Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's cheer

-Jews and anti-Semites in love. Whodathunk? OK, I'dathunk, given that one of the novels I discussed at (such) length in my dissertation was about a couple whose love is actually based on one being an anti-Semite, the other a Jew.

-If Valentine's Day wasn't already making you feel terrible, what with the consumerism and the heteronormativity and the exclusion of the not-coupled, Mark Bittman provides one more reason: underpaid waitstaff. In one sense, fair enough - the system's a mess, given that not everyone always knows (nor is it always even the case) that servers are paid extremely low hourly wages and almost fully rely on tips. And yet, why pick the day that, as Bittman points out, "is the second busiest restaurant day of the year" to inspire feelings of customer guilt? What that second-busiest business tells us is that a lot of people who don't normally eat in restaurants - likely because they can't afford it - are doing so today. The scenario Bittman evokes - the exploited waitress who has to serve you, you ungrateful rich person to whom it wouldn't have occurred to treat a waitress as human were it not for Bittman's op-ed - seems especially not relevant on this day.

-The "Princeton Mom" is at it again, with special Valentine's Day 2014 observations about cows and free milk. The wrong in the op-ed is so abundant that it drowns out the right. (By "wrong" I also mean, "You should be spending far more time planning for your husband than for your career," and yes, at least every other sentence.) Hyperbole sells, as does anything that reminds women over 25 of their objective repulsiveness to men (ahem!), which is unfortunate, because buried underneath the retro and sexist link-bait are some valid points. Both that there's nothing wrong with settling down (relatively) young if that's when you meet the right person, and that it's really difficult to meet someone when you're no longer in school. Whether you're a man, a woman, or any of the other 56 Facebook-recognized possibilities.

The taboos that govern dating among non-students are immense, so cross that with the reduced opportunities to meet people generally, and indeed, options are slim. But it's mostly the issue of taboos. You will meet people outside of school, but, as Princeton Mom says, it's complicated: "You'll no doubt meet some eligible guys in your workplace, but it's hazardous to get romantically involved with co-workers." Co-workers are generally out, as of course are bosses and employees, but so, too, are friends, because it's creepy, in the world of non-students, to hit on one's friends. It gives the impression that the friendship was all along a front for a longterm plan of seduction. Meanwhile, strangers are off-limits, because they're just trying to ride the subway/drink their beverage/walk down the street in peace. Sure, they might turn out to like you back, but if they don't, you've made them feel uncomfortable.

There are good reasons for each of these rules individually. But the net result, with so many spaces safe from romance, is that there's virtually no spontaneous way to meet someone outside of a school environment. It's not impossible to meet someone - there's online dating, there are friends-of-friends - and it's very much worth remembering that some of those who don't meet that special someone in school are actually happier single. But if you're actively avoiding settling down too young, while at the same time knowing you want to settle down on the very cusp of old-enough, then sure, maybe it makes sense to consider it un-tragic to meet your spouse in school.


Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, what book was it?

caryatis said...

I think you're exaggerating the difficulty of meeting people outside of school. Sure there are potential awkwardnesses with pursuing coworkers, friends, or strangers...but people do it all the time! Because the urge to procreate is a powerful one. If the average age of first marriage is 26 or 27 (as high as 32 in some places), some significant percentage of those people must have met after they graduated college at 22.

Doctor Cleveland said...

Of course, average age at first marriage has always been correlated with economics. (People married late in 1590 and early in 1950, because times were tough in 1590 and 1950's economy was booming.) So Princeton Mom's advice is really geared to Princetonians.

Her advice can be unpacked as 1) lock up a spouse early, while 2) everyone around you is socio-economically eligible and then 3) make choices post-college that allow you to start a household right away. (Translation: "You can't *both( Teach for America!")

I don't think the Princeton Mom would give the same advice to students at a second-tier public university. And for those students, it is meaningfully different advice.

Phoebe said...


La Juive, 1907, by Enacryos (a pseudonym).


I'd consider the following:

1) Lots of 27-year-olds are or recently were in school, if you consider grad school, as well as people starting or finishing college later than 'traditional.'

2) Online dating. People are meeting out of school, but not by "pursuing coworkers, friends, or strangers." A disaster? No, but if you're interested in meeting the so-called old-fashioned way (which is itself relatively new, as vs. arranged marriage), that won't be as appealing.

Doctor Cleveland,

"So Princeton Mom's advice is really geared to Princetonians."

Absolutely, which is why I'm not clear how this can have been turned into a general WSJ article, let alone a book.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in reading your dissertation - is there any place I could see it?