"Lean In." Xerox Corp. CEO Ursula Burns jokes that the trick is to "marry someone 20 years older." But executive coach and Princeton University grad Susan A. Patton offered up some "have it all" advice last week that has left many women baffled: Find a husband before you finish college.Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says the key is to
"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," Patton, who earned a degree in art and archaeology from Princeton in 1977, wrote in a letter published in The Princetonian. "Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate."
"I sincerely feel that too much focus has been placed on encouraging young women only to achieve professionally," Patton wrote in the Huffington Post, in defense of her original letter. "I understand that this can be seen as retrogressive, but for those women who aspire to what used to be thought of as a traditional life with home and family, there is almost no ink addressing personal fulfillment outside of the workplace."
She writes "My letter was serious," and we believe her (and we'd like to introduce her to the internet, where there is a plethora of information on having a fulfilling "traditional" life). But we can't help but wonder: Why isn't Patton pushing marriage on college men?
Patton goes on to say that female students at Princeton have "priced ourselves out of the market" by being too smart for regular guys. "Smart women can't (shouldn't) marry men who aren't at least their intellectual equal," she writes in The Princetonian. "Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are."
But when it comes to the guys, she's quick to accept that intellectualism isn't something they require in a wife. While one of her sons "had the good judgement and great fortune" to marry a fellow Princetonian (or is it the other way around?), her younger son, a junior at Princeton, is still single -- and that's OK. "The universe of women he can marry is limitless," she gloats. Which apparently means that he can afford to wait.
There's nothing wrong with aspiring to early parenthood or getting married young (devoutly Christian colleges routinely encourage men and women to do both). But that's not what Patton is advocating in her article. Her point is that a a smart woman's worth declines as she ages--and the onus to marry before you're worthless is entirely on the girls.
"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," she writes. "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?"
Princeton is an amazing school, but it's hardly the only amazing school out there. For upwardly mobile wanna-be wives, it's worth noting that Princeton doesn't have business, law, or medical schools, so the chances of landing a lawyer, doctor, or captain of industry are slim. Still, the elite university is such an integral part of Patton's identity that she seems to blame the end of her 27-year marriage on her ex-husband's lack of an Ivy League education.
In an interview with New York magazine, she says that her former husband "went to a school of almost no name recognition. A school that nobody has respect for, including him, really."
"I wish I married someone who went to Princeton," she continues. "That way I could have embraced Princeton for the thirty years that I stayed away from it because my ex-husband had no respect for the hoopla, the traditions, the allegiance, the orange and black."
Maybe that's what she's really trying to warn young women about: If you're going to derive your self-worth from your spouse, pick a spouse that you admire, one you think is better than you are. "Ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you," she advises female readers of The Princetonian, ignoring the fact that she says men do so all the time. "If I had daughters, this is what I would be telling them."
One has to wonder why she's not telling her sons the same thing.
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