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It’s Time To Lay Off That Princeton Mom, Here’s Why

April 4, 2013
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I can’t believe I just typed those words, and now I can’t believe I’m going to defend them…

In case you missed it: Princeton Mom Susan A. Patton (one of the “200 pioneer women” to graduate from the Ivy League school) wrote a piece for The Daily Princetonian imploring its female undergrads to find a husband in college. Patton’s message was crystal clear: “Forget about having it all, or not having it all, leaning in or leaning out … Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.” Then, naturally, the Internet went wild. Here’s NY Mag on the issue, and The Washington Post, and my favorite from a Yale mom over at Big Think (because no self-respecting Ivy League mom is going to let Princeton get all the attention).

Susan’s main points:

  • happy marriages are between intellectual equals
  • the highest concentration of intellectual equals that you’ll find is on your college campus, especially if it happens to be Princeton
  • it’s really hard to meet people after college
  • you should probably lock a guy down when you’re a freshman because “Here is another truth that you know, but nobody is talking about. As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, 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. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?” (Ed note: that’s my favorite part of the whole piece, obvs). 

I guess her other main point is that women should be married shortly after college, but 75% of women over 50 think that, so there’s no shock there.

Why in the world would I defend this woman whose article flies in the face of feminism, love, and marriage? Why would I support this blatant example of elitism at its worse?

Because she’s not wrong.  She’s short-sighted, narrow-minded, and incredibly opinionated, but she’s not wrong.

If you are the type of person who wants to marry an intellectual equal, if you will only be happy married shortly after graduation, and if you suspect you will define the success or failure of your life by your ability to find a mate, you should follow her advice.

Now – read through until the end before you freak out about this next statement:

I remember thinking this exact same thing when I was in college. Granted it wasn’t from the vantage point of wanting a man worthy of my Ivy League brain, but it wasn’t all that different. My thought process:

  • I picked this school because I felt a sense of community among the students – we are like-minded and have like goals and values.
  • I’d like to spend my life with someone who has like goals and values.
  • It would be nice to start that relationship journey with someone while we are both growing and changing through the college experience. 
  • Ergo: it would be great to meet a future partner at this college…

Now – here’s where my deal differs from Susan’s. I wasn’t like, “A Boston College man is the only man worthy of me, and life will be miserable with anyone lesser…if I can even find someone lesser when I’m an old, 25-year-old maid.” I didn’t date in college, I barely dated after college, and I somehow found a man with like values (who is blessedly way smarter than me). 

But girls like Susan (and trust me, they’re out there) should take Susan’s advice. There are intellectuals everywhere, and at every school, but there is no greater concentration in close proximity to you than when you are in college. Unless, I guess, you end up teaching at a college? But even then there aren’t nearly as many eligible colleagues as there were eligible co-eds.

So, let’s all calm down. An elitist woman has elitist views on marriage. Maybe her advice will help all those like-minded intellectuals find each other so the rest of the world can avoid running into them at bars slash on That would be a huge plus.

In the meantime, we have way bigger dating fish to fry than this ridiculousness.   

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