Sunday, April 1, 2012

Romanconomics: I Wanna Be Yo Mamma

Nothing refreshes an intern like VitaCoco!
A week or so ago, I was talking with a fellow intern, drinking leftover coconut water from a product placement (cue wink), and waiting to be sent to return merchandise from someone else's credit card. We were blasting through the cliched-but-helpful questions of "Name? School? Year? Major? What do you want to do with that?" that curse college students everywhere.

She was a Media, Culture, and Society major with a minor in broadcast journalism. She went into the usual, about how she was enjoying TV production, but had randomly discovered journalism through her minor, and really really loved it. (Never having been bitten by the journalism bug, my peers' collective love for a dying art always surprises me. No undergraduate has ever "liked" journalism. There is either apathy or an obsessive, stalker-like love.)

I was about to go into round two of cliched-but-helpful questions ("What's your favorite place in NYC? Do you have siblings? What's the weirdest thing you've had to do as an intern?"), but instead, she refined an earlier answer.

"Well, I mean, I do love broadcast journalism. And I'd love to be a sports writer. But do you know what I'd really love to do?"

"What?" I asked, waiting for something like "magazine editor" or "yoga instructor." 

She leaned in, lowering her voice a bit, and said, "I'd love to be a soccer mom."

My brain had to switch gears out of NYC hustle-bustle and back into a land of Luncheables and parking lots and piano lessons, where that was an acceptable aspiration.

"Yeah, I mean, it would be cool to go into broadcast journalism, but what I really want to do is get married and have kids and be a mom," she continued.

After becoming so used to Manhattan political correctness, in which few women want children (and only if they come with nannies) and fewer still want husbands (sperm donors don't leave a mess in your kitchen), my mind reeled. It was almost as shocking as walking down the street and seeing absolutely no weird-looking people at all.

These days, it takes a gutsy lady to say, "forget broadcast journalism. I want to drive a minivan and wipe noses and raise a family." And that's exactly what she said.

I told her that that was really cool, and that I'd also like to be a mom ... but was heading to law school in the interim. 

See, when it comes to the romanconomics of it all, there's a big difference in demand and perceived demand for men who are interested in wives to raise their children. We, the good and upright children of the self-esteem movement, the little girls told we could do anything (and Title IX was always there to make sure that was true), we're terrible at saying that we want families. I mean, not everyone wants a family. But you can't say you want a family without lowering your voice and leaning in a bit and making sure no stray NYU professor is eavesdropping. 

This perceived lack of demand for stable marriages and raising kids is most clearly evident in the almost 1:1 ratio of "Pinterest users:Pinterest users with a wedding board."If you don't know what Pinterest is, the alternate title is "Estrogen.com," but I digress. 

Since there's not much audible demand for marriage on the ladies' side, no men are supplying it. In other words, if men think you're totally fine working a nine-to-five and coming back to a cohabiting empty nest, that's exactly what you'll get. If, on the other hand, we'd like men willing to step up and father our children (through something more than a child support check), we have to be willing to say so. 

I'm not saying every conversation ought to start out, "Hi, I'm Kelly, and I want a stable family-man." There's a difference between "honest" and "desperate." At the same time, we have to get past this "smart girls can't have kids" thing ... which does not mean that smart girls can't have jobs. As I said, I'm heading to law school in the interim. But I want to get married and have kids too. 

The long and short of it is, if you want to get into the marriage market, you have to illustrate some demand. This demand requires more guts than it used to—so guzzle up your coconut water. There's an angry feminist (who just read this blog post) right behind you.

I was dazzled by intern bravery in:
Grayish pencil skirt, brown tank, periwinkle shawl sweater with safety pin clasp, gold wire earrings, gold flower ring, and brown not-quite-ankle-bootie tweed stilettos.