A few weeks ago, I ran into an old acquaintance from college – someone I haven’t seen in years. He had recently moved into the area, and knowing I also lived in the area, asked which streets I live at. When I told him, he immediately followed up with, “What does your boyfriend do?”
Already, I’m sure women reading this are nodding knowingly. It happens far too often, and is a conversation I’ve had multiple times with other women. If you’re a single woman, no one asks what you do. If you’re in a relationship, people ask what your husband or boyfriend does.
For some (somewhat) important background, Bryan and I live in the heart of Wicker Park at Hoyne and Division. For those not familiar with the intersection, it’s a beautiful area. In fact, the block we live off of may be one of the most beautiful blocks in Wicker Park – full of mansions and single-family homes. That said, Bryan and I rent – we could never afford to buy in this area – and although I’m certainly proud of our 2 bed/2 bath garden unit, I wouldn’t say our rent is steep.
Still, when I run into acquaintances and they hear where I live, they always ask what Bryan does. We’ve only lived together for 4 months, but this has already happened 5 or 6 times. The first few times, I didn’t put it together. By the 5th or 6th time, I realized they were trying to figure out how we could “afford” the area we live in. And it’s always, “Where do you live” followed immediately by, “What does your boyfriend do?”
For the record, I’m a pretty career-driven woman who loves my job and am proud of what I do! (And if you’ll allow me to brag for a second… I’m also damn good at it). I wouldn’t say I make a lot, but I would say I make more than I ever dreamed I’d make. The next time someone asks me what Bryan does, I’d love to say, “He’s actually not working right now – he quit his job to write a book – something he’s always wanted to do – and we’re actually living comfortably off my salary.” Just to see the guy’s mouth drop. (…This is pure fiction, of course).
But the truth is, I do make a decent salary, and although Bryan is a wonderful, supportive boyfriend, he doesn’t support me financially. Yes, he treats me to the occasional romantic dinner because we’re dating, but we still split our living expenses down the middle.
Regardless of salary or living situation, it’s time that men “got with the program” and started taking women’s careers seriously. We live in a very different world today – one in which both men and women bring home the dough. Although not every guy fails to ask a woman what she does, most do. (If you don’t believe me, just ask your wife/mother/daughter/sister/friend/colleague. I bet every single one of them has multiple stories like this).
As for us women, I think part of the problem is that we sometimes pretend we aren’t as successful as we are – something we must stop doing if we want to be taken more seriously. To circle back to the beginning of this blog, when my college acquaintance asked me about Bryan’s job, I just answered it and the conversation moved elsewhere. But I could’ve said something like, “We actually both started new jobs this year. He joined X, and I joined Y, and we both love it. It’s been a great year.”
To close… I wonder what women dating or married to other women would say about this issue. Do they get asked at all? Or do men take their careers more seriously? If taken more seriously, I say hell yes.