Humanities Versus STEM Majors: Star-Crossed Lovers, Or Meant To Be?

Graphic by Molly Antell

I needed a radical break from the men of my past.

After blindly diving into various relationships with guys whose horizons of thought never moved beyond petty gossip and March Madness, I was craving an intellectual.

I had grown tired of inane questions like, “Do you think vegetables have feelings?” I was done with men who had, as Hermione Granger once aptly put it, “the emotional range of a teaspoon.”

Clearly, I wasn’t happy.

At long last, I decided that I deserved better than partners whose stubborn refusal to introspect and empathize led to heartbreak, stress-induced nail-biting, and tears of frustration (all mine). When I verbalized this to my closest female friends, they rolled their eyes in simultaneous relief and exasperation, as if to say “finally.”

This is where the boy (whom I will name “X” for anonymity) comes into the picture. Smart, sexy, and analytical, X was the answer. The night we met, he listened to me rant about the toxic potential of the 5C hookup culture, while responding with sensitivity and his own critiques.

Call me “crazy,” but it was like a slideshow of our future was unfolding before my eyes. I foresaw engaging conversations about politics, philosophy, spirituality, and everything in between, all melting together. It would be our version of pillow talk.

Then he uttered those fateful words: “Oh, I’m definitely a STEM guy. I’m not big into humanities.”

Cue the record scratch. My mental slideshow screeched to a halting stop.

I thought, “Could love really exist across disciplines that have traditionally been pitted against each other? Were we fated to be the collegiate versions of Romeo and Juliet? Would we be like tectonic plates, constantly at friction with one another?”

To provide a little context, I’ve never considered myself a “science” type of gal. Sure, I did surprisingly well on my high school project on osteogenesis imperfecta, but this is all overshadowed by my abysmal track record with chemistry, physics, and higher-level biology.

I once mistakenly registered for Bio44 to fulfill my science general education requirement and dropped it within 15 minutes of the first class. I have never felt so out of place in a classroom before.

And just somehow, I ended up falling headlong for an aspiring doctor majoring in molecular biology, who had won science accolades and used to be the vice president of the chemistry club in high school.

My dating history might say otherwise, but I was the kind of person who believed that in order for a relationship to work, the two parties had to share the same passions.

As I fell further into the relationship, I started noticing small things that highlighted our differences.

“My mom always said I should date someone who’s also pre-med,” he casually said to me while we were doing homework together.

“Huh,” I responded.

Inside, I blanched, already picturing the look on his mom’s face when I would meet her for the first time and announce at the dinner table in front of his whole family that I was planning to be a journalist.

In a lot of Asian families, journalism is synonymous with career death.

I would bring up literature references with X, and he’d stare blankly back at me. He would rehearse his research presentation with me, and all I could say was, “Your poster looks very professional.”

“What’s a Foucault?” he asked me one day.

A few months into our relationship, we had our first big fight. I’ve already forgotten what we were fighting about, but the gist of it was that he thought I was being too idealistic, and I thought he was only seeing things in black and white. This became the underlying tension between all our arguments.

While he dealt in “hows,” I dealt in “whys.” He turned away from grey areas, and I immersed myself in an ocean of grey, in a multitude of shades that his eyes did not see. He loved to piece things together like the branches of a molecule, and I loved to take them apart.

But all the while, we were trying. He would listen patiently to my philosophical musings about animal rights while we lay in bed. I left him little notes with organic chemistry puns on them before all his exams, even though I had no idea what “diene” was.

Over time, the friction became bearable, even beautiful. He grounded me when I floated off with unanswerable questions in my head, and his rationality kept my over-worrying tendencies at bay.

I learned that interdisciplinary love was more powerful than anything I’d ever experienced because we were constantly challenging each other to grow and learn from one another.

I stopped holding onto the stereotypical dichotomy of STEM versus humanities, quantitative versus qualitative, and that left me to love freely and openly. X I are so much better together than separate. It really is the perfect meeting of two minds.

Here’s another thing: I used to wax lyrical about the indescribable, overwhelming heat I feel between us whenever our skin touched, but he’s taught me that’s just chemistry.