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Biz-school widows lament

It’s hard to become a full member of the club when you’re an academic ‘other’


Some, these days, would have harsh words for the culture of business schools, as if, perhaps, B-school grads were just a teensy bit responsible for, like, the collapse of the whole fucking world. But down at street level — on the ground, as it were — things are much more petty and personal. And snubbed helpmates bear the brunt of it all.

S.O. esoterica
The first time I heard the phrase “S.O.” slip out of my boyfriend’s mouth, I knew I had lost the battle.

To students at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, “S.O.” stands for “significant other” — a label that, I assume, was initially intended to be slapped on the taut little ass of the arm candy who’s moved halfway across the country to stand by her man while he pads his academic résumé in preparation for padding his wallet and cache of assets. I, of course, don’t have a taut little ass, since I spend most of the day sitting on it while I write smarmy crap about people who don’t necessarily deserve it, from my desk here in Boston, where I’ve lived for three-quarters of my life.

Besides the sexist undertones, I find the label S.O. to be instantly diminutive. By being introduced as simply an extension of his social portfolio, it implies that I am noteworthy only by proxy, that my “significance” is relative only to my relationship with my top-tier business-school-student “other.”

More than once, I’ve found myself half-heartedly schmoozing over theme cuisine and chardonnay at some Sloan event, nodding my head like an idiot while my man introduces me to his type-A cohorts. “Oh, you’re an S.O.!” is the typical response, usually followed by either “How do you like Boston?” or “Have you been meeting anyone?” or just plain old indifference, indicated by an awkward nod, a quick smile, and an immediate revert to the conversation at hand, which likely involves some kind of in-joke founded upon a nerdy classroom acronym that only MIT students understand.

One foul episode involved a woman, who turned away from me and said to my companion, as though I were deaf or non-English speaking or perhaps just a plebeian because I don’t want or have an MBA, “She should feel like she can come along anytime, to anything. She can always be included!” Rather than point out to this blockhead that I am a hearing, thinking person, not a faithful service animal, I stomped away, incensed, and poured myself another drink.

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. Especially because, after months of seething and bitching, of loudly complaining about my pigeonhole status to complete strangers who might some day have consequential impact on my boyfriend’s career, I bit the bullet.

S.O.s at MIT are relatively organized; they have their own club, intended for social and professional networking, and I, having finally gotten over myself, decided to join it. Why? Acquiescence, I guess, or guilt. My man accompanies me to plenty of work events, and he, being affable and charming, always thrives. I, in contrast, have to be dragged along, writhing and bitching sullenly while I pump myself with free liquor and resign myself to bemused judging while I watch the clock.

Therefore, in a wave of sentimentality and misappropriated loyalty, I went to the S.O. Web site, and signed up to be an official, card-carrying Significant Other.

And heard nothing in return.

Karma, perhaps? Or maybe those ladies and gentlemen who are proud to be half of a business-school couple had gotten word of my cynicism and mockery, of my repugnance of the label, and of my eagerness to doff it. In any case, I am miffed, with absolutely no good reason to be other than the fact that I am a hypocritical baby who made a huge, smelly stink about not wanting to be labeled, and I am now upset that I can’t get MIT to label me. It’s a little psychological push-me-pull-you game that I normally like to play in an effort to torture myself and my paramours. But it’s not supposed to backfire.

I want you to want me, MIT. Significantly.

— Sara Faith Alterman

Join? Hell, I’ll lead
Hello, my name is Kara — K-A-R-A — and my husband is a business-school student at Babson College. I’ve been coping with this for about 18 months. And, you know, I have good days and I have bad days. I hit my rock bottom when a photo of him wearing a wig, a pink thong, and a zebra-print miniskirt appeared in ads for the campus transgender club. That’s when I knew I had to turn my life — our life — around, somehow. He was crying out for attention. He needed an intervention.

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Culture and Lifestyle, Education, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,  More more >
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