You Can’t Hurry Love
Parents and grandparents want their children and grandchildren to have better lives than they did. They have always wanted this, but they don’t seem able to get it anymore, as they have in the past. I am curious why they think mine is a life to model after. Some ask a few indirect questions after I get them medication. Recently one women walked in, said she wanted the same medications she had always had, and took notes on some very precise questions.
Girls do not wait, Especially in the poorer socioeconomic groups they still get married because they happen to be pregnant, and finish out their lives with people chosen as partners in the suboptimal manner.
What made me wait? First, I was married to my career and got the “wear no man’s collar” message from my mother. But I was before a revolution that gave women options of part time professionalism so that they could mix it with mommying. I saw people take longer to get where they were going than I did. I especially remember a colleague in the same residency program I was in, in psychiatry, who I cannot think about without visualizing tiny children on her arm. I do not think she was smarter or better because she strung out things part-time. I doubt she would have completed things at all had she not chosen that option. Her husband was a resident, too; finished before he (obviously) as he did things full time. They ended up on the same hospital staff. Somehow, I suppose justice was done.
I remember deciding early on that if you want to go to the top,there are no compromises. Of the two women professors in medical school, one told me that despite the advances women had made, she did not think academic medicine could ever be construed as a proper occupation for the mother of a family. She could never do as well had she done otherwise. She had plenty of siblings and she certainly was surrounded by them on weekends and holidays.
She said she never, I mean never, looked back on the decisions she had made. The study time that came with being single was something she felt had given her the edge to put her on top of things. She was “world class,” consulted for the World Health Organization, and introduced me to her mother who was (rightfully) damned proud. She was no beauty and did not give a damn about that sort of thing, although I did once see her wear what I considered a surprisingly luxurious mink coat. She told me she had received it from a grateful fur-producing region, where she had also masterminded some science; a sacred job in France. Made sense to me. She was a good and powerful friend to have for a foreign student in medical school.
The other woman professor was far more “feminine” in appearance and was wolf-whistled every time she got up on the lecture podium. I heard it said many times that every male medical student or physician in the province fantasized about sleeping with her, even though she was was then the same age I am now. She had won a lot of research prizes, although she missed, by what she (and I) considered an unfair piece of politics, getting the Nobel prize she deserved far more than the person who got it that year.
Her husband was clearly not the luminary she was. Much older, allegedly still working in research in some kind of “emeritus” status. Still, he seemed more occupied with cooking and “home” things, than she. They had met when he had been her research preceptor. She told me that she had carried the way a smart woman might feel about her preceptor into love and marriage. I did not have to be an expert in same to see she was not particularly excited about that.
I thought her two children were insane, although she did a not bad job of nurturing them. I once slept in her daughter’s bedroom, and misguessed her daughter’s age, as the books and toys were of those quite young, more like 10 than in her 20′s. She was some kind of an actress without credits, as beautiful as her mother but without any evident direction. Maybe bipolar, seemed awfully emotional — and superficial to me. I was actually relieved she had no desire to socialize with me. I was kind of “scientific,” like all of mother’s friends.
My friend’s son was a piece of work — up all night (at home) and sleeping or “out” all day. He was an artist who talked about making the national academy, or submitting work in places, about wonderful friends whom I never met (artists or musicians) and as a house guest I could never avoid seeing him in the middle of the night. I only had to look for a glass of water and there he was, oil paints and canvases in the kitchen, complex and tortured canvases I did not particularly want to stay around and find out the meaning of.
I thought this friend, as much as I loved her and our “adventures” when she invited me to Paris, was a poster child for NOT having a family. She was beloved by many and probably had a few affairs someplace along the way, but her deep inner sadness made we want to cry for her then, and is making me feel like shedding tears when I write this.
So how did I manage to do career pretty well and marriage, perfectly?
The first decision I made was to wait. With the academic achievements first, I learned later to my amazement (also in France) that they could be considered part of my dowry, and that I would actually marry better because of them. The older people in the Jewish community asked to be put in touch with my not-a-word-of-French parents, assuring my presence in France, with their financial efforts, an arranged marriage would be just the thing to make everyone happy. Someone wealthy would be better for all concerned, including my parents, whose location (let alone financial information) I managed consistently to avoid giving out.
I waited, I told my parents, because I thought doing what only I could do was more important than having a child or getting married, which simply were not that difficult because everyone seemed to do them. Deep down, I will admit that I questioned this. People who had spent more time than I in the ladies’ room fixing their makeup may actually have had an upper hand in this particular sphere of existence.
Still, the only person I am now in touch with who went to school at the same prep school I did, and went back recently for a reunion, told me about the most beautiful and popular girls in the class, who had tempestuous and costly and painful divorces (at least one apiece) early on, and seemed pretty lonely, while she and I, both at least a bit overweight and unpopular, had deliriously happy marriages. (She was on her second, I will never need anything beside the love I have and I really believe that.)
One of the reasons for this, perhaps the single most important reason, is that we married older. No Biblical dictums here. Society was so different in that era that you could get a girl matched up and out of circulation at 13 and a boy at 16. Of course, this just means being put out of circulation while being under the tutelage of parents. Arranged marriage.
Believe it or not, I once worked with a very intelligent and attractive woman resident physician who opted for a marriage arranged by her parents. She was convinced that their “life experience” and good counsel would give her an edge up on those who relied on physical attraction or chance. Besides, she felt that becoming the (high level) academic physician she wanted to (and indeed did) become simply did not leave a lot of room for the “dating game” (her words) that seemed to dominate American culture. I was not close enough to her and did not know her long enough to see if she turned out happy. I actually looked for statistics on divorce in arranged marriages, and found far and away the most “data” at Google answers.
The complete answer is that it depends on the culture being studied, the liberality of divorce laws, and other factors. People who marry young, like before 18, sure seem to divorce more. At any rate, I do not think that arranged marriage is necessarily the answer. Although other people I know who have or do live with some variant of that institution, at least in America, talk more about a kind of “semi-arranged” marriage where they are introduced to several partners with whom their parents think they might get along, as well as others of their own choosing, whom they introduce to their parents. They make what they think are reasonable decisions, and sound pretty happy.
People have done a pretty good job of tracking changes in the brain with age.I have read in several sources that the myelination of the human brain occurs at or around age 28. I do not think it any coincidence that is also the age given for the height of our reasoning powers. Good to have those in place before deciding who to marry. Mine must have been pretty good, as I did not even search for a husband until age 36 — nearly ten years later