Writer’s note (31 March 2019): This piece was written when I was targeting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) women who were having dating troubles. Now I help all women who feel anxious and insecure in their relationships find peace. Learn more.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) people are people, too, which means some of their dating struggles are similar to those for people outside of the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
However, I recently talked to a female colleague, an electrical engineer, who told me that before she met her husband, she went on a date with a guy in college who seemed turned off by the fact that she was a physics major. And this happened often, which frustrated her.
“Oftentimes, when I’d meet someone and tell him I was a physics major, his reaction would essentially be ‘Eww,’” she told me.
“I would complain to my mom, asking her why this kept happening,” she continued. She was doing what she loved, and getting that kind of reaction from men made her question whether or not she was attractive.
Her mom’s response: Don’t worry, someone will come along who appreciates you and your physics background.
Now, you could interpret her dates’ reactions in various ways: Did her dates just not like physics? Did they see “women” and “physics” (a typically male-dominated field) as an unattractive mismatch? Did the idea of a woman outsmarting them turn them off?
Did they automatically label her as “too masculine” or “socially awkward,” based on STEM stereotypes? Did they see her and think “Amy Farrah Fowler” from The Big Bang Theory? (Shut up, I know Amy is a neurobiologist!)
Whatever the truth might have been, we’re looking at this story through her eyes.
And she had every right to feel judged and self-conscious for it. While the tides are changing, STEM fields can still be hard on women, and some of that energy can affect their dating lives in various ways.
Her mother was right, though: When my colleague met her now-husband and told him the dreaded words “I’m a physics major,” his reaction surprised her.
“That’s so cool!” he said. She was speechless, like she had just won a million dollars.
A similar thing happened after I met my partner. Prior to meeting him, I would bore dates about my science communication work, sometimes felt the need to dumb myself down, sometimes intimidated guys when I tried flaunting my smarts, and often felt I came off “too masculine” when a guy I liked ended up going for a dumb girly girl who was into makeup and hair products (although, there’s nothing wrong with women who like makeup and hair products, but hopefully you catch my drift). It seemed like I couldn’t win.
Maybe it was self-judgment and self-inflicted emotional pain, or maybe there’s a grain of truth to our experiences.
The point is that my partner wasn’t bored when I showed him an Earth science app I was working on, wasn’t intimidated when I explained the different climate change key indicators it displayed, and didn’t make me feel like I had to speak as if my brains were in my boobs.
In fact, he said, “Wow, I’ve never nerded off with a woman before.”
So, I’d say, unless you’re an asshole, stick to the age-old advice to “be yourself”–your smart, confident, Dr Who-loving self–and hold out for the “right” guy (or gal). You’ll attract someone who can handle you.
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