Re: The one-body problem

1

Academics makes it hard for single women to have romantic prospects, but being single makes it a lot easier for academic women to have employment prospects.

How likely is it that all her potential jobs are really in the middle of nowhere? In the sciences it's not that much of a problem because most research institutes and research universities are in some sort of city or at least a gigantic and relatively cosmopolitan college town.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:41 AM
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All the SLAC's have science faculty, don't they? There are a lot of science jobs that aren't at research schools.

Buck just interviewed a couple that wants to move into our building (we're a co-op, so there are interviews. We're an upper Manhattan co-op, so everyone gets in, barring the one woman who wanted to give trumpet lessons twelve hours a day). Both just got tenure teaching French, one at Columbia and one at Sarah Lawrence. All I could think is "Man, you two are lucky, and must glow in the dark in terms of general impressiveness."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:47 AM
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How likely is it that all her potential jobs are really in the middle of nowhere?

Potentially very likely? Also, "gigantic and relatively cosmopolitan college town"? Not sure what you're considering gigantic, but Columbia, Missouri has just over 115,000 people. An Arbor 113,000. Those sizes are comparable to Fargo or Lansing.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:49 AM
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barring the one woman who wanted to give trumpet lessons twelve hours a day

Brassist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:49 AM
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The apartment she wanted to buy was also right over Buck's office.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:52 AM
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If you were in Columbia, you could probably date in either Kansas City or St. Louis.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:52 AM
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5: Actually, I think that was a quite reasonable decision.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:52 AM
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"It's hard to live in a studio apartment in San Jose with a man who's learning to play the violin." That's what she told the police when she handed them the empty revolver."

--The Scarlatti Tilt, Richard Brautigan


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:53 AM
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1.2: Think about the Big Ten. How big do you think the dating pool is in Iowa City? Lafayette? State College? Lincoln? What about College Station, or Stillwater? Big R1s don't necessarily mean it's easy.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:53 AM
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Lincoln is now up to a quarter of a million people and it is an hour from Omaha.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:55 AM
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Brassist.

Bracist?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:55 AM
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9, even in those places the population is mostly college-affiliated in some way. It's still way better than a town with a small college, as described by this">https://chroniclevitae.com/news/512-brian-clardy-women-think-they-re-going-to-be-out-of-my-league?cid=vem">this guy in the Chronicle Vitae series.

I shouldn't have brought that aspect up. Clearly nobody wants to move cross-country to State College or College Station if they have other options.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:56 AM
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I realized that finding a life partner was about so much more than love. It was about dedication, maturity, timing, self-knowledge, courage--in other words, things I had little enough control over in my own life, let alone a partner's.

This is weird. "Timing", sure, I'll grant, but the rest of those things aren't usually thought of as things outside a person's control, are they? I mean, sure, in some sense no one can control anything, but still.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:56 AM
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I think she's just being self-deprecating - "I needed to do some growing up."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:57 AM
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Also, what Big Ten school is in Stillwater. You couldn't possibly have confused The Ohio State University with Oklahoma State. Because that would be horribly insulting.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:57 AM
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no one can control anything

Except Moby.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 7:58 AM
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Creepily preying on students seems like the obvious solution.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:00 AM
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Also, what Big Ten school is in College Station?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:01 AM
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15: The "What about" was supposed to suggest broadening the scope from Big Ten to other big R1s in areas that aren't densely populated.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:02 AM
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19: O.K.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:03 AM
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16: I'm past that phase of my life now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:03 AM
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20 and 21 both to 17. Inbetween was an epiphany.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:06 AM
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I'm unconvinced that a career in academia is any more an obstacle to dyadic pairing than other demographically comparable occupations. Maybe there are stats that prove a difference, but I can imagine an equally valid complaint being written about Big Law, medicine, business management, non-profit foundations, etc. It's always consoling to identify structural explanations for why you're single.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:07 AM
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If professors weren't such snobs about marrying dumb people, they'd be fine.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:08 AM
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Maybe your wife can give lessons.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:09 AM
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There's a bit of truth to 24.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:09 AM
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23: Medicine, yes, while they're in the academics-part and moving around. But seriously, the rest don't have such an expectation that you'll be moving to dinky towns for 3-6 years at a time, until you're in your mid-thirties when you land your permanent dinky town.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:11 AM
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23: Having been raised in a really small town, I can remember by parents' social circle was basically every couple in town within ten years of their age where one or both had education past a Bachelors degree. That is, doctors, veterinaries, and lawyers. Of course, there were no single people in this group.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:13 AM
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I should probably learn how to spell veterinarian.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:13 AM
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You know, reading this, I found myself thinking that it's not really an academic culture problem, it's a (het) romantic culture problem. She's talking about how her male peers are either married or doing okay for themselves dating-wise: assuming that's accurate (and it doesn't seem implausible to me), we're looking at another example of how being impressive is a dating advantage for men and not for women, and how putting your own needs first in a relationship (as you need to in a demanding and inflexible career like academia) is likelier to be successful for men than women. I don't have any solutions, but it seems more like an interpersonal problem than a professional problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:15 AM
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My fellow graduate students were mostly single women or not-single men. Those few single guys, perhaps unbeknownst to them, had flocks of secret admirers subtly vying for their attention.

