Getting Married Is An Accomplishment

I disagree with Natalie Brooke’s recent piece in the Huffington Post. Beyond the hallucious writing style, I think she embodies exactly what makes most women feel horrible about themselves vis-à-vis romantic relationships, whether they’re in one or not. Let me start from the beginning. Brooke recently got engaged, and it’s clear that her views on marriage and her upcoming wedding is quite conventional in that she states although she does not think getting married is an accomplishment, it “is absolutely a huge event, and it’s so very exciting to find your ‘other half'” (just add a PSL).

What’s more, Brooke gets on her soap box and says that now she’s got the ring — lest she be called embittered — she feels at liberty to speak the gospel that “getting married should never be put in a higher regard than the academic and professional successes that women work hard to attain.” 

I think that getting married is an accomplishment. 

You win the game of life. The way I see it, I was going to succeed on my own, even if I died alone. What marriage means to me is that I get to build the world the way I want it to be by furthering my genes, propagating my values, and propelling them into the future long after I’m gone. I think that’s a hugely important responsibility that one should be proud of and that others should revere.

More importantly for this argument, getting married doesn’t have to not be an accomplishment. Even in the face of any academic or professional triumphs. The fact of the matter is, I’d like to say that there’s a lot more to me than either a ring or a brain. I’ve got both. Deal with it. I’m proud of each and I’m not going to apologize for any of it. I’m certainly not going to put anyone down for it. 

This is where Brooke really gets me. She’s made it clear that she finally “has it all” and considers getting engaged as an anointing of power and insight to dole out advice. “The built-in vapidity, the vagueness with which ‘having it all’ specifies everything and therefore nothing,” (Szalai, 2015, The New York Times) leaves just enough room for everyone to hate themselves, no matter what they actually have or where they actually stand. 

To me, getting married is a serious project, not a piece of jewelry and bragging rights. I treated my engagement like I do when I consult for early-stage startups and our wedding as our launch party. I continue to run my household accordingly with budgets, goal setting, and follow-up discussions. This might sound joyless to someone who mindlessly goes into a marriage and blithely believes it’s what they deserve, but I think that’s the most dangerous place to be and the reason why there are so many divorces. The notion that we’re just supposed to be happy, that life is meant to be fun, can be very disappointing and at least, much less rewarding. 

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In defense of the CDC

Last week, the CDC published a report on alcohol-exposed pregnancies. Also posted were some handy infographics outlining the many and varied risks of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) to help make the science more relatable and easier to read. The CDC voiced reasonable concerns about FASDs, spelled out the very real consequences they bear on individual children and the country, and posed thoughtful recommendations to prevent them. Along with these facts, they also took the opportunity to outline a few health risks driven by excessive drinking for all females, not just pregnant ones.

God help the CDC for talking about the female body. They were immediately slammed for their “unnecessarily restrictive” (Slate) outlook on alcohol consumption throughout pregnancy. Many reported that the CDC was actively advising any sexually active, fertile women to abstain from alcohol if they were not on birth control or using any form of contraception (JezebelElle, BuzzFeed). The notion that even the women who were not trying to get pregnant were at risk seemed to be unacceptable (no matter that approximately half the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned).

Wait. Stop for a second before taking to social media. Let’s go inch by inch. The basis of the report was to study alcohol-exposed pregnancies. Beyond the stork, we know that the recipe for a pregnancy requires a fertile female, a fertile male, and unprotected sex. If you’ve made it past 6th grade health class, you also know that the fetus grows inside the female body. Therefore, we are limiting our discussion to the female body. Remember that part about the report studying alcohol-exposed pregnancies? The CDC rationally and responsibly included all fertile women who drink in the study, because science doesn’t give a shit if you have feelings. If you can get pregnant and you drink, you are at risk.

Most of the responses were defensive, at best. Ruth Graham for Slate tried to tangle the CDC in its own words, referencing a 2012 report stating that “older and more educated women were significantly likelier to drink during pregnancy than younger, less-educated women are.” Oh, was that Dr. Graham? Right, didn’t think so. Unfortunately, this just proves that no matter how “smart” you are, you are still wrong.

