April 8, 2005 in Features

No law says we all must climb corporate ladder

Carolyn Hax The Washington Post
 
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(Full-size photo)

Dear Carolyn: Is it wrong for a 30-year-old (or anyone, for that matter) to want a job with less responsibility? How does one go about explaining this desire to family, friends and/or potential employers? – Washington, D.C.

Wrong to desire that, no. Every boss needs good workers, every head coach needs good assistants, every bull-rider needs rodeo clowns. Or is it the other way around?

Anyway. As long as you take seriously whatever responsibilities you do assume – and therefore don’t burden others – it’s also fine to act on the desire. No law says everyone must strive to be CEO of the Earth. Not even in D.C.

But taking your responsibilities seriously includes any you’ve assumed in your personal life, too. You must support children, cooperate with spouses, care for pets, honor promises (or be ready to pay for any you break), pay debts, offer to reimburse parents who underwrote the law degree you’ve abruptly chosen to render decorative after six months in the profession, etc.

You’re under no obligation to live up to anyone’s hopes, no matter what Mother says, but you should clarify your decision to people close enough to worry about you. (Not justify, mind you.)

Respecting yourself and your motives is optional, though strongly advised.

As for potential employers, try, “I feel this is the job that best suits me.” Omitting the fact that if you work one more weekend, you’ll plotz.

Dear Carolyn: Is it appropriate to ask the ex-wife of the man I plan to marry to stop using his name? Their marriage was short, and they had no children together. The divorce was final four years ago. She continues to list his name in the phone book next to hers. This is a small community. I’ve been told she is hanging onto his name to maintain her social standing. This is irritating because I don’t think this town is big enough for two of us to be called Mrs. I’d hate to keep my maiden name because of this situation. Am I being too sensitive? – N.K.

Way. Whether her marriage to your fiance was short and childless or long and fruitful, his name is hers now if she wants it. She wants it. Discussion over.

Approaching the ex-wife to assert your territorial claim: way over.

If you want a reason not to be so sensitive, consider this. The community is too small for two Mrs. Catfights to share it comfortably, right? That means it’s also small enough for everyone to be fully aware that you’re the one married to Mr. Catfight, and that the first Mrs. Catfight is the ex-wife who all the gossips insist is clinging to her name as some kind of social fig leaf. How sad.

Come to think of it, that’s a reason you should be more sensitive. To her. You have what the ex apparently wants, putting you in the position of strength here. Occupy it graciously. Let her call herself what she wants.

Unless, of course … she’s happy and just couldn’t be bothered to change her phone listing. Since misjudging her so severely would make you the “how sad” one, count that, too, as a vote for backing off.

He was married before. For your own sake, make peace with that now.

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