My Husband is Not a Commodity
“After you finish, you may want to start looking for a second husband.”
I giggled nervously at what I had to assume was supposed to be a bad joke.
“Well…. maybe I shouldn’t say that. But there’s no way you’re getting placed together.”
Holy shit. He wasn’t joking.
As if the conversation wasn’t already anxiety-inducing enough, my boss began citing specific examples that demonstrated why the marriages of academics are doomed from the start.
Especially when both people involved have chosen to pursue doctoral degrees, a fact that my husband and I have gradually stopped discussing with strangers, due to their tendency to one of two reactions:
Oh my god, what?! You guys must be SO smart.
This reaction tends to be fairly awkward.
Or, Wow… that’s going to be… hard. You guys will probably never live together.
Worst case scenario, we’re told to plan on divorce, as demonstrated above.
The ‘you’re so smart’ reaction aside, I’ve found I typically have one common response to any and all reactions involving us divorcing or not living together for an indefinite amount of time.
No. No. No. One more time? No.
For awhile, the only thing filling my brain was a myriad of no’s in various forms, and I eventually came to the conclusion that I am unwilling to divorce or live separately from my husband in order to advance my academic career.
Suddenly, I can feel my feminist spirit rising out of my body, prepared to beat me over the head with a block containing the weight of the patriarchy. Ready to sear my skin with the flames of my old burning bra.
Ready to scream, “HELLO?! Did you not, two days ago, rage with fury when a man criticized your idea, only to reclaim it as his own?! Is it not you who vowed to never depend on any man?!”
Ready to call me a hypocrite.
I had to grapple with this for awhile- this supposed willingness to potentially sacrifice aspects of my career to ensure I can live alongside my husband. After all, I know many women who have spent time living away from their spouses, sometimes for completely understandable, even commendable, reasons. Women who support their partners from afar, who raise children nearly on their own, who not only make a marriage work, but make it stronger, from thousands of miles away.
So why is that I know living apart wouldn’t work for me? For us?
Am I needy? Clingy? Weak? Disillusioned?
Am I a fake feminist?
I fretted over these questions until the day I heard my husband tell a friend, “We all know it will be her that makes all the money.”
He was laughing, but it was then that I had a very critical realization.
He would do the same for me.
And it isn’t fair to group him into the same category as the man who stole my idea, for instance.
I have to do all the dishes? He’ll do the same for me next time.
I have to work overtime? He’ll do the same for me next time.
Clean the random cat puke off the floor? Wash the “stinkies” load three times in a row? Take the lead on our group project?
He’ll do the same for me time and time again.
So if I have to sacrifice an aspect of my career for awhile? You better believe he’ll do the same for me next time.
I view my marriage for what it is- a truly equal partnership with my best friend. With this in mind, I gave further thought to the initial conversation that drove me into a tailspin.
“You might want to start looking for your second husband…”
This time, my feminist spirit (who I suspect closely resembles Amy Poehler) directed her rage elsewhere.
Why would I have married my husband if I just expected it to end in divorce?Why would I have married my husband if I didn’t know that he would strengthen and encourage me, support me throughout my career, and believe in and cheer for my dreams?
I mean, god, if this wasn’t a given, I wouldn’t have gotten married at all.
And, even if something did happen, what the hell is this assumption that I would get re-married after my PhD?
Dating sucks. No, thank you. Not doing it again.
It’s like my boss made the all-too-often-imposed assumption that I got married “just to get married”. Is my relationship with my husband comparable to that of a good, solid pen? A weight loss supplement? An old coffee pot?
Nothing more than a briefly beneficial commodity? Something that I feel I need but is ultimately disposable?
Is he just here to kill the spiders? Zip my dress? Make eggs on a Saturday and give me the warm-and-fuzzies so I don’t feel lonely?
I can kill my own spiders and make my own eggs, thank you very much. And while he does zip up all my dresses, he is so much more than what this initial conversation reduced him to be. My husband is not a commodity.
And I am so much more than someone who needs a husband to kill her spiders.
We’re a team. A partnership. We may have to make sacrifices, but that’s okay (because I strongly suspect we’ll produce some badass research together in the long-run).
I am a feminist, and this inherently means I have to trust my own choices. Marriage-related, or otherwise.
As a woman, I’ve found I’ve had to develop an unwavering confidence in my own capabilities, prepared to stand up for myself, and to fight for what I deserve.
I think it’s okay if some of this confidence is vested into the future success of my completely awesome, once-in-a-lifetime partnership.
My husband will be zipping (and, well… unzipping) my dresses for a really long time.
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