Princeton mother Susan Patton dropped an antiquated bomb on the Internet Friday. In a letter to The Daily Princetonian, she shed light on an issue gone ignored by the Sheryl Sandbergs and Anne-Marie Slaughters of the world, who are preoccupied preaching the importance of “leaning in” or that “80 is the new 60.” Women don’t need a career or independence to feel fulfilled; what they need is a husband.
To quote Patton: “Yes, I went there.”
After “going there,” however, I took an immediate U-turn.
Patton’s “advice for the young women of Princeton”—aka “the daughters [she] never had”—is to find a husband on campus before they graduate. As she writes:
I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless. Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.
Of course, the only smart men reside in the Ivy League—state universities or community colleges be damned. After all, if the key to a successful relationship is that the man is smarter than the woman, where else would you go husband hunting?
Patton later goes on to explain:
Here is another truth that you know, but nobody is talking about. As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?
Because the moment you become a senior, underclassmen flinch at your very touch, paranoid you’ll plague them with age, spry grey hairs and crow’s feet.
Of course, this all sounds ludicrous, but Patton isn’t taking her words back, acknowledging she found the “extreme reaction” to her letter astonishing instead. To her, “too much focus has been placed on encouraging young women only to achieve professionally.”
And thank God it has.
Women are being encouraged to achieve professionally now, because for centuries they were only encouraged to find husbands, settle down and step into the role of the nurturing caretaker. Patton’s argument isn’t new. Finding personal fulfillment outside of the workplace might not be harped on these days, but there are other ways to achieve balance than by simply finding someone who can help you raise a family.
At 23 years old, I’m essentially the daughter Patton never had. But, I already let her down. I never attended an Ivy League school, and I spent the majority of my college years running away from relationships because I didn’t want to lose focus on my impending career. When I somehow found myself falling into one on the verge of graduation, all it took were seven simple words to break the budding romance: “You’re ready to settle down now, right?”
In my mind, a suitable husband would always be lurking in the wing. The start of my career wouldn’t. Had I spent those four years searching for a soulmate, I wouldn’t be sitting here, employed for nearly two years, typing this very article today.
To Patton’s point, dating post-graduation isn’t nearly as easy as during the years you’re surrounded by hundreds of eligible bachelors the same age and, according to admissions officers, intellect. But, I didn’t dig myself into thousands of dollars in debt to find love. (If a man out there would like to pay my student loans off, though, please feel free to sign a blank check.)
I have been reading Sandberg’s “Lean In” and in it, she cites a 2012 study, writing:
Compared to men in modern marriages, men in more traditional marriages viewed the presence of women in the workforce less favorably. They also denied promotions to qualified female employees more often and were more likely to think that companies with a higher percentage of female employees ran less smoothly.
So, outside of having someone help me raise my family, locking down a husband in college would have gotten me what? Discrimination?
Every woman chooses her own path—there’s nothing wrong with that. Much like I don’t want to be married at 23, others don’t want to be working roughly seven days a week. But Patton, I’m sorry my choices have already let you down. I’ve wasted the earliest of my 20s, and will never be able to date again. I chose my career, and that’s it. It’s all downhill from here.