a desire to be an orthopedic surgeon, but found in medical school that it was too much of a boy’s club and she chose family medicine instead. It’s unfortunate that A) Medicine or any other field still have boy’s club mentalities and that B) this woman despite clearly being capable to really excel as an orthopod chose a specialty she is less than passionate about and therefore by default probably not as good at. I’m sure she is a fantastic family physician but is she as happy and good as she would have been following her true passion? Her blog post made it obvious that she is not.

I see it in class a lot though, too. The “boys” are more than willing to show their sometimes false intelligence of a subject. Physics is a “boys” subject afterall or so the feeling can be. The “girls”, like me, sit back often quietly in class, just taking it in. Some of us even rise to the top of the class without anyone even noticing. Some of us don’t care if anyone notices. We are satisfied with the nice GPA and the knowledge that came from it and happy to move on to the next subject to get that much closer to reaching our dream of medical school. But, I wonder, would it benefit my fellow female students if I was more upfront, let my grades be more known, let my understanding show through? In my second week of physics lab in a smaller and much more interactive class of students I had several students coming to me because the TA wasn’t helping them and they saw that I seemed to know what I was doing and was nice and helpful and clearly explained things to them. One student seemed so grateful to me I thought she was going to cry! It made me feel good no doubt and I think my “feminine” sensitivities made me approachable and my skills made me helpful. I have a serious desire to get into medical education and these experiences help me to see that I can guide others without being a brash know it all. It’s certainly not just a guy thing. There are helpful men, too, who do not come off with their egos front and center. Just as there are women who perhaps overcompensate and become those know it alls that everyone avoids. At any rate, I’m very glad that I am the confident 30 something I am and not a naive, vulnerable 20 something (not that all 20 something women are) who would take this random student interaction to heart. I can shrug it off and see it for what it is. It ticks me off, yes. However, it does make me wonder, how many young women who could truly be stars in science and math and who sincerely love it fall through the cracks? I could have been one of those who did had I not returned to my dream in my 30’s and hit the ground running. I’m proud to be an OPM but I know not everyone will come back to their dreams in their 30’s or later (and not everyone should, let’s face it) and I feel a responsibility on some levels to make an impression so that more young women can see through all the b.s, put it aside, and just keep on keeping on.

Because of my asian ethnicity,female gender and speak with a foreign accent, some people assume that I either work in a Chinese restaurant or a nail salon. The truth is that I earned a PhD in science from a pretty good US school. I used to get annoyed and offended by these types of comments, but then I realized that some people are just ignorant. They are great reminders of how not to act during an interview or life in general.

Kate - wish I had a good comeback like that! Will have to think of something…

Shanport - I don’t recall what you do/did for work until this point. But one thing that has become apparent to me is that, as long as you’re doing a “female” job, you won’t have any issues with anyone. But as soon as you enter a “male” field, something changes. I’ve been in the business side of medicine for years, and although it’s not remotely a secretarial job, to the layperson it’s not much more than that. So I realized that I didn’t experience this type of pushback before because I was doing a job that I “should be doing.” Now that I’ve changed gears, it’s not OK with people anymore and I get these negative comments. Love my dad to pieces, but I’ve come to the realization that he is a chauvinist. I have 2 older sisters and when I look at the path our lives have taken, I realize that we were all pushed toward “secretarial” jobs (despite the fact that I excelled in math and science and one of my sisters wanted to be an architect) while my brothers were pushed toward computers and mechanical jobs. I’ve had A LOT of pushback from my dad which I didn’t expect since he’s the one who bought me toy tanks when I was a kid, taught me to do home renovations and fix plumbing, even passed his tool set onto me since I have more mechanical skills than my brothers haha. I think that in theory it was ok to raise me to be independent, but in practice it was a different story. I guess I’m glad he’s at least ok with it in theory even if his biases ultimately take over - shows his heart is in the right place.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and my upbringing on this journey, and this issue was one big revelation. Thanks for letting me put it in writing

