A Memo to Your Academic Husband

You think you want an intellectual wife, who can discuss your work with you. But it wouldn’t last. After a while you’d start expecting apple pie instead of articles, and then you’d want me to quit work, and if I got promoted and you didn’t, you would sulk, and then if we had a baby you wouldn’t get up in the middle of the night and change its dirty diapers.

Of course, if your academic honey is peaches and cream — or happens not to gender-identify as a ‘husband’ — don’t look daggers at me. Elizabeth Peters said this stuff, not me.

Me, I’ve just started reading her Vicky Bliss series in the middle of chasing yet another deadline. It’s the sort of thing you get to do when you don’t have a husband lying about, tripping you up and gobbling all your unfree time.

Thank god for singledhood. Go (slightly historical) mysteries!



  1. Facebook responses 😀

    Somdeb Ghose: Can’t say I have, no. I do not fulfill the necessary conditions.

    Dhruva Ghosh: It is my dream to become a househusband to two or three wives. Maybe five. Who may also have other husbands.

    Somdeb Ghose: ^^ Now that would indeed be chaotic!

    Dhruva Ghosh: In time, these social structures, in their arbitrary forms, could well become normative.

    Somdeb Ghose: …further complicating the already intricate social network homo sapienza exists in, a situation first foreseen by a mother of five, who actually was a mother of six, and did not know not to speak before looking.

    Dhruva Ghosh: The complications arise from the gaps in truth and belief. From the sanction of paper or social approval to fidelity, and the sanction of love made by hungry hearts. Different people cope with this in different ways. I cope with it in a way Ranier Maria Rilke wrote:
    “I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.”

    Somdeb Ghose: Live long, and prosper?

    Dhruva Ghosh: ” …unless you’re a jerk, in which case, die rapidly and ideally do so before you reproduce.”

    Hrileena Ghosh: Nandy, your timing…is pure nandy.

    Mandy Van Deven: Dhruva: Be careful what you wish for.

    For the record, male-female relationships mustn’t always align with this script — even WRT academic hubbies. That said, this quote reminds me of a letter from Katherine Mansfield to her husband John Middleton Murry that was read at 2:45 in this interview: http://ttbook.org/book/samara-oshea-letter-writing

    Debi Sen Gupta: Unfortunately yes

    James W. Hoover: Some colleagues of mine actually are researching the specific problems of the woman academic, and one of their conclusions is that the model of academic careers was formed at a time when academics were all males, married to women who didn’t work if they were married at all. The dynamics place extraordinary stress and uncertainty on people at precisely the moment when those in ordinary professions are becoming more secure, “settling down,” and raising families. So, in academia you have a kid before you have a job, and then you have to crank out a book and go up for tenure while raising kids – teach an early morning class and (somehow) drop your kid off at school at precisely the same time. School lets out early? Sorry, you’ve got a 3:00 lecture. Male academics in “equal partnerships” with academic spouses now are facing this, too. Or else they’re just not getting married, or foregoing children altogether. Perhaps the problem to be addressed is the system itself?

    Me: James, that, of course, makes perfect sense. I’m just surprised it wasn’t evident to people — research had to be undertaken to unearth it? Then again, most things considered perfectly normal now were once considered a radical discovery. Mandy, I’m stunned there are professional letter-writers. That could be me! And the entire point of saying the quote above aloud, I think, is to make people realise this script should change. Or did you mean one shouldn’t confine oneself to the husband-wife paradigm? That’s taken care of in the first sentence of the post… I hope!

    Me: Hri, I’m glad to live up to my reputation. One has an image to keep up, after all.

    Sunayana Roy: I agree with the thought. The men around me seem to unable to see the difference between providing permission to work (because, of course, a woman like me is waiting for permission) and actual hands on support for the wife’s career choices. The support that the male partners get and expect as a matter of course. I find this rather contemptible. A lot of wiser heads have been trying to tell me to stop fighting it and work around it, but I continue to find it contemptible.

    James W. Hoover: @Rimi… research wasn’t need to unearth it, but to prove it. As you know, when dealing with the powers that be, it’s never enough to state the obvious. You have to demonstrate it statistically or they have no respect for your opinions. More interested in trends and math than in people and stories.

    Priyadarshini Basu: Thanks a ton Rimikins for introducing me to this Mertz person! Oh and btw, you’re oozing sauce in that profile pic on yr site

    Subrata Guha Thakurta: interesting – what ur talking about now is what we medics have been dealing with for years ! – question of having a family doesnt arise till ur 35 – after that if ur partner is a doc god help u

    Subrata Guha Thakurta: medicine i think as a profession is somewhere we need to be inbred ! no other woman – no matter how clever – understands the stresses

  2. Today, I went to the beach with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old
    daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to
    her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it
    pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off
    topic but I had to tell someone!


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