Being the Square Peg You Want to See in the World

A few Fridays ago I spent the day with four married men. Strange, you may say? Let me explain. I am currently participating in an internship program in Washington, DC. Through this program, the University provides housing and classes for the students. Besides an older woman who lives outside of the provided housing, I am the only married woman doing an internship. The program consists of about forty single students and eight married couples. As might be expected, the single students do not mingle with us married students very much. On days that we have classes or excursions, this translates into me tagging along with the other married students.
I have found myself in a tough spot. I don’t fit in with the single students because I am married. I don’t fit in with the married students because all of the interns are husbands. The office in which I am interning has about thirty interns and I am the only one who is married. For the first few weeks I felt like a square peg: I didn’t fit in. I also felt bad for my husband, who was having the same problems as the only husband on the program without an internship.

For a while I was quite frustrated. I even threw myself a pity party one day. I didn’t like being treated like I shouldn’t be doing an internship as a married woman. I didn’t like feeling out of place or like I was being looked down on as less intelligent, less capable, or less ambitious. While my surrounds haven’t changed, something more important has: my attitude. A wise woman once told me that sometimes you just have to feign obliviousness. Now, when people act as though I don’t belong, I pretend not to notice. I have decided not to let other people’s stereotypes control my life. Yes, I am doing an internship. Yes, I am smart and ambitious. And most importantly, yes, I am happily married and still pursuing my dreams.

This new-found attitude has definitely come in handy. In my last blog I wrote about the opposition I was facing for not changing my name. I am pleased to report that I have only had one run-in with the name issue since getting here. After discovering I kept my name, I was accused of being “one of those.” While I’m not quite sure what “those” are, I cheerily replied, “Looks like it!” Not only have I decided that there is nothing wrong with keeping my name, but I’ve decided not to notice when it bothers others.

I also must admit that in the short time I’ve been here, I’ve already been charged with being a feminist. While sitting at a table with fellow married students, a new acquaintance came by to meet us. She went around the table asking all of the husbands where they were interning at. When she got around to us I informed her that I was the one doing the internship. While she was surprised, she also seemed pleased; though she did use the word feminist with a little distaste. Since then I have talked with her about things ranging from natural births to how I plan on balancing a family and a career.

Being a WomanStats coder has prepared me for these moments and equipped me to stand up for what I believe. Sometimes it is hard to go against the grain, but it is always worth it. So maybe I am a square peg in today’s world. But maybe it isn’t such a bad thing . . . and if anyone tries to tell me otherwise, well, I’ll just feign obliviousness.

—by KTA

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4 thoughts on “Being the Square Peg You Want to See in the World

  1. CPC says:

    It could be worse, you could be pregnant 🙂 Imagine what everyone at my internship thought when they realized I was 6 months pregnant, especially since they had no idea when they hired me on because I chose not to disclose that. It was a little awkward, as I was working with women who were true-bred second-wave feminists, older, unmarried with no children. And here I was, a 22-year-old college student who was married and about to birth her first child. I felt so out of place and weird for the first little while. And Tim was the only husband not doing an internship on our program too… he took it all in stride of course, even when he worked his early-morning hours at the local Target so I could do the internship.

    PS – You should be friends with Ben and Athena!! They are great friends of ours.

    • KTA says:

      I’ve actually thought about you quite a bit. And yes, the thought always is, “it could be worse, I could be pregnant.” 🙂 But you did a good job being a square peg. Whether or not those women accepted it, you were truly embracing what equality feminism is all about. I think it teaches a good lesson in valuing both family and outside pursuits. Furthermore, it shows the importance of doing it with a spouse and figuring out how to work together and jointly live a balanced life. At least that is what I’ve decided to believe! So, kudos to you! 🙂

      PS – We’re working on it!

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