Princeton charming?

ASSOCIATED PRESS Susan A. Patton rationalizes her letter's message by praising Princeton's collection of intelligent men.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Susan A. Patton rationalizes her letter's message by praising Princeton's collection of intelligent men.
Posted: April 04, 2013

I'M A BIG believer that college is the time to find yourself - not Mr. Right.

So when I heard that a Princeton University snob had written an op-ed in the school newspaper urging that female coeds need to find husbands before they graduate, I was, like, oh no she didn't.

Addressing "the daughters I never had," 1977 grad Susan A. Patton wrote, "For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you. Here's what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there."

Hang on. There's more:

"Smart women can't (shouldn't) marry men who aren't at least their intellectual equal," she continued in Friday's edition of the student newspaper, the Daily Princetonian. "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."

Gag me; Princeton doesn't have a monopoly on intelligent men.

Patton's op-ed pissed me off.

Her timing stank, too. Nationwide, we've been having some really good conversations lately thanks to Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer, who has been making the media rounds with her new book Lean In, urging professional women to be more assertive in order to get ahead in the workforce. And now, here comes this Ivy Leaguer urging female students to get their "Mrs. degrees."

I was all set to slam her for her foolishness. But before I sat down to write, I heard Patton explain herself on CNN and found myself softening. I didn't want to agree with her. Honest, I didn't.

My inner feminist put up a struggle, but the more I listened, the more I realized that though Patton may be uppity as hell, she has a point. Granted, I can't support the June Cleaver mindset, but during that CNN interview, she pointed out how a whole lot of women spend their 20s getting degrees and establishing themselves professionally. Then, these same women hit their 30s and discover that that's all they have - their careers. Women's fertility generally peaks during their 20s and drops off considerably after 35. So, knowing this, by the time they're 30, a lot of women start scrambling to find a suitable man to marry.

I wound up in that position myself. During my 20s, I worked at five different newspapers around the country without ever giving serious thought to settling down. I had several offers, but never took any one seriously. I remember my mother trying to interest me in several guys, including a doctor, about whom she told me to "try to like him." The more she talked, the more she turned me off to the guy.

Then, before I knew it, I was in my early 30s and in a mild panic over my single status.

It used to wake me up at night. What have I done? I would think. Looking back, I understand why none of the relationships I put together at the time worked out. I was trying too hard. Thankfully, I eventually mellowed and things worked out in the end. I married a wonderful guy - a Princetonian no less, which should please Patton.

Meanwhile, my sister married her college boyfriend barely a year after their graduation and now is a stay-at-home mother with three adorable children. Different women, different choices.

And that's the problem I have with Patton's piece, which essentially warns female Princetonians to get to gettin' while the gettin's good. She never takes into consideration that some women might not even want men - or that they most likely aren't mature enough to pick a good husband.

Nor does Patton deal with the divorce rate, but maybe that would have been embarrassing, since she reportedly recently divorced. That's not a dig, but instead a long way of saying, that there's no one-size-fits-all answer.


On Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong

Blog: philly.com/HeyJen

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