Switz, I completely hear what you are saying on the job front. I am in an administrative job for a custom manufacturing company. I only work very part time now, but I was full time not long ago. I was hired to do secretarial work, but very quickly it was obvious to my boss that custom estimations including working very closely with the engineers was a good fit for me and I slid rather nicely into that job that required a lot of detail orientation and technical aptitude. It’s a small office and my boss is a good man and happy to see me fitting into this position. I think part of the confidence I gained in my job led me to see that I did have it in me to do greater things. When I went back to school and cut back to very part time my boss said that other candidates for my job couldn’t hold a candle to me. Made me feel pretty good. However, most of the applicants were men with BS degrees and technical sales experience. So, it’s clear the administrative position I was hired for had really morphed into something else. He could not afford some of the applicants (ie: I was/am probably underpaid also!) and others did not fit the bill (which is saying something about me-file girl turned technical sales person!). In the end, he changed the job description and hired someone with administrative experience in large part because the men with the technical experience he wanted did not want to do admin work and/or just didn’t have the right experience to do that end of the job. I’m guessing the woman he hired is fairly compensated, but I know for darn well, that the job I was doing,in any other company, would probably have been done by a man with a female assistant to do the admin stuff and chances are that man would have been making easily 3 times what I was. Everyone I showed the employment ad to when the boss was looking to replace me because of my school goals were shocked. “You do all that?” Yep. And, I get paid like a mid to low level admin asst, too. Plus, I often got and still do get the guys in the field who don’t trust that this female voice on the line knows what she is talking about. How could she? This is a male field? So, I’ve certainly got wind of chauvinism. My boss is not one of the chauvinists, but I bet darn well he would have paid me a lot more if I was a man. Just speculation.

I get emails from women’s associations such as American Women’s Medical Association and one of their most recent issues at hand is gender equity with regard to pay. Isn’t it just ridiculous that even in medicine where the level of education required to do the “job” does not vary within specialties (at least not in the every day world of Bachelors vs no Bachelor’s, etc.) that pay inequalities between the genders is an problem?

Switz, I’m glad we could both vent! I’m sorry to hear about your issues with your Dad, too. I’m sure he is proud of you even if he doesn’t show it the way you’d like. My mom is one of 3 daughters whose Dad used to say that he’d rather raise 10 boys than 3 girls. But, you know, in the end, my mom was his little girl and he, too, taught her and her sisters “boy” stuff and were proud of their accomplishments. His heart, like your dad’s, was in the right place. Sometimes it’s just generational differences and in a way I can forgive that more than some of this “modern thinly veiled sexism”.

Well, back to physics… but what a great “conversation” we’ve all had!

I haven’t read everything in here yet, but I want to point out two possibilities, other than the obvious Gunner-in-Training.

First, he could have been hitting on you. Coz chicks dig smart guys. Right?

Secondly, he could be doing really badly in the class and need help. His speech wasn’t for your benefit, but for his ego. There were a few times I got the ‘I’m so smart speech’ that ended with an offer to help study, and it turned out both assumed-gunners were actually drowning in homework, totally un-organized and desperately needed help. Their offers to join my study group were given in the worst possible way, because of pre-med mentality making them think they were stupid, and nobody would want to study with them unless they pretended to be acing the class.

My approach would be, internal eye roll, and then move on.

BTW I am nurse. Personally, some understanding of physics is good for just about everyone IMHO, but whatever.

I wouldn’t have been offended that the person asked if I was a nursing major. I’ve been one, and I have learned a lot and am proud of the work and experiences.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the dude was hitting on you. Some people come up with some lame questions and comments when they are on the prowl.

Good luck to you!

Maybe it was an attempt to hit on me. At any rate, I’m still doing very well in class and I’ve not had any lame “offers” for “help” from this person since that first one. He did, however, ask myself and another student if our exam was tomorrow. #1: It’s not for another week and #2: Seriously? Was he trying to be so nonchalant about this class that he is feigning not even knowing when the next exam is? As if he just couldn’t care less and doesn’t need a second of preparation for it anyway? BIG internal eye roll there. Give me a break. How transparent.