Feb 132012
 

According to the New York Times, I am a member of the group of Americans that will live “the longest, healthiest lives of all groups.” I am a highly educated, never-married white woman.

Education is protective against all kinds of health risks, that’s been obvious for decades, and a background of ANY privileged status (in this case race) improves health outcomes, and only in the last decade or so has the “marriage is good for men’s health and bad for women’s health” trend begun to change (PDF). So of course I’m in the healthiest group.

But man, this is an article full of sentences that make me blink hard and shake my head, to make sure I really read it. Like:

One reason educated heterosexual women may worry about their marriage prospects today is that overall marriage rates have been slipping since 1980…

I… wait, why would women “worry about their marriage prospects,” when unmarried women fair better? Because of cultural expectation of marriage I guess. And in fact the rest of the paragraph is about how marriage rates among educated women have slipped the LEAST, so actually we (the educated women) don’t need to worry after all, at least not compared to less educated women.

Because we were worried. Apparently?

And then:

ONE of the dire predictions about educated women is true: today, more of them are “marrying down.”

That is, marrying men with less education and less earning potential than the woman.

Okay, so surely the “dire” is tongue-in-cheeck, since a couple paragraphs later the article says, “But there is not a shred of evidence that such marriages are any less satisfying than marriages in which men have equal or higher education than their wives,” and then it goes on to identify those benefits (husband participates more in housework and childcare.)

But then there’s this nugget:

The degree to which housework is shared is now one of the two most important predictors of a woman’s marital satisfaction. And husbands benefit too, since studies show that women feel more sexually attracted to partners who pitch in.

Right? Because more sex is an asset to the HUSBAND in a relationship. Men want sex. Women want chores.

But then:

[E]ducated wives…are more likely to receive as well as give oral sex, to use a greater variety of sexual positions and to experience orgasm regularly.

So sexual pleasure is or at least might be important to women’s relationship satisfaction…

(Actually, there are reliable results across many decades indicating that orgasmicity is associated with social class. I have yet to run into a satisfying account of WHY this would be true, apart from generic “stress.”)

I mean paragraph after paragraph, it just alternates between painful gender stereotype and celebration of women’s education and autonomy. I had whiplash by the end of it, from the pitch and toss between “education and economic independence is good for women and men” and “young ladies go to Smith to meet Harvard men.” I tried to read it as “ha ha look at these sad old stereotypes, isn’t it awesome how great educated women are doing?” but I can’t make that interpretation stick. It’s a vertiginous mismatch.

Anyway, it’s February 13, the day before Valentine’s Day. For the past two years, I’ve written Valentine’s posts celebrating being single on Valentine’s Day, and this year I’m not single. I have a valentine who is “down” – less educated than I am.

I still believe that being single has many benefits, not least the avoidance of V-day drama. But if I’m going to have a Valentine, at least I can celebrate my continuing independence and overall wellbeing as a highly educated never married white woman. I’ve got a better chance of living longer than you (and longer than the Valentine, come to that) AND I’m more likely to give and receive oral sex, which makes the long life rather more worth living, eh?

To all the women who are single and smart on Valentine’s Day, whose mothers or friends or siblings are wondering when you’ll make it happen: you’re set up for a healthy, happy life.

And if you don’t believe me or don’t know how to allow that to be real, see last year’s valentine’s post.