I’m back from a one-week furlough and wondering what everyone thinks about that controversial letter to the editor penned to the student newspaper at Princeton University. In the op-ed piece, written by Susan A. Patton, a 1977 graduate of the school, she warns female to students to look for a husband while they’re still undergraduates.
“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.”
The mother and a Princeton grad herself, Patton added, “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, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them. And, you could choose to marry a man who has other things to recommend him besides a soaring intellect. But ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you."
Yes, this all sounds mind numbingly retro. College should be a time to explore your options – not fixate on snagging your Mrs. degree. But for women, for whom marriage and children are primary, maybe Patton has a point. I grudgingly admit that after listening to Patton explain herself on CNN last night. She pointed out how many young women spend their entire twenties focusing on education and career and then at 30, that's all they have accomplished.
I certainly wound up in that position having prioritized career over family but everything worked out just fine. During my twenties, I traveled extensively, worked for a number of newspapers around the country and spent years figuring out who I was and what I wanted before I ever gave serious thought to settling down. I got married nearly a decade ago - to a Princetonian, I might add, and am thrilled. My sister married her college boyfriend a year after graduation and also has had an amazing life and three adorable children.
Maybe certain women would do well to heed Patton's off-putting advice about being serious about relationships early on. Others, though, should ignore it like the plague lest they get off track. My point is that there's no one-size-fits-all answer to how to get it right.