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Degree in Coupling, anyone? November 3, 2008

Posted by Onely in As If!, book review, Food for Thought, Reviews.
Tags: , , , , ,

On Saturday, I attended a luncheon at the Fairfax Country Club (there is no way to not make that sound snooty–but if I say the event raised money for scholarships, does that help?) where Susan Fraser KingEllen Byerrum, Mary Kay Ricks, Stephen Goodwin and Jim Lehrer talked about their recent books and about writing in general.  All the authors were entertaining speakers and I left lusting after each of their books.

However, the hostess in her intro made an interesting unOnely remark: speaking of her girlhood, she described a slightly older cousin of hers as, “She was married and had a PhD, so of course I admired her greatly,” or some such. 

I was interested to hear her lump marriage in with a PhD as an admirable attribute. You get a PhD by working hard (Lisa, step in here if I’m wrong!), but you get married by being lucky.  Now I’ll go out on a limb, give the hostess the benefit of the doubt, and say that perhaps what she admired in her cousin was that she managed to stay married. Sometimes you do  have to work hard to stay married (Laura Kipnis’ book Against Love posits the question of “why bother, then?”), perhaps almost as hard as to earn a PhD.  But somehow, I don’t think that’s what the hostess meant. 

Copious Readership, do you think that admiring marriage and a PhD in the same sentence is insulting to the PhD? Or do you think it’s just a silly nonsequitor, like saying, “Lisa is five foot three and almost has a PhD, so of course I admire her greatly”? Or do you think that it’s fine to put marriage on the same pedestal as a PhD, as long as it’s also fine to say, “Lisa is single and almost has a PhD, so of course I admire her greatly”?

Of course, I fear that the latter sentence would still raise eyebrows in many circles, particularly in luncheon audience circle, which appeared to be populated by the floral pattern blazer generation.   




1. Shannon - November 3, 2008

I am afraid everyone would take the second statement the wrong way and think you were saying Lisa only ALMOST has her PhD because she is single. If she was married and almost had a PhD it would be ‘good for her, shes getting on with it’, but single and almost – well, obviously she hasn’t finished her PhD yet simply because she is single and too busy looking for a husband.

In the hostess’s case, I would take the sentence as ‘married’ being a description and the PhD being what she was proud of. That’s probably not how it was meant, but I’m liking positive spins on everything today.

Also, I’ve decided I’m going to change my degree (again) to become a high school teacher. Call it pregnancy induced insanity!

2. Lisa A - November 3, 2008

She may have been saying that she was impressed that the woman was able to handle both a marriage and Ph.D. studies at the same time–not sure of context, but I have to say, as a Onely contemplating grad school, it seems a lot less complicated than if I had a husband. Again, I’m not sure of the context, but I wonder if that might be the association intended.

3. onely - November 3, 2008

OK, I’ll weigh in (since I’m the Lisa represented above — the *other* Lisa A!). In fact, I’m going to respond directly to Lisa A, at the risk of sounding schizophrenic: I agree that in many ways it’s much easier/better being in grad school while single (considering especially that I was in a relationship for the first semester or so of my grad school experience, I do have personal experience with both).

However, being married means that in times of total and overwhelming stress (as I experience at the end of every semester during coursework), someone is around to help me accomplish the things that I otherwise would (do) not have time for, including: Taking Kitty (the dog) out to pee and/or out for walks/exercise; taking the trash out; cleaning; washing dishes; changing the bed sheets; buying groceries; paying bills; maintaining a fire-escape garden; paying taxes; organizing/putting away old mail; going to the post office; shopping — ALL OF THESE THINGS begin to go out the window at about the mid-semester point for me, because no one else is around to do them! (Seriously — I went grocery shopping for the first time in 3 weeks the last weekend, and I went late on a Saturday night! How lame is that?!)

I don’t feel like weighing in on what woman-in-question above actually meant, but I do think that, even though I’m only halfway through, anyone who actually completes a Ph.D. deserves layers and layers of accolades!

— L

4. Shannon - November 4, 2008

You have a dog called Kitty?? I think i love you even more now. My best friend had a cat called Puppy once.

Oh and Three Cheers for you for even going on to post grad. For even CONSIDERING going on the post grad. And then thirty cheers for the fact that you are going to finish. You are spectacular and never let anyone tell you different 🙂

5. Lauri - November 18, 2008

I do think it somewhat undermines the PhD. Sometimes I get upset when I hear a parent or relative or friend tell someone they are “proud” of someone on their wedding day. What have they done to make someone proud? I don’t see a wedding as a an accomplishment, it’s just something nice. It’s very much akin to when people say that the wedding day “is the most important day of one’s life.” I cringe at that- if I got married, I would not want everyone to assume that it was the most important day of my life- it just undermines all your other accomplishments.

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