Smart Old Maids

August 30, 2014

In my day, women married young, had babies when they were scarcely past their own childhood, and also divorced at a fairly young age. I remember hearing mothers telling their very intelligent daughters not to let their boyfriends think they were smart because otherwise, they would end up as old maids.

They were also told to work as secretaries until they married the boss (it’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man) and, after marriage, to settle into the role of wife and mother. They were actively discouraged from having their own career but society didn’t mind if they worked in their husband’s business.

Keep in mind that in those days, women weren’t allowed to have their own credit cards or get bank loans to start their own business. There were no laws on the books that said a woman couldn’t have credit cards or get a bank loan in her own name but no one wanted to give her one without a man’s signature as a guarantor.

The men went to college and the women did not. So, coupled with a limited education, no clearly defined career goals, and no money of her own, women got accustomed to having an unequal status in the workforce, the home, the classroom, and in society.

But things are changing. There are still many men who haven’t made the transition from expecting women to shoulder most of the domestic responsibilities and having no say in the rest of her life, to having a wife who is either smarter than he is or just as smart as he is, from not having her own income, to having more money than her husband and from having her own career rather than just being a secretary to some man.

Nowadays, there is a higher percentage of women going to college than men going to college and a higher percentage of women in the workforce than men. Of course, their pay is still a third less than a man’s but until women start pulling together and demanding higher pay, men will still take advantage of the unequal pay scale.

At least I no longer hear mothers telling their smart daughters not to let their boyfriends know they’re smart, lest they end up as old maids. Score one for women . . . and, isn’t it about time?

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