Marriage and Gender

I had an internship for my last two years of college. I worked in a biological research lab studying rice genetics. After I graduated I left the lab, hoping for newer and brighter things. Sadly, I did not get into grad school as I planned. My backup of finding a biotech job didn’t work out either. I started a new internship studying nematode genetics and was rehired back at my old job working with rice.

In the time since I’d left the people working in the lab had rotated somewhat. A few people had left and a few had joined. The core of the lab knew that I was married, but the new people did not. I ended up in the position of training a few of the new student hires, a man and a woman. The woman is studying to be a pharmacist. The man was originally a pre-med student. He even joined a pre-med focused fraternity. Then he took some plant biology classes and joined the rice lab. Now, he wants to be a plant biologist.

I was working with each of them separately today and the topic of my marriage came up. I am twenty-two years old, married to my high school sweetheart, and barely out of college. This throws a few people off. While after college marriages were common a few decades ago (and still are), many people see it as rushing into a relationship. I’m confident that I made the right choice. I’m also sure that there’s some person who’ll say, “Blah-blah percent of marriages of people under 30 end in under blah-blah years. What will you do if you get divorced?”

Honestly? I never prepared for divorce. It’s not something most people plan for when they get married. Why would you? Marriage is supposed to be forever and getting a pre-nup makes it seem like you don’t think it will last forever. If that’s the case then why get married? Our eight month anniversary is coming up on Valentine’s Day and I have a feeling that it’s gonna be great. Both of us are extremely happy to be with each other and we recognize that every day.

I mentioned my marriage to the pre-pharm student and she did not react in the typical ways (“You’re married?!” “What?” “Really?” etc.). She didn’t really react at all. She thought it was perfectly normal to get married right after college. So normal in fact that she didn’t even mention the timing of it.

When I mentioned my marriage to the plant bio student he said, “I was wondering what that ring on your finger was for.” He’d thought it might’ve been a wedding ring, but he wasn’t sure. Maybe when he saw the ring he thought, “That looks like it could be a wedding ring, but how could a guy that young be married?” He’d considered the possibility, but he wasn’t sure.

The thing that struck me most about these conversations was that the woman had thought it normal to be married after college and the man had not. It matched perfectly with traditional paths after college. Society pressures women to get married after college while men are pressured to advance their careers. In a few years, the man finds a younger woman just out of college and they get married. The pre-pharm student, being a woman, projected her own expectations onto me and reacted differently than others have in the past. The plant bio student reacted as other men have in the past to the news, with shock that I’d tie myself down so soon and not focus on my job.

Just a little slice of life that I liked.

-Mister Ed

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