The M.R.S. Degree

1 06 2009
From the Ivy League to...marriage...?!!

From the Ivy League to...marriage...?!!

One of my best friends from high school is a phenomenal, intelligent young woman who goes to a prestigious Ivy League University. She recently switched majors (from Advertising to Business Management) and the other day she said to me that she actually didn’t really like the Business major so much.

So when I asked her why she switched to it, or if she’d consider switching out of it, she admitted that the main reason she switched majors was because in most Advertising majors were women and therefore she was mostly meeting and interacting with other women. However, Business Management is a more male dominated major and therefore she’d meet more men because there’d be more of them in her classes.

She said to me, “Come on, you know high school – there were like 5 boys. So I’m only doing Business so I can meet guys – not just in college but afterwards in the working world, I’ll be able to meet more men.” She didn’t need to say it explicitly, but we both knew that she was thinking about marriage. Or at least being in a steady, monogamous, heterosexual romantic relationship. She then mentioned something about her parents meeting right after college, when they worked at the same company, and how so many people meet their spouses in college or immediately afterwards in the workplace.

I remember reading an article in the New York Times a few years ago about women who went to college for the primary purpose of getting their M.R.S. degrees (read: to snag husbands) but I thought that this was/is just completely absurd! Back in the 1950s, women were incredibly pressured to get husbands at young ages, so getting married right after high school or college was perfectly normal. The dominant message that women got from society then was that their number one priority was to get married and have a family.

So the thought of a bright, intelligent and talented woman, in 2009, going to college to study something that didn’t even interest or engage her too much, expressly to try and meet a significant male other, especially a woman so close to me, was just completely ridiculous. Going to an Ivy League University can get you very far in life. It perplexes, saddens and angers me that my friend is not alone in aspiring for her M.R.S. Degree. After all, with shows like Sex and the City that make being single seem like a horrible nightmare and books like Find a Husband After 35: Using What I Learned from Harvard Business School, women are still pressured to get married…maybe not immediately after high school or college, but still before middle age.

Based on my observations, experiences and the experiences of others in my life, it definitely seems a lot more acceptable for men (young, middle-aged and older men) to be single than for women to be single. Single men tend to get more encouragement to remain single (“You’re a bachelor living the life!”) whereas single women are more likely to be asked directly or indirectly “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”, “Where are you gonna meet a man?” or “When are you getting married?”

What are other people’s thoughts and comments?



3 responses

2 06 2009

I think that it’s sad that your friend is studying something she doesn’t care about, but I also think that she does have the right to prioritize marriage in her life if she wants to do so. I totally agree that she’s really missing out not only in her enjoyment of college but her future ability to work in a field she can actually find meaning and happiness in. But I wouldn’t generalize that wanting to get married rather than have a meaningful education/career/etc is anti-feminist. Some people just have really strong maternal or housewife-y instincts, and that’s just who they are. For me, I’m studying something in college that I care a lot about, in training for a profession I want to enter (and stay in) that I care a lot about. But I still would really like to get married soon after college–just because of who I am and what makes me happiest in life, which is family–and it doesn’t mean that I’m giving into societal pressures or anything like that.

I completely agree with the part about how it’s okay for men to be single but it’s not okay for women to be single. Just like there’s no male word for “slut” or female word for “player”, there’s no female word for “bachelor” and there’s no male word for “old maid”. Language reflects culture.

4 06 2009
k. emvee

Molly, I think the main difference between your choices and the choices if the friend in the post is how you are going about doing it. The friend switched into an unsatisfying field explicitly to find a partner. You, on the other hand, are doing what you love with the goal of finding a partner along the way. What the friend from the post is doing is gut-wrenching to me. Your choices, however, still enable you to be fulfilled, active, and engaged while also finding love and creating your family.

Not to mention that if you are unfulfilled and unhappy yourself, it increases the liklihood that you are a) not going to find the partner of your dreams or b) going to be unhappy in that relationship. After graduation, the friend will likely land a job as an analyst at a big, Fortune 500 company. She will spend her days surrounded by other analysts, miserably staring at Excel spreadsheets all day, dreaming of advertising. Why would anyone think that this is an ideal way to find someone and fall in love? Better to be working in the PR/Marketing department in that same Fortune 500, happy, fulfilled, challenged, and potentially date someone in that same company (perhaps in the analyst department?).

Beyond the implicit sexism and power differentials inherent in this woman’s choice, it sounds like she’s lacking a bit of life experience if she’s gambling her future happiness on the odds of landing a husband.

4 06 2009

Well said. I agree.

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