Sunday morning, Steve and I were drinking coffee and reading the Times. I put down the house porn in the Real Estate Section and grabbed the Week in Review away from Steve, when I spotted the headline "The M.R.S. and the Ph.D." I thought the article was going to be about all the women Ph.D.s actually finding tenure track jobs. Ha! I spent too much time last week talking to over educated, under employed friends last week.
Stephanie Coontz writes a column, disputing Kate Bolick, who wrote that American women face “a radically shrinking pool of what are traditionally considered to be ‘marriageable’ men — those who are better educated and earn more than they do.”
Coontz looks at surveys of men in 1939 and in 2008 and finds that the Modern Man places higher importance on "education" and "favorable social status" than did the Old Fogey Man. Sadly, Modern Man also places more importance on looks, so he's not really all that evolved. Old Fogey Man wanted a woman who had good health and could cook. You couldn't send out for Chinese Food in the old days, and antibiotics were hard to come by.
I'm not sure what to say about the Coontz article. She conflates intelligence, education, and income, which was terribly confusing. Also, it's weird to compare a guy from 1939 and 2008, without considering the larger context.
I did like her concluding idea:
For a century, women have binged on romance novels that encouraged them to associate intimidation with infatuation; it’s no wonder that this emotional hangover still lingers. Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to reject the idea that the ideal man is taller, richer, more knowledgeable, more renowned or more powerful. The most important predictor of marital happiness for a woman is not how much she looks up to her husband but how sensitive he is to her emotional cues and how willing he is to share the housework and child-care. And those traits are often easier to find in a low-key guy than a powerhouse.
Being 16 years away from the dating world, I'm not the best person to give dating advice. OK, I'll give marriage advice. Based on an unscientific review of my friends and family, it seems that in the marriages that work, the couple has to have something in common. It might be education, or maybe it's a similar culture or values. I guess there are guys who are intimidated by a spouse with higher income, but in those few cases, income-envy is part of a larger problem of general assholicness.
There are people who are intimidated by high status professions or prestigious degrees. And there are people are people who look down on lower status professions and the lack of prestigious degrees. These prejudices not only affect dating prospects, but also friendships. To avoid these uncomfortable situations, we sort ourselves out into separate circles, which is a bad, bad thing. Or we end up "playing dumb" to avoid seeming snobby — also a bad, bad thing.
The issues of "marrying down" or "marrying up" is really part of a bigger problem. We're not "friending down" or "friending up" either. I wish we could get past this whole thing.