When I was in law school, my girlfriends and I had a favorite non-scientific experiment. We would go out to bars in Boston, meet a group of friendly guys, and tell them one of two things.
1) We were yoga instructors, dental hygienists or kindergarten teachers.
2) We were in our last year at Harvard Law School, headed off to work at big corporate law firms in New York.
When we told them that we worked in the first set of very worthy yet non-threatening professions, the men smiled, flirted, and offered to buy us drinks.
“That’s why you have such a nice smile!”
“If I was naughty, would you make me stay after class?”
“Wow, you must be really flexible.”
Requests for our phone numbers were common. Results were uniformly positive.
Category 2 was called “dropping the H-Bomb.” The formerly friendly conversation turned stone-cold serious. “Whoah!” the men would say, and put both palms up in a defensive gesture, as if warding off the attack of a psychotic Doberman.
“You must be really smart and stuff.”
“You should be buying me drinks.”
“ Um, I have to go to the bathroom.”
Requests for our phone numbers were less frequent. In fact, results were so reliably negative that sometimes we would go straight to the H-Bomb to disburse unwanted advances from annoying guys. Worked like a charm.
When we started practicing law in New York, this experiment proved only too easy to replicate in the real world.
So why are so many men threatened by smart successful women, particularly those who might earn more money than they do? The H-Bomb phenomenon of letting a guy know that you have a high-powered and high-paying job can perversely cause strain in your dating life. In a recent New York Times article entitled Putting Money on the Table, author Alex Williams interviewed a sampling of young professional women in New York who said that dating men who earned less money than they did and had a complex about it eventually led them to part ways. One woman interviewed said that she felt tired of trying to hide her success from her mate, who admitted that he felt uncomfortable about earning less money than her.
According to a recent analysis of census data in New York, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis by Queens College professor Andrew Beveridge, working women in their 20s are more likely to have college degrees than their male counterparts (53% of women vs. 38% of men), and also more likely to have graduate degrees. This finding may help explain why women earn more than men in big cities.
Whether its ordering take-out and bypassing that expensive new restaurant on an early date or clipping price tags off of designer clothes and hiding shopping bags, lots of young professional women feel self-conscious about flaunting their spending power around men who don’t exactly bring home the bacon. Meanwhile, high-earning men don’t hesitate to drop huge hints (and if that doesn’t work, their Amex Black card) to telegraph their status. Remember the Sex and the City episode where Miranda pretended to be a flight attendant and hooked up with the hot shoe salesman posing as a doctor? Yep, it’s a double standard all right.
So, two options present themselves immediately. Date a guy who is as successful, driven and financially stable as you are. Or date a guy who is self-confident enough not to care that you outearn him. You’re worth it though, don’t you think?