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Married to my work April 13, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, personal, societal commentary.
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In the past two weeks, I have been introduced as Mike’s spouse twice in professional settings.

I usually view this as something akin to the Kiss of Death: the person receiving this news is likely to consider me an appendage to my spouse and therefore rather useless.  It’s not that I mind people know I am married to Mike.  He’s very competent and he’s a nice person, so I’m certainly not ashamed of it.  It’s often the reaction I get that bothers me.  We have both noticed that some people will make a point of talking to him and ignoring me entirely, even when the project is mine and has nothing to do with him.  (Of course, people do this even when they don’t know we’re married…)

In the first case, I found this rather interesting because it had a couple oddities relative to other introductions of this nature.  First, the person I was being introduced to had no idea who Mike was, and in fact, never did meet him.  I’m not sure why my marital arrangement was the first thing that came up, but I just sort of sigh and roll with it.  Second, I think one of the people we were with was more annoyed about the way I was introduced than I was.  While I just sort of shrugged and carried on as though nothing happened, shaking hands with the visitor, one of the other people who knew me repeated my name to the person two or three times.  As much as I’m resigned to this sort of thing, apparently other people are not, and my inner voice yelled, “Huzzah!”

The second situation was very unnerving.  Mike and I coauthored a paper which was accepted at a fairly selective conference.  The introduction to our presentation explained that we were a husband and wife team, and I inwardly cringed.  I was expecting the fallout to be very awkward for me.  What was odd is that, for the most part, this didn’t seem to make a difference to anyone.  Or maybe they already knew so it didn’t matter.  Mike has had a paper accepted there before, and I was invited to give a presentation last year, so we’re not complete strangers to this group of people.  With perhaps one exception, there wasn’t any noticeable difference in the way anyone treated him versus me.

While the “being married to my coworker” thing has it’s problems, it seems like some people aren’t letting it be as big an issue as it used to be.  It’s kind of nice to be considered a colleague and not an appendage.

It’ll make my day when people regularly introduce him as my spouse, though.  (It has happened once or twice, but not nearly as often as the reverse.)

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1. David Cuthbert - April 15, 2014

Some of this, of course, is just our innate desire to know how people are connected to us. I would expect someone who knows you, Mike, and myself and happened to see Mike to introduce him to me in a social setting as: “Oh, DAC, this is Mike, Cherish’s husband.” (That is, “DAC, you are actually connected to Mike via Cherish.”)

But, yeah, it’s a fine line in a professional setting. I would expect kinship to be a secondary discovery: “Oh, DAC, this is Mike, another geek like you.” (That is, “You two are connected via shared interests in things geekery.”) “Wait, you went to Caltech? Mike’s wife, Cherish, went to Caltech, too; do you know her? You do?! Interesting!” (That is, “You also have this other connection.”)

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mareserinitatis - April 16, 2014

I guess that’s the thing: I’m just fine with it in social settings, but I really don’t like it in professional settings. Some people are okay with it, but the ones who get me are the ones who seem to think that my relationships override my professional accomplishments. So I agree: in a professional setting, the relationships should be a secondary discovery.

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2. David Cuthbert - April 15, 2014

I’m also reminded of a joke about the north vs. south.

In the north:
A: “Who’s that?”
B: “Oh, that’s Bob Smith.”

In the south:
A: “Who’s that?”
B: “Oh, he’s the retired dentist whose wife ran the corner store across from the old gas station Tim used to manage. He dated my niece back in her college days before she dropped out and joined the Army. She was at your sister’s Christmas party last year.”
A: “Yes, yes, but… what’s his *name*?”
B: “Oh, Bob Smith. Why didn’t you ask in the first place?”

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mareserinitatis - April 16, 2014

That’s a good one. 🙂

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3. Not married to my work | FCIWYPSC - May 4, 2014

[…] few weeks ago, I posted about the difficulties that go along with working with my husband.  That is no longer an issue…not because I’m not married anymore but because Mike has […]

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