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The Daily Tar Heel

Like many of you all, I read The New York Times last week.

Of course I read “The New Math on Campus.” But further down the front page of the Sunday Styles section, there was another article that caught my eye.

Below the photograph of one Chapel Hill table’s 1:6 male-to-female ratio was a picture of a woman sitting alone. The accompanying article, “Southern Discomfort,” profiled Jenny Sanford, the soon-to-be ex-wife of S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford.

For those who don’t remember from last June, Mark Sanford admitted to traveling to Argentina to “hike the Appalachian trail” (as the kids are calling it these days) with a woman who was not Mrs. Sanford. Since then, the first couple of South Carolina have decided to divorce.

As shown by the comments and letters that have been printed on the DTH opinion page, many people were shocked by some of the quotes in the UNC piece. “If you don’t let [cheating] slide, you don’t have a boyfriend,” was the one that made me pause.

But I wasn’t angered or embarrassed by these admissions. In many ways, it was refreshing to hear some of the thoughts and opinions that may only be whispered among best girlfriends after a few drinks.

Though the article may not reflect most UNC students or even the young women featured in it, there is something to be said for the effort and sacrifice that many women will put into, and put up with, fitting into a man’s world.

Our cultural systems — academics, business, marriage and dating, to name a few — have expectations, traditions and even laws dictating how things run. For hundreds of years, men were the ones largely shaping them, until women gained greater access and equality in these fields and institutions. But the numbers have changed more quickly than the rules.

Peering up from the lower fold, Jenny Sanford seems to be looking at a younger version of herself. What advice would she give?

When she was just a few years older than the featured UNC students, she ended her New York investment banking career to move to South Carolina to help manage her husband’s campaigns and later raise their four sons.

And in no way do I consider her choices a “waste” of her potential or her Georgetown University degree, nor do I think she does. But, I argue, her sacrifices to create and support their family were more than her husband’s.

And when push came to shove, they decided to end their marriage. I cannot judge their decision; the details are private and should remain so. But I do admire Mrs. Sanford’s response when asked about her husband’s affair: “His loss.”

That confidence — yes, even the tears that welled in her eyes when she said so — is what I wish for every person, especially for anyone who feels that “The New Math” speaks to their experience.

The sacrifice and commitment from both parties in relationships is what makes them one of the hardest, most frustrating, joyful and fulfilling things we can do.

Give yourself — your talents, your energy, your strengths — freely, openly and often to people. But don’t give up your true self in the process.

 

Fuller is a second-year journalism graduate student from Greensboro. Contact her at jvfuller@email.unc.edu.
 

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