Saturday, April 6, 2013

On The Shattering of Illusions

A 1977 Princeton Alumna wrote a letter to the editor of the Princeton Daily about how the young ladies of Princeton should consider marrying young that is apparently twisting up the panties of twenty-something women everywhere.  Sadly, the letter was removed from Princeton’s website (apparently all those brilliant people can’t handle a little controversy? PUBLIC EDUCATION FTW) before I could read it, but I’ve read some mentions and some responses that are cropping up all over the web like daisies.  

I’ve got to admit – the responses are mostly so angry, petulant and self-absorbed that I can readily believe the women writing them are not mature enough for marriage – thus, the letter and its well-intentioned advice is probably not meant for them. What is frustrating, is that smart, young women are still so wrapped up in this myth of “having it all” that they don’t seem to realize that we’re still going to have to make sacrifices. The writer, Susan Patton, is using the benefit of her experience to remind them that the choices that shape our lives often take place long before we can understand their consequences. And instead of being thankful that someone is FINALLY telling driven, smart young women the truth about the choices we will have to make, we are FREAKING OUT and accusing her of pushing some mystical marriage agenda on us. As if that would somehow benefit her. As if. Ugh.

Photo: Summer Jean Photography
Here is the thing: the wage gap exists. Our biological clocks exist. Sexism exists. There are a billion good statistics out there about how women work harder than men both in the office and at home and still get paid less that I will let PenelopeTrunk tell you about because she is better at it than me. And it’s true – as time goes on, the pool of suitable men dwindles, because their priorities are different. Haven’t any of these girls seen Sex and the City? Am I just OLD and out of touch now? I can’t believe that the party line for these young women is to ignore all those inconvenient truths and get angry at anyone who reminds us of them. It’s like yelling at your doctor for telling you that exercising will improve your health.
And then there is this snarky zinger of an argument: "Girls who are still in school don't want to be defined by the person that they might end up marrying," made by Nina Bahadur in an article over at HuffPo, where she is an assistant editor. In addition to blind anger, her comments made me think of an open thread full of smart, married/engaged ladies over at A Practical Wedding earlier this week. The thread is titled “The Surprise Good” and the resonating theme is that marriage gives many of these women (myself heartily included) the support, confidence and empowerment to reach higher, accomplish more, take more risks and push themselves harder. The Grige doesn’t define me, he pushes me to be my best me. And that open thread suggests that a lot of other good marriages do that too. In my world, having a good career is directly intertwined with the support I get from my husband, even if I do his laundry and clean the bathroom.

In my life, stuff like this doesn't happen without the Grige. Because TEAMWORK, you guys. 
I don’t think Patton is suggesting that ALL women should get married in college, or that we should marry the first guy we drunkenly make out with as freshman. I think she is suggesting that if marriage is something you think you want someday, it would be dumb to miss the opportunity to meet, seriously date, and perhaps even marry one of the plethora of like-minded, smart people that are available to you in college, because it just gets harder after that. I should know, I gave out my real, actual phone number on a rush hour train full of skeezy dudes to score a first date with the Grige. If that’s not desperation, I don’t know what is.
Patton is suggesting that we not all bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the perfect person will just show up on a white horse when we’re in our early thirties and totally ready for marriage. Many of us (myself included) will meet the right guy at the wrong time, and part of growing a relationship is figuring out how to deal with that. It’s MATH, ladies. There are outliers – you might even be one of them, so do what you think is right for you. But it’s pointless to ignore the trends. Maybe you won’t meet the right person until you are 50, and that’s fine. Obviously you, personally, should not get married in college. But pretending that’s going to work for everyone? It’s like saying that climate change is a myth because it snowed in April this year.  
So here I am, shaking my head slowly in disbelief. We plan the ever loving SHIT out of our career paths in college. We learn, and we experiment, and we scheme and dream. We have internships, we solicit letters of recommendation and then we go out into the work world and implement those ideas, sometimes before we quite feel ready. But we grow and change in our career paths and continue to learn and improve. And then someone suggests that we might give the same consideration to our personal lives, you know, what we do with the OTHER 16 hours a day, and we all go ballistic and accuse them of trying to stifle our success.

Beer brewing, and other home adventures.
No one wants to hear about the hard choices that we will all have to make. Choices between romance and career goals, between tacos or pasta, between east coast or west coast, between taking that promotion or spending more time at home with kids. But that doesn’t make them go away. At 22, I tore up about 5,000 pro/con lists between the Grige and the Peace Corps, and I finally chose the guy I had been dating for less than 6 months The last thing that I needed after that heart-wrenching decision was a bunch of self-righteous bitches telling me that I was an idiot to even consider compromising my career for a relationship. Well, life keeps right on happening whether you feel like making tough decisions or not. So let’s try to take Patton’s advice for what it is: advice. You can take it or leave it, but you are out of your damn mind if you think college isn’t statistically one of the best social opportunities you’ll have to meet someone to marry.

1 comment:

  1. I thank my lucky stars everyday that my d-r-u-n-k self was in the right place at the right time enough times to cross paths with Todd.

    And I love the caption with with photo of you hiking because, YES! Teamwork is AMAZING. I always thought that, but I like that you are now making me think of all the things I would not (yet?) have gotten to do with out my "team" like home ownership, dog ownership, learning to ski, traveling to places I always wanted to go, having a baby. :) Great post, as always!

    Hope your blisters are getting better and you write about the race soon!