As it turned out, Diane – who is now a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Irvine — was just preparing me for the rest of my life. Like many of us, I wanted to be a prodigy. If not a prodigy, then at least the one that classmates pointed to at reunions as being the most famous person our class produced.
Didn’t happen. Not only didn’t happen, but if you want to talk about famous people at my schools, they’re not even guys. If there is an inaugural generation where women achieved liberation, mine is it. And in my circles, they’ve capitalized on it.
If you look at the ninth graders in my eighth-grade yearbook – that is, the class ahead of me – under S you’ll find the name and rather nondescript photograph (see above) of a girl named Carleton Sneed (the name is misspelled in the yearbook). If that name doesn’t ring a bell, her current name will: Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and current Republican nominee for Senate from California.
One of my other secondary school classmates spent 12 years as a professor of atomic physics at Cornell. She’s now the director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). Her father, a storied physicist in his own right, served as only deputy director.
At Stanford, you’d think that my era would have produced some famous guys, if only traders indicted in some Wall Street scandal. Nope. The most famous people in the Stanford class of ’77 are Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel in space, and Gale Anne Hurd, who wrote or produced some of the biggest science fiction classics of the last 20 years, including The Terminator, Aliens, Alien Nation, and Armageddon.
Of course, there are distinct advantages, for a guy, to having grown up among and competed academically with such women. You get comfortable with women who are smarter than you are, which always helps in a relationship. The best advice my mother gave me was to marry a smart woman, one who’d always be able to help me through life. Following that advice was the smartest move I ever made.
As a mature, politically correct boomer, I relish and appreciate the smart women in my life. The third-grader inside me, on the other hand, is still a little jealous.