When I first heard that the Princeton alumni magazine published a letter telling young women that they risked eternal spinsterhood if they didn’t snare a husband in college, I thought nothing of it. People write crackpot letters to the editor all the time. And bright young women have always been told that career ambition will somehow harm their chance of finding personal happiness. Reading the letter was like sitting next to your cranky old aunt at a wedding. You smile wanly and excuse yourself to refresh your drink. I thought nothing would come of it.
I should have known better. It appears there is no quicker or easier way to get yourself showered with media attention than to say something mean and disempowering to women–bonus points if the women are single.
I’m referring, of course, to Susan Patton, the infamous “Princeton Mom.” Patton has a new book out telling young women that if they don’t get their MRS degrees, they can say hello to their cat-lady future. She also has a lot of incredibly mean things to say about contemporary single women, which could be summed up as “You are all selfish, slutty drunks.”
It grieves me that in 2014 we are having conversations about relationships that involve the phrase “Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?” But, heavy sigh, we are. So here is a partial list of what Susan Patton gets wrong.
The “Good Ones” Will NOT Be Gone
Patton warns that women who haven’t secured a husband by graduation day will face a quickly shrinking dating pool in their post-campus life. The truth is, they will spend their twenties surrounded by single men–today only 20% of adults aged 18 to 29 are married. And, as Lisa Endlich Heffernan reports at The Atlantic.com, when Americans do marry, the average age gap between the bride and the groom is two years. So there’s no need to fret that all your 30-year-old male peers are pursuing 22-year-olds, as Patton asserts.
Success DOESN’T Hurt Your Chance Of Marrying
Patton says men prefer less intelligent, less challenging women. That was actually true in her generation, but it isn’t anymore. Now women with advance degrees are more likely to be married than their less-educated peers. And as historian Stephanie Coontz points out in The New York Times: “New research by the sociologist Leslie McCall reveals that while marriage rates have fallen for most women since 1980, those for the highest earning women have increased, to 64 percent in 2010 from 58 percent in 1980. Women in the top 15 percent of earners are now more likely to be married than their lower-earning counterparts.”
The Longer You Wait To Marry, The Lower Your Chance of Divorce
In Patton’s view, the woman who gets that rock on her finger by graduation day is a big winner. The problem is, by marrying before age 26 she has significantly raised her chance of divorce. Studies have consistently found that the older the bride, the stronger the marriage, and economist Dana Rotz found that that this advantage continues into a woman’s early 40s.
There Is Another Human Being Involved
Telling women their value is in steady decline is offensive. But Patton seems to have even more contempt for men, treating them more like acquisitions than human beings. She wants young women to snare husbands early so that they can enjoy the status and economic security that accompanies marriage. Whether or not you actually love the guy is beside the point.
This isn’t smart–this is cruel. We all deserve to be loved and cherished for who we are, for our essence. Marrying someone simply because he fits the suit is childish, shallow and mean. Fortunately, most women are far too compassionate and wise to do that.