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Advanced-Degree Women With Blue-Collar Guys: Can It Work?

Is there an education gap in your house?

Janelle Harris from The Stir recently asked an interesting question related to the contentious issue of love and money: Is an educated woman + a blue-collar man a recipe for disaster? In her post, Harris cops to the fact that as she and her other single besties work their way toward advanced degrees, they may have raised their man wish list to unattainable heights. What’s so unattainable: Harris says that she and her girls have been holding out for men with similar levels of education. And she's got a point (although it occurs to me that these alpha girls might just be single because they’re so damn busy).

Personally, I think that making education level a deal breaker for love is ridiculous and self-limiting. But I've always had an unusually loose view on the subject. I come from a big family of people who all have college degrees and have never worked. How? Inheritances. Don't give me the side eye -- I didn't inherit a thing. But my weird family may be the reason that I've never really connected education with earning power. Am I a snob about intelligence? Absolutely. But I've known some mind-blowing intellectuals who were just voracious readers (but no formal edu), and I've known some unbelievable dummies who managed to scrape through medical school. So I see smarts and education as two different things.

My personal story is even weirder. I was a high school dropout who left home at 15 and never went back. It wasn't always cute. Like the time I lived in a Buick while saving up for my first apartment. But I worked it out, like I like to do. And slowly, over the years, I’ve gotten a substantial education, degree. I've had jobs where my assistants had master’s degrees, and I've had jobs where I had more education than the CEO of the company. And in each position, I was able to go toe-to-toe with my peers. So I've kind of snuck in the back door of the "women with advanced degrees" club.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm sure that certain top positions aren't open to me owing to my lack of a college degree. But luckily, I have zero interest in those positions. I already have my dream job, if not my dream salary. My friends are all entrepreneurs, designers, artists, etc., and very few have worked their way up any corporate ladder (though the few that have say they needed that degree). But in my immediate peer group, if someone is a CEO, it's because she started her own company.

And then there's Jack. Jack has a high school education. Zero college. But Jack is a genius. Socially, he can carry on intense conversations with hard-core intellectuals. But career-wise, he is totally blue-collar. Even though he works in TV, he is (in Hollywood terms) "below the line," which, loosely translated, means: He gets his hands dirty. But “blue-collar” is a pretty elastic term these days. Yes, Jack works with his hands. But he also makes more money than my father. He might make more money than his father. Who knows? I mean, as a couple, we definitely don't make a lot of money. But right now, that's my fault -- I went back to freelance and am working on a book. But it's weird -- our money woes have never seemed connected to education. I've got a feeling that our experience is pretty different though. So let me ask you: Can a woman with an advanced degree and a man with a blue-collar job make it work romantically? (Here’s what some Nesties on the community boards had to say.) I say, hell yes, even though I don't completely fit into the educated category and Jack doesn't completely fit into the blue-collar category. But there are tons of factors at play here besides earning potential. In fact, I'll bet that social interaction (the way your significant other mixes with your peer group) is even more important. Thoughts?

-- Holly

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