Women, careers, big cities, and other thoughts


I’ve been thinking a lot about women lately.  I’ve seen a couple articles floating around online about the role of women in the workplace, with children, and so on.  Penelope Trunk talks a lot about it in her blog (which you can Google because I’m still undecided whether I want to link to her).   While I’m convinced that she’s having a mental breakdown, in the meantime, she is running a company and taking care of two children, one of which is autistic.

There are studies about whether being married makes a woman happier.  There are articles about whether women can balance working, being a mother, etc.  And there are whole books about womens’ psychology and how we react to each other, why women are mean, and what we do to get ahead in our careers. What I’ve been thinking about most lately is work-life balance and how I see it reflected in my life, as well as the lives of the women I work with and interact with on a daily basis.

Do women necessarily need to foresake marriage and children to have a career? That’s the ever-present question in Washington, DC, and in all big cities, where the most single women always are.   When I moved here, I didn’t realize how many women in my age group were single.  But here is the map:

singlemap(from The Boston Globe)

Look at how many single ladies are waiting to put a ring on it on the East Coast, as well as in the South.   The women remain single, and they remain single for longer, into their early thirties.  I run across this all the time, both in personal and work life. In DC, women work.  They work for consultancies and non-profits, for intergovernmental bodies and Senators, and they work at amazing job opportunities for ridiculously long hours.  Then, they go to graduate school.  And they get PHDs.  In their free time, they go out to really cool clubs, meet cool people, and dance until the early morning.  And then, they dish about it on weekends with their girlfriends over mimosas.  Then, they go get a manicure.

I spend my days finishing my work and then brainstorming about whether I have enough energy to make dinner (because I usually don’t plan out a menu a week in advance because I am Lazy) and worrying whether we will have to go grocery shopping.  Then, I try to get home as early as I can because I want to spend more time with Mr. B since I don’t see him for eight hours and Life is Short and You Should Spend Time With Your Loved Ones (but, more likely,  I probably want him to give me a foot massage).  After that, we go to the gym, together, and maybe watch a movie.

Being married in DC at age 22 seems, well, kind of uncool.  It seems like a hassle, something that prevents people from doing what they really envision in life.  Obviously, I don’t see it that way, or I wouldn’t have spent 4 hours alternating between doing the hora, Russian techno dances, and desperately wanting to get at least a little bit drunk at my own wedding.  I think marriage is great, as well as important in the long scheme of things.  But there is always the perception that being a young(er) married woman pursuing a career is weird, because no one even starts thinking about marriage here until they are 25.  If you are married when you are young, you are either really religious, or in the military, but nothing in between.

I think the one place this is an exception is any community of young Russian professionals.  As I’ve said before, Russian Jewish (and Russian) immigrants are probably the most conservative immigrant group without being religious.  Early marriage is preferred, and as a result, was never unnatural to me.  I remember my mom telling me she got married last out of her group of friends, at 24.    Anytime I meet Russian people my age, for some reason, I always feel a little more comfortable telling them I’m married, as if they won’t judge me.

Anyway, this blog post isn’t going in any conclusive direction.  I just wanted to bring up some issues of age, marriage, and career that I’ve been thinking about lately.  It’s probably time for my foot massage, anyway.