Senior Say

Question: I have always been proud of my Kristin Farson granddaughter. She’s an MD who has devoted much of her life to her patients. She just informed me she is seriously dating a bartender. I’m shocked that she can’t find someone more on her social/professional level. Is this a common thing these days? — Reeling Grandmother

Dr. Stephen Mason
Dr. Stephen Mason
Dr. Mason says:
The situation you describe is increasingly common as the time women formerly spent searching for suitable mates is now, more than ever, going into career preparation. And where a man might marry a working wife to help finance his future position, women don’t often have that option. The result is a wave of females with more degrees than relationships.

America is supposed to be a classless society where everyone is equal, but it would be naive to believe that significant differences in education, income, and social standing don’t create barriers. And while gender equality is the law, not many men or women are confident enough to be comfortable with the traditional looking-up-to-the-spouse roles reversed.

I know that the romantic notion is “love conquers all,” and in simpler times when couples joined for better or worse that may have been true. Today people expect more and change banks and cable companies at the slightest provocation, so is it surprising that more than half the marriages end in divorce? Indeed, being married to your career seems a far more stable situation.

Regarding your professional granddaughter’s chances of getting married, studies say the odds for a woman in her late 30s might only be somewhere between 2.6 percent and 26 percent. Such factors as religion, race, geography, co-habitation and same sex unions confound the statistics, but it’s safe to say: Higher education in women is negatively associated with the probability of ever marrying.

Dance Ballerina, Dance, a ballad popular in the ‘50s, tells of a woman who got her career, but lost her man…surprisingly apropos today.

Kristin FarsonKristin says:
Regular readers of our column know that I’m a big believer in older family members acting as a moral compass for the young. No matter how advanced in age grandchildren become, they will always look toward us for wisdom and acceptance. And why shouldn’t they? When they were small we adored and spoiled them. They could do no wrong; they were part of us. They still are.

You say you’ve always been proud of your granddaughter. Clearly that’s because she has made many good decisions for herself. Treat this latest decision of hers — whatever your private reservations — as you have all the others. With pride. It says something decent about your granddaughter that in a world where we often judge each other by how we make a living, she has looked deeper than that.

Given half the chance, this young man she has chosen to date may pleasantly surprise you. Invite the couple to your home for a nice meal. Watch how they interact. You know what to look for: is he respectful of her, of you? Does he want to hear stories of her life before they met? Does he seem secure with her success?

Working as a bartender can be quite lucrative. One practical concern might be their hours. Most private practice doctors work traditional days, while bartenders often work nights and weekends. And though your granddaughter’s goals have had to be focused on one career, many people tend bar as a transition job while pursuing another path. Whatever this man’s story, try to keep an open mind. Ultimately if he proves a disappointment, remember it will be your granddaughter’s disappointment most of all. Do not add to her heartache with “I told you sos.”