Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Doc Slash Has Academic Dating Misery

I'd like to think I've grown older and wiser in my dating habits over the years, but one thing that still jumps up to bite me from time to time is my tendency to give a slight mental bump to dating prospects who also have some experience with academia.

'After all,' I'll think to myself, 'They understand what it's like working in this business, so we ought to have plenty of common ground. I'm tired of trying to explain exactly how much shit I have to shovel on a daily basis to dates who think I'm so lucky only having to teach 15 hours a week, and presumably sit around twiddling my thumbs in between classes.'

This mindset landed me on a long string of dates in grad school with grad students from other departments, who would happily ramble on about their dissertation prospectus while I politely nodded my head like Homer Simpson being lectured on the difference between apple juice and apple cider and thought about how explaining my teaching schedule to academic novices really wasn't that bad after all.

I've mostly stuck to my 'Dating Academics Is A Bad Idea' rule since then, but I do find myself backsliding on occasion, which is how I found myself on a date earlier this evening with a Ph.D. student who asked me only a single question over the course of our 90 minute (Damn you, slow bartender! Can't you tell the air of quiet desperation that screams 'ring up our tab now?') interaction:

"Oh, what journal did you publish that in?"

90 minutes, and that was the only question s/he could think of to ask me. Naturally, I decided to share this with the RGM as soon as I got home.

I don't know if this topic deserves a full-fledged thirsty or if it can be sufficiently debated in the comment section, but I am curious--anyone else have any Gob Bluthian 'I've made a huge mistake' moments while attempting to date (or mate) within the academy?


  1. I dunno. Between the U.S. Navy and Dartmouth College, I learned that whenever guys complain about the women in their enterprise, it usually indicates something wrong with the guys.

    Workplace romances are often not good ideas. Academics have a high instance of neurosis. None of this is news. If you don't like dating academics, have you ever dated a lawyer?

    My girlfriend is a musician. She thinks "The Big Bang Theory" is the funniest show on TV, because she thinks that's my physics department. What's disturbing about that is having to admit she may be right. She’s never worked in academia since graduating with a music degree a while ago. Whenever I tell her about the latest abomination in academia, I feel like Clarence Odbody telling George Bailey upon arrival to Pottersville, “You’re going to see things you don’t like here.” Oddly enough, she’s still proud I’m a professor, partly because she’s seen me helping my students.

    When I was a student, I had a pretty good dating life. One reason for this is that women in science are so often treated badly by male science majors, so a little kindness and respect can go a long way. It helps to wash more often than many science students do, too.

    But then, 40% of the attendees at last week's American Astronomical Society meeting were women, easily twice as many as ten years ago. The age distribution is obviously skewed to younger women, of course. Whether proportionate numbers of them advance to tenure-track jobs remains to be seen.

  2. Are you a faculty member dating grad students? I'm not judging (yet), just curious. I couldn't tell from the details you provided.

    You might consider dating people in your field but not in academia. They would be familiar with the most enjoyable parts of your job (doing science, research, reading, whatever) but they might be more enjoyable company than academics.

  3. I am not one to talk; I ended up marrying an administrator at my university. We had some interesting (at times heated) conversations after work.

    But hey, we got married in 1996 and we are still together and she hasn't kicked me out yet (I am a male; the screen name is the result of an old joke)

  4. Everyone's job has frustrating, irrational elements, and any empathetic, good partner would understand that. They don't have to be in the same field.

    I like to brag about how my person is a freelancer who can work from anywhere. No two-body problem for us!

  5. You have my sympathy, but I'm absolutely the wrong person to go to for dating advice. I met my wife in an online chat room. I strongly believe that access to a a delete key for the first three months of interaction is the only thing that saved me.

  6. I urge any academic to consider a mixed marriage. How much time can you spend with academics every day? All day at school? And then at home? Punishing.

  7. I have a long and storied history of dating academics. I mean, they're smart people mostly, so why not?

    When I was in grad school I dated an undergraduate at the same place, who picked me up at the coffee line. You know, you're standing in line thinking `OMFG this girl is gorgeous' and she asks to sit at your table? That happens. Then I went on to my postdoc, and she went to grad school a two-hour drive away. Things petered out.

    I took up a TT position on the other side of the country (where I still am) and in short order met a woman who worked in a lab across the street, a PhD student in another field. One thing led to another (baby, marriage, mortgage, tenure), but then a cosmic ray hit me and I decided `no, not yet'. So we split up. She is still works in science.

    Next comes the sabbatical visit. I kid you not, I fell for my host's secretary. Not an academic, but close enough; and with intellectual interests anyway. After a two-year LDR, she joined me, and proceeded with great focus and grit to get her science degrees, eventually a Master's, papers and all. Didn't work out either; so she left, and now teaches elsewhere.

    My sweetie now is not an academic currently (that's in her past), but is more of an intellectual than all the previous ones put together. Art, not science; maybe that's the trick. Things are great!

  8. I have a mixed -- not quite a marriage. We've been together eight years, so it might as well be. He's highly intelligent, but not an academic, but he has family members who are, so he understands the culture. He's a great "professor's husband" at faculty gatherings, because he's genuinely curious about everything.

    I think an academic would quickly drive me mad. Even having drinks with my colleagues sometimes makes me want to scream into a pillow. "I get it, you have a boner for Lacan." or "Right, right, Derrida, sure, fine, whatever." With my spouse, I can talk about cars. Or poetry. Or any number of other things.

    1. OK, your second paragraph made me snort-laugh very loudly. My wife DID think I was in my office writing, but now she knows I'm goofing off...

  9. Doc Slash, you say your date asked you only one question in a 90-minute date: "Oh, what journal did you publish that in?"

    So she was responding to something you had told her about your work. Maybe she was desperately trying to find a polite way to respond to a long, boring lecture from an academic.

    Why not try a first date that has a focus other than the usual recon/vetting mission? Invite someone on a long walk along a (not isolated) trail, or around a museum or street festival. Your campus probably has such places and events. Topics of conversation appear like magic, you do get to know each other, and if it turns out to be a bust date-wise, at least you did something halfway interesting instead of wasting 90 minutes in a bar or coffee shop.

    I say this as a long-married woman talking about what worked for me decades ago, but apparently the academic-date conversations haven't changed. My husband is a university staff scientist (neither faculty nor SRA) in a different field from mine. We hit it off on a series of field trips and hikes.

    1. I completely agree with this! There is nothing more boring than the usual interrogation/vetting that seems to be the norm for people who do formal dating. I met my first wife since we were both in the same hiking club, and got to know my second over long bike rides along the Rhein.

    2. Are we sure you have the genders right? Being asked one question about yourself on the entirety of a date screams female OP, male date to me.

    3. I think the genders are deliberately obscured (there's a "s/he" in there), and of course, notwithstanding the accompanying image, they need not be different.

      Whatever the combination, more questions and fewer monologues generally strike me as a good sign (though early on, a tendency in either direction can also just be a sign of nervousness). Beyond that, I've got nothing; I'm really, really bad at dating, inside or outside the academy.

  10. My statistically-significantly better half works in IT.
    Boy, does our LMS give her the giggles.

  11. I met the lovely Ms MaM at work in my old (non-academic) job. She has a BA in the same subject I teach so she has an interest in it. That said, she does sometimes have to tell me to please step out of lecture mode. On the other hand, she's a great editor.

  12. Sadly, I think the only person who would understand why I have 16-hour work days AND grading on weekends, is another academic, or a former academic. At least that's been my experience. My SO is no longer an academic, but even when he was, we didn't talk about work or anything related to our own disciplines (except the people there, if they were particularly odd or neurotic) at home.