OK, thank god. I was starting to think that no one wants to marry educated women.
No, that’s not true. I didn’t really think that. But sometimes I felt like the rest of the world did. I read all this stuff about how women with multiple degrees who earn more money than their partners also end up doing all of the housework, and raising the kids basically on their own. The articles about stay-at-home men often depict them as tragic characters with fragile egos who are uncomfortable with their partners’ successes and also would like more allowance with which to buy video games, please.
The new 60% of college graduates– women– are going to be forced to “marry down,” IF they marry at all (and we all know what happens when people don’t get married…A TERRIBLE LIFE!).
Marrying down is a thing now. I get the feeling we’re all supposed to be really scared.
(marrying down…what does it even mean? and i always think couples where the guy is shorter look awesome. source)
But I just read this piece by Stephanie Coontz in the NYTimes. And it gave me hope. Or at least, it gave me some perspective backed up by some studies that sound just about as legitimate as the other studies that back up the pieces that take my hope away.
Allow me to summarize: Educated women are going to be OK.
Actually, some research shows that they have more caring, involved partners and better sex lives. They get and give more oral sex, apparently. And they do it while cooking organic, grass-fed dinners with their culinarily inclined partners.
I might have added that last bit. (“Culinarily” might not be a word.)
Coontz says yes, it’s true about “marrying down.” At least in the sense that highly educated women are increasingly choosing partners who don’t have as many degrees as them.
But there’s a tiny problem.
Coontz blames romance novels and something someone should call Lois Lane syndrome (ignoring the nice, nerdy guy while waiting for Superman to sweep you off your feet) for the women who stubbornly insist that they want a man who has exceeded them. Smarter. More degrees. The word women use here is “respect.” Some young women even say that they want to be in “awe” of their eventual life partner.
(i have always preferred Clark. it’s the glasses. they’re just really hot. unlike the blue bodysuit. source)
I’m not gonna lie- I get this. And I don’t think romance novels are entirely to blame (I think I’ve only read three?). Respect seems critical to a strong, lasting relationship. Respect is the powerful beast that guards the door to the chamber full of petty arguments and squirming dissatisfactions. And I am in awe of Bear. I’m in awe of his fantastically analytical brain. I’m in awe of his remarkably uninhibited intellectualism. I’m astonished by his diligence and thrilled by his passion and captivated by his clever humor. When we disagree, I think there’s probably a good chance he’s right, too.
But none of those things require Bear to have more degrees than me.
I read the piece aloud to Bear in bed, Sunday morning.
“I can’t remember what made me fall in love with you,” I said. “What if it was something traditional?”
“It was biology,” he said. “You wanted my body.” He grins.
I think about it.
We have the same number of degrees, but he makes a lot more money than me. He has an impressive job. I don’t have a title. I work from home most days. I cook. He wants to cook, but doesn’t quite know where to start and then always leaves all of the ingredients out on the counter and forgets to turn off the oven. Sometimes he washes all of the dishes in the sink, but most of the time, I’m the one who cleans the apartment. He goes to business meetings a lot. I don’t. He is mathy. I am artistic. In many ways we fit some sort of antiquated gender stereotype that inspired my brother to buy me a frilly apron for my birthday (I laughed).
(i need one like this, for Valentine’s Day. source)
But when I think about what drew me to Bear, I think about his bashfulness. I think about the way he always had a good question to ask me– he was always interested in learning more about me. I think about the way he smiled, and looked quickly away, and how he followed up and sent me funny emails. I think about how vulnerable he was, and how willing he was to let himself be vulnerable. I think about things that don’t fit a stereotype of the kind of powerful man young women supposedly fantasize about being with.
So I don’t know how traditional we are. Or what traditional even really means. It’s hard to tell why people choose each other.
Bear has a fake front tooth. It got knocked out when he was a kid. My dad has a fake front tooth, the same one, because his was also knocked out when he was a kid. Bear, like my dad, is a type 1 diabetic. They are both extremely hairy. One day, they will both be bald. You don’t have to try too hard to imagine that I chose Bear because he reminded me of my dad. But I certainly didn’t feel that way, when I was getting to know Bear. He didn’t remind me of my dad even a little. For example, my dad is loud and talkative. Bear is quiet and pauses a long time before he speaks.
I might have chosen Bear because of the way he uses words. I am, after all, a little obsessed with words. And Bear handles them deftly. Maybe I chose him because of our similarities.
Maybe it was just his smokin’ hot bod. It’s a good guess.
But this much is clear: degrees and powerful jobs (whether your partner has them or not) don’t come even close to telling the whole story about any couple. And I don’t think anyone really fits a stereotype. Instead, I think people want different things, and there’s plenty of awe to go around. I also think Coontz is right– we shouldn’t let degrees define our decisions. But then, maybe we aren’t, really. If her article is accurate, it sounds like we’re talking about two groups of women. Women who are making a list about what they want in a potential partner, and women who have found that partner.
And guess what– you never end up with the whole list. And guess what– it doesn’t even matter.
I had a list. My perfect man was supposed to be wildly musical. He was supposed to write songs. He was supposed to have a PhD. Yes. That was on my list. He was supposed to be Jewish.
Instead, I chose Bear.
* * *
What do you think about “marrying down”? Has anyone here done it? And forget marriage for a second, what about dating?
Unroast: Today I love the way I look in a giant fluffy blue coat. Thank you, Melanie!!! (post to follow)
P.S. And what about gay women with PhDs, who aren’t looking for any kind of man? Maybe someone should ask them how many degrees they expect from their partners.
P.P.S Thank you San D, for sending me the link to the article!
I wrote a list of reasons why small breasts are great, for the Frisky. Check it out here!