An open letter response to Susan Patton’s open letter: I see what you’re saying, but I still don’t need a husband just yet

I’m going to say something that a lot of people may get upset about: Susan Patton, who recently wrote an open letter to The Daily Princetonian telling women to “find a husband on campus before you graduate,” isn’t completely wrong. Gasp!

Bear with me while I hash this out. Upon my first read, I reacted in a similar fashion to many on the Internet. I thought, Lean in? Sure, lean your head gently into your hands, readers, feminism is dead and dying. And then, leaning my own head into my palm, I read Patton’s letter again – a re-reading partly prompted by a particularly eloquent monologue by MSNBC’s S.E. Cupp. “What’s so subversive and retro about finding a suitable partner from a pool of talented, ambitious—and geographically accessible—young co-eds?” Cupp asked. The answer as far as I see it? Nothing.

With all the talk lately of leaning in and leaning out, I kind of want to lean out a window because all of those mindsets presume that you have to do one or another – never both – to have it all. Life is not made up of mutually exclusive subsets of work / personal / miscellaneous. Sure, it’s easier to compartmentalize and prioritize to get through the day, but we need a mix in order to get anywhere. I’m tempted to get into a lengthy analogy about how this is like Washington’s spending versus revenue debate, but I’ve come this far and I don’t want to lose you yet. So onward!

Susan Patton’s right in that I don’t want any more unsolicited career advice. I’m oversaturated with people telling me when to have babies, never to have babies, or to have babies while I’m being banned from working from home. At my core, I know that there are other things that nobody is addressing – and finding a partner is one of them. Which is interesting and somewhat ironic considering all politicos seem to talk about these days is who can tell us whom we can – and cannot – marry.

I’m on board when Patton writes that “smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal.” I grew up in a household where my parents were equals – in terms of intellect, ambition, and their love for each other. And stemming from that environment, I cannot express the frustration I feel when I interact with – let alone date – people who come off as dumb, uninformed, or lacking common sense. Patton does concede that smart men don’t just exist in a college setting – “once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal –just not that many of them.” Also true, and most anyone trying to figure out dating in a post-grad world will tell you that.

But to tell girls, ages 18 to 22, that they should find their husbands in college – and early in college – leaves out all of the growth and soul-searching that comes with being a “brilliant, resourceful, well-educated” college woman. Patton writes:

“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?”

Should I take this advice to mean that I should have clung to my sophomore year boyfriend simply out of fear that come senior year I’d be too washed up for any boy to consider me a valuable partner? Not to go all Girls over here, but college is a time for finding ourselves as much as Patton views it as a time for finding our husbands. To tell me that I should be nicer to boys who were probably jerks freshman year in anticipation of SWUGdom feels like I’m being told that by the time I’m 22 and graduating, I’m basically an Old Maid, a dusty toy on the dating shelf.

Call me crazy, but I’m going to prioritize finding Me before I go searching for anyone else. And whenever I get around to it, my fantastic, intelligent, awesome husband will be happy to have me.


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  • Reply April 6, 2013


    i think u missed Patton’s point.

    Princeton girls are “high end” material (both a blessing and a curse) and very few men dares to date them. A high concentration of these men are in Ivy League schools.

    After you graduate, the average man you meet at work is ~40yrs old, most of them are married, divorced or taken.

    Patton did not say you must marry no matter the cost. What she did say is that your odds are as good as it will ever get while you are still in college.

  • Reply April 8, 2013


    I find QQ’s comment and Patton’s letter rather presumptuous; yes, a Princeton degree is impressive, but you Princetonians aren’t the only “‘high end’ material” out there.

    I applaud Patton’s advice to find your intellectual equal, but writing off someone because they don’t share the same alma mater as you reeks of elitism.

    The most intelligent–and interesting–men I know didn’t attend an ivy league. Yes, I know several ivy leaguers who are smart and enjoyable, but I’ve also met many more who can’t hold a conversation because all they can talk about is xyz school.

    As some “high end” material myself, I suggest you Princeton ladies look beyond labels; there’s a whole lot more out there than classmates and colleagues.

    Tulane ’12

  • [...] in unattached relationships because, well, that’s their prerogative. And it also sticks it to the whole idea asserted by Susan Patton back in April. I still kind of love sticking it to Susan [...]