Wednesday, December 23, 2020


You like to hope that the letter writer here is not of the male persuasion. One likes to think that he is really a she, searching for some deeply meaningful occupation even if it involves self-impoverishment. That is, abandoning a well-paying job and a nice apartment in favor of destitution. It's a form of virtue signaling.

But, Carolyn Hax and the other commentators here seem to assume that a male has written this letter, and who am I to dispute their wisdom.

I do however dispute their attitude. The man has had the same girlfriend for the past five years. And no one, not a single commentator, not Hax herself, seems to be concerned about the prospect of marriage and children. No one, not a single soul, seems to care about whether this young man will be able to support a family.

At our current cultural juncture, a man's being a breadwinner, supporting a family, allowing a wife and mother to have the option of spending more time with her children… does not cross anyone’s mind.

Unfortunately, the man in question does not tell us how old he is, what his current job entails and what the new job offer will entail. One suspects that he is working for a large corporation, even a high tech company, and has been offered a job at a soup kitchen, or at some such charitable enterprise. You know and I know, that whenever anyone starts drooling over work that matters, it involves charity, not corporate enterprise.

The problem is, his vain and quixotic pursuit will cost him his current apartment and his future home. He says not a word about why after a five year relationship he is still thinking in first-person terms.  

And you will notice, that his criticism of his girlfriend merely concerns her raising the issue of impoverishment, not the issue of their potential future together.

Without further ado, here is the letter, from an online discussion:

I was just offered a job that would revolutionize my life. It would mean a substantial pay cut — I might have to downsize to a smaller apartment and push off some goals such as homeownership — but it's in my dream field, doing work that matters, on a schedule that would allow me much more time to do other things I love.

This would be an easy decision if I were single. I would take the job and enjoy the self-actualization.

But I have a girlfriend of five years, and her contribution has so far been to remind me of how tough it would be to return to a higher-paying job if I take this detour.

Honestly, I resent that and wish she would not weigh in, since I feel the "voice of reason" perspective is already covered elsewhere. But now the doubt is there, and I don't know what to do.

— Not Single

One admires the girlfriend’s discretion and tact. She is telling him that if he chooses the path of self-impoverishment she will be looking for a new boyfriend. He is not smart enough to see this, and none of the Hax team is either.

Being an adult involved in a relationship he has responsibilities to at least one other person. He seems not to understand this, because his dream is beckoning. He seems not to understand that a loss of status, accompanied by a loss of income, will almost inevitably entail a loss of friends. If you cannot keep up with the way your friends spend money you will be losing  friends. Sorry if that sounds vulgar, but it shows us a truth.

As for the voice of reason, he does not tell us how it has been covered elsewhere. One imagines that his family has discouraged him from blowing up his life in order to go into the charity business, but, if he is a product of today’s American educational system, their caution will probably fall on deaf ears.


trigger warning said...

I'm willing to bet that somewhere in Not Single's background is a highlighted copy of "What Color Is Your Parachute?" Fortunately for the girlfriend, her parachute is probably 401K Green.

Dan Patterson said...

That's a same-sex relationship.

Sam L. said...

Well, if he REALLY wants to shoot himself in the foot, I would suggest a 20mm cannon shell...

Anonymous said...

Follow your dream. If she loves you she will stay. If your friends are true friends they will remain friends. Living in a smaller apartment is not a big deal. I vote that everyone should allow the people in their lives to abandon them for the sin of being true to yourself. Then you can consider yourself lucky you found out now rather than after 20-30 years of their faux friendship.

Anonymous said...

I'm going with the assumption that it's a male. Sounds nothing like a woman to me (I am one.) The person is so contemptuous toward his partner that it may be a satirical letter. I don't even understand whom he is writing to or why. He's already made up his mind.

Anonymous said...

"contemptuous toward his partner"??? It sounds like you believe he owes his partyner an ever increasing income. This story has become bizarre.

David Foster said...

It's not totally clear that what he wants to do is something charitable or 'work'...maybe it's just another career field which tends to be less high-income than the one he is now in.

Baffled in Buffalo said...

"You like to think that the letter writer here is not of the male persuasion". Yeah, because a male has to be an athlete of bread-winning above all things. What a sad way to think.

ASM826 said...

St. Francis comes to mind when I think of people that were given the advice to stick to the money making. Francis's father tried very hard to discourage his son from "blowing up his life".

There are plenty of meaningful situations where someone might choose the alternative path. The writer has no children, he's not married, what twisted logic suggests that following the high income path is the only possible right decision?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Of course, you're right. If he wants to become a monk he is on the right path. Yet, he has had a girlfriend for five years. If he is not thinking of marriage, the chances are good that she is. And if he impoverishes himself, he will be betraying her-- and I do recognize that in feminist fairy tales men do not need to define themselves as breadwinners, but in the real world, if he cannot support a family he will almost surely lose the girlfriend and a bunch of his friends and colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Because he does not seek to keep the higher paying job "he will almost surely lose the girlfriend and a bunch of his friends and colleagues".

I don't agree, it doesn't even make sense in any kind of world I know about. What kind of world do you live in? Believe it or not Most American men aren't making a fortune out here and we still have girl friends or wives and friends and colleagues.

If his girlfriend and other friends desert him because of this choice THAN he is twice blessed to be rid of them.