Ever since my boyfriend and I started telling people (my friends, strangers) that we are medical and law students, we’ve been audience to the never-ending commentary that we are a “power couple.” And while I’ve mostly shrugged off said comments as a result of my parentally indoctrinated modesty, the label, while flattering, is also mildly off-putting and uncomfortable. Is it my aversion to overabundant praise that makes me feel this way? Or is it something else about that label and what its supposed connotation really means that makes me feel that the well-polished shoe of a power couple doesn’t really fit on me or us?
A simple Google search of “power couple” brings up a variety of results: an image of Beyoncé and Jay-Z; a dramatic graphic of Superman embracing Wonder Woman; a Huffington Post definition that describes power couples as “intimidating force[s]” with wildly successful careers. Wikipedia describes it as a couple who is popular or wealthy and intrigues or fascinates the public. Urban Dictionary says power couples are ones who have a fairy tale romance and command tremendous influence over those around them.
To be frank, I don’t really see my boyfriend and I fitting into any of these boxes. Right now, as students, we live wildly unglamorous and indebted lives. Our relationship has been filled with many incredibly happy moments, but we also have had our share of low points and disagreements. If we hold tremendous influence over our small group of friends, no has said anything to that regard. But perhaps I’m being a bit short-sighted. After all, being students is only temporary and the end game is entering two professions that still hold great prestige in modern American society.
Which brings me to the main question underlying this rant–why does the fact that me being a baby lawyer and he being a baby doctor somehow automatically qualify us to stand alongside the likes of Brangelina, Barack and Michelle, Bert and Ernie (seriously tried to think of a gay power couple for five minutes, but no one came to mind..,). I’m being facetious, but what my question now is this: What is power?
For many, power connotes wealth and influence. It’s having the means and ability to get things accomplished. It’s possessing resources and connections. Perhaps it’s also commanding a reputation, earning certain prestige, or becoming an idea that transcends the actual being. And lawyers and doctors reasonably fall into this mold. Many lawyers and doctors are wealthy. Some are famous. Both compose larger professions that are self-governing, exclusive, and provide a sense of community among its members. When someone introduces him or herself as a lawyer or a doctor, the listening party may automatically draw upon societal norms and mass media influences to create a fuller picture of who this lawyer or doctor really is, regardless of whether or not that is the actual truth.
It’s this collective definition of power that leads me to consciously reject the conventional label of “power couple.” For some, entering law or medicine is a way to attain wealth, to grow reputation, to achieve a certain status. Perhaps doctor-lawyer couples of this persuasion would be better suited to the label. But for my boyfriend and myself, the foundational reasons as to why we study in our respective fields have never been money or, more broadly, power in this conventional manner.
For sure wealth and reputation can be a great bonus. No one becomes a lawyer or doctor and bemoans the six-figure salary they’re pocketing every year. But it isn’t central for us, nor is it even guaranteed. Medical and law schools aren’t one-way tickets to this sort of power and prestige. Along the way there are many bumps, turns, and these two little things called Boards and the Bar. Some doctors and lawyers make little money compared to the rest of their professions; for instance, legal aid attorneys who work with indigent clients may earn only $50k as first-year lawyers.
But while I reject the label of “power couple” as it may typically be used in modern society, I also realize that power can come in a different form. It comes in the form of knowledge, capacity, and agency to bring change.
My boyfriend entered medical school because he was fascinated by the intricacies of the human body, because he loves interacting and socializing with people young and old, and because he has a conscious desire to “pay it forward” in the world by healing and helping others who are less privileged. I entered law school because I find the law and its constraints a uniquely powerful way to shape society and its behavior, because I, too, enjoy working alongside people by becoming their zealous advocate, and because I want to correct the longstanding consequences of injustice and societal ignorance.
For the both of us, the greatest value we see in our fields of medicine and law is the ability to unite a passion and interest for a certain subject area with the prospect to change others’ lives for the better. This very combination is powerful in its ability to uplift others, to disrupt the status quo, to bring tangible change to human lives. And it’s the definition of power to which we subscribe.
So the next time someone calls us a power couple/queer power couple/gay power couple for the ages, maybe I won’t be so quick to brush them off. Maybe I’ll ask them a bit as to why they think that way and hopefully, if they ascribe the label to the mystical and misleading lives of wealthy lawyer and doctor socialites, we’ll be able to set the record straight on why we, and many many others, are powerful in our own way.
This reminds me of the Spider Man quote “with great power comes great responsibility”. It’s easy to see the glamour of being an accomplish doctor, lawyer, business man or other professionals, but one must not forget the sacrifices and hard work it took to get there as well as the responsibility such positions entail. Congrats to @ro-mantik for being part of a “power couple” and work endlessly to change lives for the better. And I need to go find myself a cute lawyer boyfriend 😛