1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

A Trailing Spouse

by Suzanne Fluhr on August 29, 2010 · 5 comments

Cajas National Park, Cuenca, Ecuador

[Updated and edited:  2017, 2018)

Ready for a whale watching cruise in Hawaii.

Even the Baby Boomer generation had a boom within itself. My high school class was the largest in the history of our school. We seriously strained the infrastructure. My assigned seat in chemistry class was on the radiator. I attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls which at the time was one of the two academic magnet schools in the city.

I was a member of the first co-ed class admitted to Williams College in 1971. It only took 198 years. I was outraged when a neighbor teased me by saying that I was just going to Williams to find a husband. (Actually, I found two, but that’s a blog post for another day.)

When I entered Temple University Law School, it did start to dawn on me that Baby Boomer women were indeed entering uncharted sociological waters. Hillary Clinton’s cohort of Boomer women was in the first wave to hit the beaches of traditionally sacrosanct male domains, the tip of the spear, forging a place for us. However, we were also still in the vanguard, charged with securing the gains.

In 1977, my law school class was about one-third women. The university had yet to remove the urinals in the main women’s bathroom. Obviously, even the planners of what was then a relatively new law school building, did not foresee the number of women who would be needing to relieve themselves between contracts and torts classes.

I wasn’t militant enough to burn my bra and it took a silly number of years before I could bring myself to wear a pants suit to court. However, I cringed inwardly when elderly judges called me “dear” or when early in my career, an opposing counsel actually growled at me. Even as I sweetly smiled while inwardly rolling my eyes, I knew that American society would not be going back to when it was considered extraordinary for a woman to be a lawyer or a physician.

When I married my real husband who I met sorting silverware when I was 17 at a college work study job in the fresh(men) cafeteria, the one to whom I’ve been married since 1982, I didn’t take his last name. I had already been there and done that when I married for the first time at the ridiculous age of 21. The experience of being divorced at age 23, and sitting in the bank, Social Security office, and the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), to change my name back to my “maiden” name, convinced me I would not be going down that road again.

In 1982, not changing my last name when I was married still struck some people as overly progressive. My mother was convinced our children would be schizophrenic if I did not share their last name.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also needed convincing I was Suzanne “Fluhr” even though I was married to someone with a different last name. First the agent told me it was illegal —“Um, I’m a lawyer and no it isn’t.” I didn’t have as quick an answer when he asked, “So, then why did you get married?” He settled for, “Because I love him.”

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Our visit to Iguazu Falls after Mr. Excitement’s conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I am happy to report I still love him. And, despite my mother’s dire prediction about their future mental health, our sons grew up to be somewhere on the “normal” spectrum. We didn’t burden them with a hyphenated last name, but they both have my last name as their middle name and they use it in their official signatures on documents they consider important.

All this is a prelude to explaining that notwithstanding my female Baby Boomer need to have my own career and identity— i.e. apart from being Mrs. Dr. Steven Albelda (a/k/a Mr. Excitement)— I feel very fortunate and happy when I get to be a “trailing spouse”.

Cajas National Park, Cuenca, Ecuador

At about 13,000 feet in Cajas National Park outside Cuenca, Ecuador.

It turned out Mr. Excitement moved on from silverware sorting and grew up to be a physician-scientist with international research trainees and collaborators, so I get to trail him to some interesting places—sometimes, it’s just down the road from where we live in Philadelphia on I-95 to Washington, D.C., but I’ve also trailed him to Hawaii for a three month sabbatical, to southeast Asia, to Japan, to South Africa, to Israel, to many European countries and to a good many of the states in our own United States of America.

We’re both at an age to know that tomorrow is not promised, so I don’t turn down invitations to be a trailing spouse.

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