When a story about in the New York Times was emailed to me, I realized that I’d heard the headline earlier on Good Morning America. Something like, “Princeton alum tells women to find their husbands in college.” I clicked on the link expecting to be blown away by1977 Princeton alum, Susan Patton’s archaic logic in written form to the women students of the Ivy League university. Surprisingly enough, it didn’t raise my blood pressure. Here’s an excerpt from her editorial:
“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.
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.
If I had daughters, this is what I would be telling them.”
Yes, Ms. Patton, you surely did go there!
Take out the idea that this concept is only applicable to Ivy League women, and I’d say in some places, Ms. Patton was spot on. Here’s what I agree with partly: college is the last place you’ll be surrounded by a large pool of men (I won’t even address the intellect component). I should preface this: I’m speaking as someone who graduated from a HBCU 10 years ago this year. *cries silently in the dark* The further away you become from college age, the more difficult it is to meet mates or even friends, for that matter. In college, it’s basically effortless. Don’t give me that “you just have to put yourself out there” crap either. Eventually, clubbing and “going out” becomes exhausting, especially when you have a demanding job and/or family and other responsibilities. You make time for it, but clearly, not enough if you aren’t already burned out from partying so in college.
To blot that, you get involved in community organizations, fraternal and other niche groups where like minds are. Chances are, you still won’t be around as many men as you were in college who aren’t already married or in serious relationships. It’s not impossible by any means, but it is harder. For those reasons, get while the getting is “good” during your college years.
That brings me to what I don’t agree with. First, let’s be clear that men enrolled in colleges don’t equate to men who will be good husbands. And just because he’s as smart or as smart as you doesn’t mean he is or wants to be a husband at all, even if he is an almighty Princeton man. So there’s that.
Next, this statement about the cornerstone of our future and happiness being “inextricably” linked to the men we will marry….I get what she’s saying. She’s coming from a place of wisdom as it relates to her own experiences, and if you read the entire letter, you’ll see that she was chastised by her classmates for wanting to become a wife and have children immediately after college, instead of entering the workforce. That was a choice she made.
Yes, women inherit a lot from their husbands, good and bad reputations, joy and pain, successes and money woes alike. It’s crucial that you select who complements you and adds, rather than subtracts from your life, but it’s not the late 70s when Ms. Patton graduated anymore. I’d argue that she isn’t as progressive as they were then, given the kick-in of the Feminist Movement in the 1960s. She seems to be your favorite Traditionalist’s traditionalist, suggesting that a woman’s worth and total happiness is dependent on her man, instead of herself. Both married and single women can and do create their own lives and happiness, it’s just our choice of whether or not we want to. For every woman who wants to work, be a mother there’s one who wants to marry well off, be a trophy wife and shop all day.
So, the real question is: are we worthless because we didn’t find our husbands in college? Did we miss the boat? Nah. Here are a few reasons why maybe that didn’t happen for some of us.
You didn’t know you were supposed to find your husband in college.
Chances are, instead of your mother giving you that piece of advice first, if at all, she told you “don’t get pregnant.” You may have had dreams of finding your DeWayne (Pookie) as you noticed couples who’d been together since sophomore year coming back for homecoming wearing wedding bands and pushing baby strollers. You blushed at the thought that that’d be you because it was nice concept, not because you were supposed to make that a goal. There’s a difference.
You were studying instead of dating for marriage.
Okay, maybe you dated a little bit, but graduating in the expected four years, instead of five or six, was higher on your priority list. You looked up one day, and you were no longer a freshman. It happens, but bettering yourself is never a bad thing.
He wasn’t ready.
You were, but he wasn’t. That pretty much ends things there. College prepares you for an array of things: the workforce, building relationships and even dealing with disappointment, but it has nothing to do with equipping you for commitment in a romantic or marital relationship. A degree doesn’t turn a man or a woman into someone is ready for the responsibilities that come along with marriage. For a man especially, it puts you on the path, maybe, but there are no guarantees.
You both needed time to grow and explore.
After two to five years of inhaling and exhaling each other you realized you needed a break. Are there other things you like to do? Are there other people you’d like to date or befriend? Have you just been comfortable with that one person for so long that it just seems logical to marry him? At 22-24, you think you’re grown, but you’re really not. There’s still time to become who you really are.
It just wasn’t meant to be.
This one hurts, but sometimes the person you fall in love with in your EARLY 20s isn’t the one you will marry. Other times, he/she is. Sure, tons of people go against that feeling, then comes disaster or *clinks champagne flute* your DIVORCE!
My biggest gripe with Ms Patton isn’t that she suggests we pull from a pool of people who are worthy of us, but that marrying someone is an easy process and quick fix for women’s lives. College campuses are hubs for men of all kinds, but now, we outnumber them there, too. For those who met and married their husbands in college, God bless you. For others, it’s okay. We’re still smart, happy and enough.