The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: I Guess I Can Cross This One Off My List

October 30, 2006

I Guess I Can Cross This One Off My List

So the good new is, according to USA Today, my brilliance is not the reason I'm still single.

In an Op/Ed article entitled
Do Smart Girls Finish Last In Love?, Laura Vanderkam explores the decline of the "success penalty"--the phenomenon whereby women who are well educated, have well paying jobs, and are generally successful in their careers, have lower rates of marriage than their "lower achieving sisters." Or as the article quipped, "Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses."

According to this article, the old adage simply isn't true any more. Women 28-55 who earn more than $55,000 a year are just as likely to be married as other women who work full time. High achieving men want a spouse who are as smart as they are, in fact, a women's success makes her more desirable as a wife. High achieving women are getting married, just later in life.

Yet the article warns that there is "reason to worry." High achieving women marrying later in life also means that they have children later in life. "...this country needs the bright kids bright mom raise," writes Vanderkam, "'s too bad for society that successful people aren't so successful in the Darwinian sense."

Vanderkam argues that young women have bought into the myth that it's impossible to have it all, so they have chosen to pursue their educations and careers first, and pursue families later in life. But she is hopeful that within a generation, women can "demand that suitors, schools and employers work on a different timetable when it comes to families, too."

The article left me with a lingering sense of doubt and discomfort. I felt like I'd been given yet another assignment to "have it all." Don't buy into the "myth," girls. You can have it all. You deserve to have it all. In fact, you should demand it.

Erm... well, I'm not completely confident that "we can't have it all" is such a myth. I only need to live my life to realize that I cannot have it all. I can barely have the things I currently juggle: 12 hour work days, daily chores, doing my laundry, spending time with friends I love. There's only a limited number of hours in the day. I have to spend some of those hours doing the usual stuff of life--commuting to work, making meals, taking showers, sleeping. The rest of my time, I have to make a choice. Work the extra two hours, or go home so that I can have a decent dinner at a decent hour? Go to coffee with a girl friend, or clean the kitchen? Sometimes I choose to build relationships, sometimes, honestly, I choose to do laundry.

Maybe women are getting married and having children later because we just know better. We know better than to ask for someone's heart and then never have any time for it. We know better than to let our careers define us, but we also know that success at work gets us approval that is hard to find elsewhere in our lives. We know better than to assume that the men in our lives are so shallow and so insecure that they would avoid a woman simply because she was better educated or made more money than he did. And we certainly know better than to believe that the reason why we are single is because we are successful.

And maybe it's because we are smart women that we realize it takes time and effort to build a relationship that leads to marriage, and that our children deserve to have our attention and care. It takes a smart woman to recognize her limits, know exactly what she can afford to give and what she needs to hold close. It takes a smart woman to know that juggling work and family life is not fun at all. Balls in the air may look spectacular, but we're about as likely to catch the ball as to miss it. Smart women know that to miss one of those rubber balls is alright at a children's party, but to let the ball drop on a relationship, a marriage, our children? That's monumental.

So no, I'm not planning to demand that my schools, my workplaces, and my suitors work around my time table. I don't want to have it all, all at once. I'm a smart woman. I know that in order to fully enjoy the numerous seasons of life, I need to give each one my full attention.

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