I’m graduating in 13 months, which gives me approximately one year to find a husband, according to Susan Patton, author of the recent controversial letter to the editor of The Daily Princetonian that urges women to “find a husband on campus before [they] graduate.”
A cursory glace at Patton’s argument might cause you to laugh — I certainly did — and many major newspapers across the country have featured harsh response columns. Although Patton oversimplifies the process — she makes finding a husband sound like picking out a library book when, in reality, Locust Walk isn’t exactly lined with red-and-blue-clad men kneeling on one knee — perhaps seeking out an “I Met My Spouse at Penn” button isn’t such a bad idea.
Many were offended by or disagreed with Patton’s remark that “it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you,” so the time to find “The One” is now, when we’re surrounded by those intelligent enough to make it to Eric Furda’s shortlist. Of course, you might argue that other traits are more important in a potential spouse, but if surrounding yourself with intellectual, interesting people wasn’t a priority of yours, you wouldn’t have chosen Penn.
Ross Douthat of The New York Times takes umbrage with that argument and attacks Patton as “a traitor to her class” for perpetuating elitism. However, there’s nothing wrong with noting that Princetonians are generally smart — although we all know that Penn kids are smarter. Encouraging women to seek a creme de la creme husband from a school like Princeton is no different than encouraging us to secure jobs at elite companies. Paradoxically, it’s socially acceptable to vie for jobs at top-tier investment banks and consulting firms, yet it’s politically incorrect to seek out a man with an equivalent top-tier educational pedigree.
Others have criticized Patton for being anti-feminist, but I find her argument empowering. What’s anti-feminist about telling a woman to find a man “worthy” of her intelligence? Encouraging women not to settle puts the power in their hands — we’re being told that we’re smart and deserving of husbands who share this positive quality.
Nor is Patton encouraging women to focus solely on their M.R.S. degree and spend their college years husband hunting. Nowhere does she say that finding a suitable spouse should be our top priority or proudest accomplishment. As president of her class at Princeton and a woman with a successful career, I doubt Patton would be in favor of women focusing only on this one aspect of their lives. She’s simply suggesting that an M.R.S. could nicely complement a B.A. or a B.S.
Elitism and anti-feminism aside, Patton is speaking from a statistical reality: You may never again be surrounded by such a high concentration of intelligent individuals as when you’re at an Ivy League school. Nowhere does she imply that other schools have inferior students. We’re just surrounded by brilliant minds right now.
I’ve never tried dating in the post-college “real world,” but conventional wisdom — and horror stories — suggests that it will mostly consist of sorting through dating website profiles of men living in their parents’ basements and meeting dozens of carbon copies of “Mr. Wrong” at bars.
Full disclosure — my parents did meet at a bar, but I’m scared of being the next Ted Mosby from “How I Met Your Mother,” flitting around New York City for nine seasons’ worth of my life and striking out on the dating scene time after time while Lily and Marshall, who fell in love at college, are sitting in the next room wearing their matching college sweatshirts.
Realistically, most of us will not find our spouses at Penn. Patton’s argument would be stronger and more applicable had she acknowledged the seeming impossibility of this task or the fact that most of us simply aren’t ready to tie the knot. I can’t even order a glass of wine at a restaurant yet, let alone fathom picking the person with whom I’ll spend the next 70 or so years.
Nonetheless, colleges like Penn and Princeton pride themselves on selecting the best and brightest people to attend their schools. There’s no harm in at least keeping your eyes peeled on Locust Walk.
Caroline Brand is a College junior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at @CBrand19. “A Brand You Can Trust” appears every other Tuesday.Comments powered by Disqus
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