JUDY WOODRUFF: New college graduates are making their way out into the world with new rules, social circles and morning alarms.
Caroline Kitchener is the author of “Post Grad: Five Women and Their First Year Out of College.”
In tonight’s In My Humble Opinion, she offers some advice that counters what she and her peers were raised to believe.
CAROLINE KITCHENER, Author, “Post Grad: Five Women and Their First Year Out of College”: When I was a kid, Dr. Barbie was the only Barbie in my closet, and Disney princess movies always prompted the same conversation with my mother: Happy endings absolutely do not require a Prince Charming.
All the adult women in my life had to fight against the same expectations: Get married, have kids, let someone else make money.
And so they were intent on creating a new set of expectations for me.
Over the years, I became more and more convinced: Marriage, even a serious relationship, was a kind of weakness. Strong women didn’t need anyone.
While I was in college, my female friends and I were pressured to lean in and strive for one particular kind of success: the best, most fulfilling career possible.
For high-achieving women my age, romantic relationships were supposed to be far less important, put on the back burner until we were well on our way to a corner office.
This was where my values started to clash with real life. After graduation, I was going to write a book, and all of my writing contacts were in New York. There, I would have a much stronger professional network than I would living in any other city.
But my boyfriend got a job in D.C. When I started telling people that I was moving to D.C. to be with Robert, they all gave me this sort of sad, pitying look. They said things like: “Really? But you’re so young.”
I spent my first year after graduation shadowing four of my female classmates and writing about their transition from college to real life. It was a rough year.
Our entire lives, we’d been surrounded by this big, supportive community, parents, teachers, a group of friends our own age. When all that went away, we felt more alone than we ever had before. We wanted to lean on a partner. And that made us feel intensely guilty.
Sometimes, though, relationships can help us find our footing in an entirely new world. My point isn’t that all women should prioritize relationships after graduation, just that those of us who do shouldn’t be demonized for it.
Guys who follow their girlfriends don’t get the same judgment. Instead, they’re often celebrated for being progressive or modern. People say, that’s so sweet, or, wow, he really loves her.
And we should ask ourselves why those different reactions exist, and why young women continue to be judged for making the same decisions as men.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A lesson for all of us.