This makes me want to know what field she's in. In case I ever decide to go back to school.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:15 AM
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But seriously, the rest don't have such an expectation that you'll be moving to dinky towns for 3-6 years at a time, until you're in your mid-thirties when you land your permanent dinky town.

Do you have any idea what it takes to move up the ladder of a Fortune 500 company?

And Big Law may have the perk of locating you in a metropolis, but it also deprives you of most of your waking hours and any semblance of control over the disposition of your time. Academics, by and large, can make a date for next Saturday and be sure of not having to cancel last minute because of work. We (highly credentialed college graduates) all have our crosses to bear, and I am unconvinced that the academic cross is uniquely burdensome.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:17 AM
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My grad school clique of six women, all within a year of my age:

2 married
2 divorced
2 never married

3 in tenure-track jobs
1 adjunct
2 in non-academic jobs (1 alt-ac, 1 in government)

2 in the Boston area
1 LA
1 Atlanta
1 Bloomington
1 Munich

I'm the only one with a kid so far.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:18 AM
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30 gets it right.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:18 AM
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Do you have any idea what it takes to move up the ladder of a Fortune 500 company?

Wouldn't it be relatively easy to find a Fortune 500 company that doesn't restrict itself to dinky towns?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:19 AM
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33 not to make any particular statement, I was cataloging for myself as much as anything.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:20 AM
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And academia is unusual in the combination of high levels of inflexibility and demandingness for pretty small money, which plays into this as well, I think.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:21 AM
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23 gets it right.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:21 AM
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8 reads like a small fate.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:22 AM
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The other problem, especially for (I guess straight) women, with the big cosmopolitan college towns is that a huge proportion of the eligible male population are also in academia, which -- if you hit it off -- instantly means you're dealing with the legendarily hard two body problem.

A friend-of-the-lab gave up a postdoc at Dartmouth (for one in Ann Arbor) because it was just too brutally lonely and she was feeling the creeping advance of her thirties much too intensely.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:22 AM
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Ooh, yeah, I had a friend who was a grad student at Dartmouth for a short time (her advisor left Ohio State? someplace in Ohio for Dartmouth when she was a year or two away from her doctorate, and she trailed him), and that seemed like a really isolated and lonely place, if you didn't count the undergrad population.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:26 AM
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But seriously, the rest don't have such an expectation that you'll be moving to dinky towns for 3-6 years at a time, until you're in your mid-thirties when you land your permanent dinky town.

It's true that many other professional careers do not have that expectation (although many do). But almost all have other expectations that are equally frustrating obstacles to dyadic pairing, which I think was KR's point.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:26 AM
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Wouldn't it be relatively easy to find a Fortune 500 company that doesn't restrict itself to dinky towns?

Are there people who spend their entire careers at the HQ building in NYC? Sure. Just as there are academics who spend their entire careers at Columbia or NYU.

But if the way up the career ladder is to start out at the district sales office, or in a line management job at the production facility in East Bumfuck, or managing the contact center in Cornhole, SD, you get to know the term "relocation assistance". And when you finally get that headquarters job? Maybe there's a suitable partner for you in Overland Park, KS, but I bet you have some of the same dating frustrations as the academic in Manhattan, KS.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:27 AM
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So many people I know moved to Overland Park. I assume it must be nice enough.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:29 AM
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it was just too brutally lonely

A friend had a 3year VAP there, and her best friend ended up being a undergrad. It was kind of sad.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:31 AM
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39: From Googling, I take it you are referring to the Teju Cole project?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:34 AM
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Evidence continues to accumulate in support of 17.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:37 AM
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39: From Googling, I take it you are referring to the Teju Cole project?

