Why Susan Patton is Wrong

by Samantha Plotner

Honey, I’m sorry, it just isn’t 1955 anymore.

There is a lot to be said about Susan Patton’s letter in The Daily Princetonian that’s lit up the Internet. I’m not going to get into the elitism or that saying what every woman wants is marriage is a grossly hetro-normative. Instead, I’m going to focus on her main point: that once you graduate college you will never find a man “worthy of you.” That, as an educated woman, you can only have a successful relationship with someone whose “education level” is the same or higher than yours not only in degree(s) attained but prestige of the institutions involved. And that if you don’t, you’ll be miserable and alone forever.

Yes, there are certainly some guys out there who would feel threatened by smarter or more-educated woman. But to paraphrase one of the smartest guys I know, guys who measure their self-worth by being more successful than their partners need to get over themselves. (Besides, why would you want to be with someone you considered small-minded anyway?). Most importantly, there is so much more to a relationship than education or intelligence. The combination of factors from sense of humor to physical attraction is what makes two individuals right for each other—not their college’s ranking in US News. The prescription to marry someone who is your intellectual equal cannot possibly cover it. To quote Juno, the man worthy of you will “think the sun shines out your ass.” Where his degree is from means next to nothing about his worthiness. If a fancy degree is such a huge deal to you, then maybe you are the one that needs to go learn something.

“Pursue your dreams in any form, on your own timeline. Don’t let a woman who evidently thinks it’s still 1955 tell you when you need to fulfill them.”

In a follow up letter, Patton says her advice is intended for any young woman whose life-plan “includes bearing children in a traditional marriage.” This is because “if after graduating, you spend the next ten to fifteen years invested only in professional development, you will find yourself in your thirties and may have nothing but your career, limited marriage prospects, and a loudly ticking biological clock.”

Has Patton ever heard of IVF/adoption/anything in the vast field of fertility medicine? And today, a first-time mother in her thirties is so common, it’s not even worth mentioning. Not to mention we are a generation that is wonderful at multi-tasking. We can find love while pursuing our careers; the two are in no way mutually exclusive. In that letter Patton says, “don’t be afraid to want what you want.” Despite its context, I think that’s solid life advice. No woman should be shamed for making the life choices that will make her happy. But that is exactly what Patton is doing—shaming woman for wanting what we want, especially if that something is “untraditional.” Maybe by happy accident you’ll find the person (male or female) you’ll marry in college. Maybe you already know you want kids someday. But contrary to what Susan Patton says, you have time. You don’t need to be married and pregnant before you hit 30. Pursue your dreams in any form, on your own timeline. Don’t let a woman who evidently thinks it’s still 1955 tell you when you need to fulfill them.

Samantha is a senior at Barnard and Senior Editor of The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of NY Daily News.


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