MD

Opinion

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Advertise with us »

Hema Karunakaram: Getting your MRS and BME degrees

By Hema Karunakaram, Opinion Columnist
Published November 28, 2012

While dinner tables across America were still warm from the turkey and fixings last Thursday night, mine was just heating up with a new source of warmth: conversation. Ideas were being argued, stories were being shared, conclusions were being drawn. But the topic at hand was one that only rarely had made it to the dinner table or, for that matter, was even spoken aloud in my family: relationships and marriage.

With many of the daughters of family friends hitting their mid-20s and looking toward marriage, combined with the realization that my mother was engaged by my age, it shouldn’t have surprised me that a taboo topic a few years ago in my family was now being openly discussed. Growing up in America in a fairly traditional Indian household, I never expected my parents to condone any type of romantic relationship in my life. But I guess their recently revealed open-mindedness was understandable. After all, where else but in college would I ever encounter so many potential future grooms?

A widely circulated column that ran this past summer in the University of Georgia’s student paper, The Red & Black, satirized the concept of women, particularly at Southern schools, whose goal is to graduate with an “MRS degree”— that is, a ring on their finger and nothing more. The column received widespread criticism for the sensitive nature of the topic and the “satire” being perhaps not satirical enough. The columnist subsequently issued a statement explaining her intentions and affirming her belief that many women now, including herself, are very ambitious and are certainly not in college for the sole purpose of finding a husband. However, much of the attention the column received undoubtedly stemmed from the truth underlying the satire.

Apart from being a source of higher education, for many people college also serves as a goldmine of intelligent, like-minded people who happen to also be in their physical prime. There’s no doubt that a large percentage of Americans meet their future spouses or companions in college, and while the MRS degree may be a frowned-upon concept, the reasons for women historically choosing this route are, quite honestly, logical. Of course, many women now expect much more out of college than a ring on their finger or even a boyfriend, but perhaps a shift in priorities has also led to more disregard for the non-academic opportunities college offers.

There’s nothing wrong with graduating with a 4.0 in fashion merchandise and high hopes for a proposal from your Harvard University Law boyfriend. But maybe the Elle Woods types are best left to the fictional world of “Legally Blonde.” More commonly today, especially at top tier schools, we see highly motivated and career-oriented women — graduating perhaps without 4.0s, but with offers from companies like Apple or Goldman Sachs. Some may exit with a serious relationship as well, but this isn’t high on the priority list for many of them.

I’ll admit it: I’ve been single for five semesters of college and as far as I know, it may stay that way for my remaining three. I have big plans for my future to further my education and develop myself professionally. I certainly didn’t come here for an MRS degree. But I think the tint on the lens through which I view college has been lifted just slightly.

Will I go out of my way now to look for a husband? Absolutely not. But will I welcome the possibility of allowing serious relationships as I might allow for other extracurricular activities? Starting this week, perhaps.

None of us are here in college just to snag that future spouse or companion. But there’s no denying that this opportunity likely won’t present itself again. There’s no need to skip class or lose sleep over it. But go ahead and put your best foot forward. Go to that party, text that person back. Sure, they might just be a college fling. But they could always turn out to be much more.

Hema Karunakaram can be reached at khema@umich.edu.
Follow her on Twitter @hemakarunakaram.