No, the Félix Fénéon project. (That Cole explicitly followed. And calling it a "project" is a little misleading in Fénéon's case.)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:39 AM
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43: That kind of job is pretty uncommon, though. So, there are non-academic jobs with similar issues to academic jobs, but that doesn't make the issues go away, and it doesn't make them universal to jobs generally.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:41 AM
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There are parts of this that are academic universals but there are also the parts where the gap between the humanities and sciences in academia is probably at least as big as the gap between either of those two things and any other profession.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:42 AM
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47: The even better solution: marry an overpaid administrator. Your status as faculty actually enhances their prestige; you turn the misallocation of institutional resources to your personal advantage; and you create a ready solution to the two-body problem (administrators being more fungible than professors).


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:42 AM
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That kind of job is pretty uncommon, though.

Of course they are, Ms. Kael.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:44 AM
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51: Hot Assistant Deans In Your Area


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:44 AM
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With respect to Medicine, I recall a friend of mine from grad school who got his M.D. and was heading off to a residency at some prestigious hospital/Med. School. He was apparently informed by someone there that the program boasted a 100% divorce rate. Good times.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:49 AM
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On reflection, I basically don't care if executives at Fortune 500 companies never get laid. I kind of hope they don't. (Though, as you suggest by bringing it up in this thread, there is surely an enormous gender disparity in how that plays out there, too, which is not good; I definitely want full equality for my proposed Big Business Executive Endless Dry Spell plan.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:49 AM
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@55: Justice demands that Fortune 500 executives should have to pay, not just for sex, but for all forms of human interaction. Want to engage in small talk about the local sports teams while waiting for the elevator? Let's see some cash.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:56 AM
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you get to know the term "relocation assistance"

Want to guess if academics get to know this term?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:01 AM
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Which is to say, up-and-coming executives may have to live somewhere undesirable, but also get paid a lot of money, which can really smooth out things like, I dunno, having a long-distance relationship, or convincing a partner not to work, or visiting friends in remote places.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:02 AM
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Oh, hey, LB got there in 37. Hi, 37!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:03 AM
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12 seems only to be single because he is taking a firm stance against race-mixing, in which case his being single is probably the best thing for him and the world in general.

" There's a small black community here and there are good, hardworking women. But I can't think of any that are single, dateable, or marriageable, unless they're hidden away in some part of town. I've traveled to nearby cities like Hopkinsville and Paducah. I'm going to try Fort Campbell: That's the last option."

No kidding. Murray has a population of less than 40,000 and roughly 2700 of them are black. That is indeed a constrained dating pool, but it's interesting that he's prepared to drive 70 miles rather than even consider dating outside his race.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:11 AM
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The details of working your way out of a place are also different if you're in some corporation's rural outpost in the Great Plains. You can work hard to move up and out within the same organization. Whereas doing really well at your faculty job in the middle of nowhere usually involves at least paying lip service to being really into your department and the community there. There's a two-sidedness to doing a really good job precisely so that you can get the hell out, and you usually can't explicitly acknowledge that you want out.

(VAP ads that list contribution to building the department as a requirement of the job make me livid.)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:12 AM
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60: I damn near laughed out loud when he talked about one of his dates calling him a "ho" in a bookstore.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:21 AM
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I think another difference in academia vs the corporate track requiring moves is that until you have tenure, you're generally taking lateral steps by moving, (yes, gaining experience and building a resume), so it's harder to convince a romantic interest to follow along (or try long-distance). If you're on a corporate track (or a doctor), there's a fairly clear path - four sites in ten years, then HQ or first choice site or something, plus a pay increase upon completion or med school, residency, job. With an academic path, it might be grad school, postdoc for a few years, VAP job #1, VAP #2, tenure track, then maybe one more move. Plus, it's happening through your 30s, not your 20s. I have a friend who did the corporate job moving every few years thing in his 20s, and it didn't seem that daunting to him, but I can't imagine he'd sign up for it now that he's married with kids.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:24 AM
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60: For a black man in the US to want to be romantically involved with black women exclusively is, or can be, political and principled in a way that doesn't seem to me to amount to "taking a firm stance against race-mixing." It's not my issue, so I'm not fluent in expressing it, but there's something non-invidious going on there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:28 AM
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Black people are allowed to want to date black people. Anyway, blacks are much more likely than white people to be in a black/white couples.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:30 AM
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Well, he should make it clear that's what he's doing, then.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:33 AM
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65: Of course, that's logically inherent in the nature of the word 'minority'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:42 AM
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Lee just got a job interview at a really good school where this sort of problem is problem. I don't think she cares about the dating pool, though, and if she got the job she could commute with our across-the-street neighbor, which would be nice.

12 is giving me some eww-"Nice"-Guy vibes. If he's active in the church and STILL not meeting any single, marriage-minded women, well....


