Don’t get me wrong, my partner is awesome. When we first met – a mutual friend introduced us because we were each looking for a rock climbing partner – we were such a good fit that we basically never stopped hanging out.
However, when I first meet someone or am getting to know a person, I tend not to mention my partner. I don’t say anything about my relationship status. I don’t say that I’m getting married or that we’re going to live together or that we love to travel together and to go burlesque shows and science museums and beer tastings.
It is not for lack of awesomeness on my partner’s end, or because our relationship is insignificant in my life. It is because we still live in a society where women are judged based on their relationship status. If I get too old without getting hitched and having kids, some people will assume that I’m worthless or unattractive or perhaps a shrew. If I do get married, other people will assume that my marriage is my life and I’m a domestic goddess (don’t get me wrong, I am a bad-ass baker, but it doesn’t define my whole world).
It seems like there’s no way to win, so mostly I keep quiet on the issue until I get to know someone. It hasn’t happened yet, but the day someone calls asking for “Mrs. [Partner's Last Name]” my first reaction will be to think they’re asking for my partner’s mother, and my second reaction will be to go on a long feminist tirade about how I’m not taking my partner’s last name because I’ve already published academic articles in my own name, which is a perfectly good Danish name, and by the way I have a PhD and … they’ll probably have hung up by that time.
I wish it felt safe or advantageous for me to be more open on this front, but I’m truly anxious about someone judging me by my relationship status. I’m also at a disadvantage in the academy, since acknowledging that you’re partnered could impact the hiring process (technically it’s not supposed to, but the difficulties of spousal hires when both spouses are academics means it has to come up at some point). Usually, when I feel like I’ve established myself as enough of an independent person in someone’s view, I like to talk about my partner, since we have a really honest and communicative relationship that might be interesting or helpful for others to hear about. We go about a lot of things in a non-traditional manner because we’re both pretty thoughtful people who are strongly aware of our own emotional and sexual identities, so we try to ditch as much mainstream heteronormative sexist conditioning as we can manage.
Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest. A lot of my posts here at MySexProfessor.com are bounced off my partner at some point in the writing process, or he sends me links to interesting articles (I think that’s the first pronoun usage thus far; being able to confuse heterosexual assumptions is one reason we prefer the gender-bending term “partner”). So indirectly, you’re seeing my partner’s influence on my writing, not least because he’s so supportive and cool about my writing and my career. Hopefully the rest of society catches up so I can talk more openly about how great this part of my life is without worrying about whether someone will dismiss me for it.
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