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Modern Parenthood

To Princeton alum, It's not about finding an equal, but who can complete the sum

Princeton alum Susan Patton's letter printed in the Daily Princetonian advised her alma mater's women to waste no time and find a man to marry at Princeton because, outside of the distinguished university's walls, she'll find an undistinguished breed. Oh, baloney.

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / April 5, 2013

Princeton University (pictured) alum Susan Patton's letter advising the school's women to find a man before graduation upset what seemed like the entire Internet. And for good reason. That isn't what love's about.

Courtesy of Princeton University


When Princeton alum Susan Patton penned a letter to her alma mater's female students urging them to find a husband in college, she cancelled our appointment with the Love Doctor and scheduled one instead with the Inclination PhD. Aside from leaving many people feeling frustrated, she did get me to remind my sons that higher education isn’t a place to shop for a mate and love can’t be distilled into a formula of marriage-mind + Megamind = Pi in the sky happy ending.  

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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“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,” Ms. Patton, the divorced mother of two sons, wrote in a letter specifically aimed at Princeton’s female students. “Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate.”

Trying my best to find something in her letter that will not make me want to fling crockery, I can say I like that Patton is empowering young women to value their intellect over their body image. It’s also good to tell a child of either sex to place value on intellectual connection above more transient, physical attractions.

After that I have to shake my head and walk away because Patton didn’t just twang the love and marriage chords, she set up an elitist paradigm that is at war with everything we believe about love and marriage.

It strikes down Disney princess and geekette alike.

The Disney version has a girl of humble but pretty origins marrying the man who owns the university, while the geekette script has the captain of the football team falling for the nerdy, unfashionable, smart girl. Both of these are Kizmet-based with nary a mention of anyone’s Mensa status.

In her letter, Patton references attending an event and how the “girls” of Princeton at the event took on “glazed looks” while they listened to academic issues discussed but changed dramatically into attentiveness when dishing about how to find the right mate. While this immediately explodes the perception of what an intellectual Princetonian woman might do, I am willing to roll with it.

To get intellectual on this issue I can say that college (at least undergraduate level) the statistics show marriage is happening post-graduation no matter where you meet your mate. According to the Census bureau in a 2013 online posting,the median age at first marriage in 2012 was 28.6 years for men and 26.6 years for women.   

Before the princesses and geekettes become collateral damage, however, Patton’s letter lays waste to the love lives and apparently future happiness of any non-Ivy Leaguer while simultaneously bashing them as “unworthy.”


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