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:45 AM
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But seriously, if you start your dating career in a not very large town by ruling out 93.2% of all potential partners a priori, then you should probably not then write posts about woe is you you're still so single, and it must be the fault of your job.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:46 AM
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68.2: statistically speaking there are only going to be 72 women in the entire city who are neither too young, too old, too pale or too married for this guy.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 9:47 AM
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70: The stats get skewed a lot in the black community because marriage levels are lower and some people categorically won't date outside their race or at least non-white races they consider adjacent. Of the, say, 300 black lesbians at our church, there are three in interracial relationships and many of them are willing to say in front of me that they'd never even consider it. (Although a few of them have sort of half-hit on me, so I guess they'd consider sideline stuff, but the church seems to sort of specialize in that kind of mess.)

I don't know Murray well, but I imagine he can write off a meaningful portion of the white dating pool as not willing to seriously date a black man.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:05 AM
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I dunno that I swallow Knecht's argument wholesale, but the point about academics at least having more time to date (or schedule flexibility to do so) seems pretty important. Of course that also means time to not date and feel lonely.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:11 AM
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300 black lesbians at our church

Maybe you've said and I missed it, but is it a large gay-friendly black church, or is this a designed sub-specialization? Either way, it's really interesting.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:13 AM
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The truth is that I think online dating has really made this a lot better for everyone though. The place we were getting around 2000 where people over 30 worked all the time and never socialized outside small friend groups and there was also no independent way to meet people outside of work or socialization was a pretty shitty era. Not that online dating is perfect (takes time, for one thing) but it helps.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:14 AM
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71.1: OK, but still: 180 women overall who are not too old, too young or too pale. Quite a few of those are presumably going to be married.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:14 AM
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Having not read the two comments back that would have cleared up this misconception, I assumed that the quote in 72 was from Halford, and had further decided that everybody besides Halford at his chuch is a black lesbian. The world was pretty cool for a second there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:16 AM
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300 black lesbians

That's not my church, that's my screensaver.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:20 AM
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Sometimes I don't know why I write things.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:20 AM
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If you stop writing, your screensaver might kick in and that could lead to questions.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:23 AM
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17: What, you're a philosopher now?

I thought the essay was right about the structural problems with women and the academy and dating. IMO, the expectation of mobility on the job market is the worst of it, because during your prime dating years you're in grad school, where you know you're not going to be long term, and once you're done, you have to be prepared to move anywhere. (Even Utah, choruses everyone.) For a woman, that means finding a man who is okay with being a trailing spouse, and that's often not an easy combination, especially if one moves to an area where it's harder to break into the job market or with a weak market in the area.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:25 AM
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THIS IS WHERE WE FIGHT! THIS IS WHERE THEY DIE LEARN TOLERANCE!


Posted by: OPINIONATED 300 BLACK LESBIANS | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:30 AM
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"Although a few of them have sort of half-hit on me, so I guess they'd consider sideline stuff, but the church seems to sort of specialize in that kind of mess."

This is a pretty comprehensive description of the UU congregation of my childhood.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 10:52 AM
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Ydnew, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries is the umbrella organization for many of the LGBT churches with historically black worship styles and theologies. The fact that Cincy has two makes me think they're much more widespread than people would think. The vast majority of members are black lesbians and their children, followed by transpeople, then gay men, then straight family members and maybe a few who found the church on their own. One of the reasons I'm able to tolerate as much as I do even though my beliefs are drastically different is that I think it's cool that the black church was created as a way to take an ideology that had been used as a tool of oppression and twist it toward liberation, and queer black churches are sort of playing the same role now.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 12:17 PM
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Man the humanities situation is a disaster. In a just world people would be in a tenure track job prior to 30 or else out of academia entirely. In math it's usually now early 30's which already think is kind of crappy. 63 makes me sad.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 1:09 PM
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I have a friend who did the corporate job moving every few years thing in his 20s, and it didn't seem that daunting to him, but I can't imagine he'd sign up for it now that he's married with kids.

Yeah, the timing of the academic job moves can make it more painful. All the postdoc-ing and moving around happens during one's late 20's and early 30's, around the same time that many people who weren't in a hurry to get married, start being in a hurry to get married. Most academics I know who are married, met their spouse while they were in grad school, and then endured the subsequent relocations. The one couple who met while they were postdocs eventually broke up, after limping through a year of long-distance relationship; everyone who knew them was so sorry when that happened.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 06- 5-14 8:31 PM
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The limited academic dating pool was less of a problem back when professors were allowed to date undergrads.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06- 7-14 7:33 AM
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