This is totally not us.

This is totally not us.

“Dude, I’m a faculty wife. I can’t be writing articles with black market marijuana rates in them.”

My editor understood the irony. If I’ve correctly interpreted our publisher’s murmured response and that gnawing feeling in my gut, the young woman at the end of the table may not have. Whether or not young miss actually did say something catty remains unknown. To be honest, I don’t want to find out because it will just be that much harder to remain human with blood in the water. However, it’s got me tripping a bit about the whole “faculty wife” perception. You know the one – pearls, tea parties, stay-at-home, no skills, riding the coattails, blandly unopinionated, on and on. I present then, a few responses to the antagonizing mob in my brain that won’t shut up about what it means to be a strong, independent woman, feminism, blah blah blah.

1) That Whole PR Thing: The road to tenure is like climbing a mountain of sand with cannibals, zombies, landmines, and every other imaginable obstacle in the way. You’re expected to do everything now, better, faster and somehow not get shit on your shoes. While I’m not the one climbing, we’re a team working toward the same goal. Our town is tiny. People are separated by less than six degrees. I’m not going to fail my teammate by publicly running my mouth about flashpoint topics. I choose to do it because I care about him and value the life we’re creating together.

This is usually what I'm doing when he gets home, except not retro sexy.

This is usually what I’m doing when he gets home, except not retro sexy.

2) That Job Thing: One of the reasons Professor X accepted this school’s offer was because his department actually helps match accompanying partners with jobs. They know that happy partners make happy professors. Happy professors want to stay. I took advantage of this perk. Unfortunately, staff jobs are unionized here. Despite both sides agreeing that I’d be a good fit multiple times, HR chose a person with more on-paper credentials. (Hear that? It’s my art history degrees biting me on the ass again.) Plus, I wasn’t that attached to my previous career path. I was damn good at it, and did derive an odd sense of pleasure from installing order to financial chaos, but it was followed out of necessity rather than passion. If we find ourselves in a place of necessity again, I’ll pick it right back up – heels, brown bag lunches, budget projections, and all. In the meantime, I’ll write for the paper, as laughable as the wages are, and remember every day that I’m a lucky bitch.

3) The Housewife Thing: Before we lived together, Professor X ate a lot of takeout, did laundry once a month, cleaned even less, and frequently forgot to pay his phone bill. He didn’t expect anyone to do it for him. He just didn’t really think about it and he accepted the results. In my bachelorette pad, I cooked most nights, did laundry roughly once a week, cleaned on a similar schedule, and ran my budget every Saturday morning over coffee. Not because someone told me to, but because it’s what I prefer. We’ve mingled our strengths and weakness now that we live together and it comes out even. As long as it’s not crunch time, he helps out around the house. I’ve learned to relax more on the weekends. It works.

Or this if there's a paper deadline.

Or this, if there’s a paper deadline.

4) Hostess with the Mostest: Thankfully, Professor X’s department isn’t old school Ivy League. I’m not expected to help with social events or host visiting lecturers or any of that nonsense. If they had, we wouldn’t have come here. I wouldn’t mind having his colleagues over for dinner if he decided to invite them though. I can cook the house down for dinner parties and would totally wear pearls for shits and giggles.

5) Stuck in the Middle with You: I will admit to finding myself in conversations completely beyond my frame of reference. I will also admit to receiving my fair share of blank looks when I answer the “What do you do?” question. However, it’s my responsibility as a full grown citizen of the world to listen or diplomatically excuse myself when the conversation skews overly scientific, as well as to know appropriate times to engage or change the topic. You gotta sell it, whatever “it” is. Know your audience. Work the crowd. Keep more than two tricks in your conversational bag. It’s just part of not being socially awkward.

In short, the faculty wife is like any other bogeyman; something to keep you up at night if you let it. It’s also a misnomer in my case. We aren’t even married. Anyhoo. Now that I’ve got it out of my system, I’ll continue to laugh in the face of fear.

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