I've read Susan Patton's Daily Princetonian article, "Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had," more than five times today. I remain dumbfounded. In it, she tells us female Princeton students that they better secure a husband before they graduate, because the pool of worthy, marriageable men seriously diminishes after graduation. What's more, they had better start as freshman to maximize their chances of snagging someone on our level.
Susan, I'm sure you are a lovely woman, but I will be forever grateful that no one ever offered me such advice when I was a freshman, or sophomore, or senior at Princeton.
The problem here is not the suggestion that Princeton women might want to get married someday, nor do I have an issue with the idea that they should consider classmates potential spouses. I met a lot of wonderful guys at Princeton who will probably make great husbands someday -- not to mention the incredible women I graduated with who will make great wives. If and when they want to.
Here are a few questions I have for Mrs. Patton:
1. In what universe is the majority of a graduating college class ready to get married?
Most students are 22 or 23 years old when they graduate. Many don't even know who they are yet. According to a 2012 report, the average age at first marriage in the U.S. is 28.7 for American men and 26.5 for American women. Furthermore, 70 percent of couples surveyed in 2007 reported that they'd like to live together before getting married. There are going to be students who are ready to get married young, and who are certain they've found the right person to spend the rest of their lives with by the time they graduate. Great! Amazing for them. But don't put unnecessary pressure on those who know they have a lot of growing up left to do.
2. Why exactly is it verboten for women to date men a couple of years younger than them?
You wrote, "As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from... 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." So you're saying not only that older women can't get younger men but also that younger men don't want to date older women, even when the age difference is just a couple of years. Wanna bet?
3. Why is the woman supposed to do all the looking here?
A late 2012 study found that two thirds of surveyed college students thought that men should propose, and only 2.8 percent of female respondents would consider proposing to a boyfriend. That's messed up in itself, but the fact remains that there's still a cultural expectation that men "pull the trigger." By this logic, shouldn't you have directed your spouse-hunting advice to Princeton men?
4. Do you really think Ivy Leaguers are the only smart people out there?
You said, "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." Princeton students are smart, but they're not the smartest people in the world. Not everyone in the world applied to Princeton, and admissions criteria is definitely not just about your "smarts" (I hope). And let's not belittle the intelligence of people who, for whatever reason, didn't make it to college, or maybe even through any formal schooling at all. It's a big world.
5. What if intellectual equality isn't someone's number one criterion in a potential mate?
There are other important qualities -- compassion, creativity and humor, to name a few. It might be one person's priority to marry someone who will be a good partner, or a good parent, GPA and college diploma be damned. Isn't that OK?
6. Sometimes, women want to marry other women. Sometimes, men want to marry other men. And sometimes, people don't want to marry anyone. Is there room for them in your universe?
7. One last quotation from you: "My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless." After you published that piece, are you sure?