Other pieces rang with righteous outrage and incredulity, as the internet is so good at doing. Most of this anger was generated around the CDC’s choice to include some additional information outlining the potential risks of excessive drinking for any woman, pregnant or not. Within the context of the larger discussion and, moreover, the reevaluation of our national outlook on drinking during pregnancy, I thought it compelling, if not central, material to include. It certainly wasn’t the most important information on the graphic, yet it dominated the conversations on the topic.

I’m disappointed that so many women took the “it’s my body and I’ll do with it what I want” bait. Actually, if you’re bringing your pregnancy to term, it’s not just going to be your body. Apparently it’s not even just your problem, as it cost the United States $5.5 billion (2010) on issues related to drinking while pregnant.

I also noticed many of the women writing about this over the past few days have used their own experience as testimony for how normal drinking while pregnant is, attempting to prove just how wrong the CDC is on this issue. How I Met Your Mother ran a whole episode (The Stinson Missile Crisis) on the acceptance of consuming processed foods and alcohol during pregnancy. So everyone thought it was a certain way for a while. It even worked out for the majority of the women who felt the most threatened.

All of this can be true, and yet CDC can publish new information that pushes up against the previously accepted norm. It’s hard to believe that among so many well-educated, accomplished women, most of them are so outraged by being told by an accepted authority armed with hard facts, to not necessarily even change their own behaviors, but to try to change their minds.

 

March is Women’s History Month!

I wanted to jot down a few words for the women. The 2015 theme for Women’s History Month is, “weaving the stories of women’s lives.” Far from being a feminist, I still believe that women should be appreciated every damn day. We weave the loom of life and these stories are simple: it’s in everything.

I don’t mean to devalue you, fellas. I love you and I don’t deny that we need you, too. I am not a “girl’s girl” (frankly, I have no idea what #7 even means). I grew up with two brothers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am who I am and love who I am in a vast part because of you; thank you. I’m inordinately good at, and genuinely interested in, video games, sports, shooting, etc. Actually, a girl gave me the love for shooting, but the impetus was to blow off some steam after a big breakup, so I attribute that also, in some way, to a guy’s role in my life.

It is bittersweet that we still have to make a point of valuing women. If there wasn’t a problem, it wouldn’t have to be fixed. I grew up at Yale University, and one of my favorite public art pieces is ‘The Women’s Table’ by Maya Lin (pictured below). I used to climb on the marble as a kid, running my hands over the engraved numbers that spiral out from the fountainhead. So, this story beings with a long string of zeros. Founded in 1704, Yale only began to officially allow women to attend since 1873. Well, in 2005 I proudly added another number to the Table (and then promptly picked up and brought my womanhood elsewhere, but that’s a different story for a different day).

Women's Table by Maya Lin at Yale University

‘The Women’s Table’ by Maya Lin at Yale University

I love being a woman, and I hope that most of you ladies out there feel that way. This, I think, is a great indicator that things are looking up for us. I am not afraid of anything. I have just as much opportunity and earning potential as the men around me, if not more. Of course, this is certainly not the norm, and it is one of my life commitments to continue to fight for the women in the world who cannot confidently say the same.

Recently, I had the honor to meet the newly appointed Editor-in-Chief of The EconomistZanny Minton Beddoes. I am not the type of person who is easily starstruck. I’ve partied with Chris Brown (no, he didn’t hit me) and brushed shoulders with Steven Spielberg without batting an eyelash. But I’ve gotta say, Ms. Minton Beddoes is an inspiration. Not only do I love being a woman, I am proud to be one. Still, I find it concerning that a woman in a leadership position is shocking headline news.

My story as a woman: I will leave a legacy for women NOT to want to be equal, but to be proud of who and what they are, without having to live up to any standard. Equality is still a standard set by someone else. Let’s liberate ourselves from that man-made measure.