The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

16 March 2006

The tyranny of the collar

Back around 1980, there was a sort-of-annoying TV-movie called Hardhat and Legs, with Kevin Dobson as a rough-hewn construction-worker type who finds himself in an unexpected romance with uptown divorcée Sharon Gless. I admit to having watched this, because (1) I have always been curious as to whether it's possible for a relationship between a duchess and a commoner, so to speak, actually to work, and (2) I had to figure Gless' character was called "Legs" for a reason. (Well, two reasons, more precisely.)

This otherwise-unused memory is brought to you by Lesley, and here's why:

Why is it when men marry women who are less educated and with lower-paid jobs, this is generally considered normal (in the non-statistical sense), but when women do the same thing, it's "marrying down"? This strikes me as being sexist in so many ways. It's both anti-woman and anti-man.

A lot of the men I date make less money than I do. So what? Am I supposed to value men primarily based on their earnings? Why should I? I make enough money to support myself and someone else. I have more options than I would if I made a lot less money. The same options that were, previously, mostly only available to men in selecting a partner. I don't think I'm dating men who are somehow inferior to me (the implication of "marrying down"). The whole notion says a lot about the ingrained sexism of our society (by which I mean more than just American society).

It is a measure of something, surely, that I can read these paragraphs, nod in agreement, say out loud "Yes, that's so true," and still give out with a whimper of despair at my own lack of accomplishment and/or wealth.

About the time Hardhat and Legs came out, I was still married, and contributing roughly 42 percent of the household budget, and feeling very much like I wasn't carrying my share of the load. (This was not the cause of the breakup, except to the extent that it represented yet another manifestation of the fact that I obviously didn't have any business being in any sort of relationship, given my horrendous immaturity at the time.) And a quarter-century later, I don't think I've quite outgrown this particular neurosis. Worse, I tend to fixate on women two or three social strata above me. ("Someone of prodigious desirability who wouldn't have me on a bet" was the description I proffered in the infamous OAQ File.) Is this the very model of a modern self-fulfilling prophecy?

I don't think, though, that this particular attitude, at least in my case, stems from vestigial sexism; it's just as easily, and perhaps more convincingly, explained by Non sum dignus.

Posted at 6:20 AM to Table for One