Advice For Princeton Women: Find a Husband Before You Graduate

Susan Patton, president of Princeton's Class of 1977, offers some retro advice to her successors: Find a husband while you're still in school.

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Susan Patton, president of Princeton’s Class of 1977, offers some retro advice to her successors: Find a husband while you’re still in school.

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.

Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.

Naturally, she’s getting some blowback for an anti-feminist stance. But, frankly, I’d offer the same advice to male students; you’ll never find as deep a pool of bright, unattached women once you leave school.

What I find more noteworthy is the sheer snobbery of her comments:

I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless. Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them. And, you could choose to marry a man who has other things to recommend him besides a soaring intellect. But ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you.

Now, I have nothing against Princeton women per se. I’ve known quite a few and they’re bright enough. But, please, it’s not like Princeton graduates are several standard deviations of brilliance above, say, Bucknell or Northwestern graduates. Or, hell, Clemson graduates.

Still, one has to admire Patton’s command of utility maximization:

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?

If I had daughters, this is what I would be telling them.

I don’t think I’ll be telling mine that.

via Dan Drezner

FILED UNDER: Education, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ben Wolf says:

    Her writing reads like a “time for the aristocracy to come out of the closet” declaration.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Some of this seems a little dated:

    Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated.

    For college men, to whom she is implicitly referring, I thinks it has become far more common for men to marry women of comparable education, and I think the idea of a man marrying someone [gasp!] a few years older is not so sacrosanct. (The biological clock and the sexual revolution might mean that men are not as prone to marry as early as women, however)

  3. CSK says:

    I think Mrs. Patton has just effectively trashed both her sons’ dating life for however long they’re at Princeton.

  4. JKB says:

    @PD Shaw:

    You are mixing “intelligence” and “education”. While those groups do overlap their is not a one to one relationship.

    Intelligence comes in many varieties often undemonstrated on standardized tests. Education is a signaling device used in employment and social standing but only really reveals attendance and successful testing under a specified program of instruction.

    One would wonder why men would still be happy with lesser intellect in a wife, who even today is likely to be the primary influence upon his offspring, at least in the most critical early childhood? Could it be men select for intelligence not demonstrated through formal education but never the less beneficial to their children?

  5. Rob in CT says:

    Well, I can’t call her out. My wife and I met in college (though we married years after we graduated).

  6. OldSouth says:

    As against-the-grain as she may sound, she does have a point to make to both young men and young women.

    Not mentioned in this article, but perhaps in her speech, is the commonality of experience shared by two young people pursuing degrees at the same school during the same years. It creates a common pool of memories, mutual friendships, teachers, events (the year the basketball team made the Sweet 16, for instance). This really does help forge the strong bonds needed for successful marriage.

    I’ve had the joy of such a marriage, but only following the travails of a failed marriage to someone who did not attend the same school–and as it turns out, was really a bit of a dolt. It was, to say the least, not fun, and things ended badly.

    So, don’t diss the lady, or dismiss her. She really does make some good points.

  7. swbarnes2 says:

    @OldSouth:

    Not mentioned in this article, but perhaps in her speech, is the commonality of experience shared by two young people pursuing degrees at the same school during the same years. It creates a common pool of memories, mutual friendships, teachers, events (the year the basketball team made the Sweet 16, for instance). This really does help forge the strong bonds needed for successful marriage.

    A common pool of experiences doesn’t help if the people in question aren’t mature enough to be married. Marriages of people that young don’t have as good a chance as marriages made by people in their late 20’s or older.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    @Rob in CT:” Well, I can’t call her out. My wife and I met in college (though we married years after we graduated)”

    Me, too.

    @JKB:

    Since I didn’t mention intelligence, I couldn’t have been confusing it with education. I do believe that current marital sorting makes it more likely that a college graduate will marry a college graduate.

  9. MBunge says:

    @JKB: “You are mixing “intelligence” and “education”.”

    That has become one of the defining mistakes of the modern era. While it’s very hard to be well educated if you’re stupid, only a moderate level of intelligence is necessary in order to become extremely well educated. Even when folks are very smart, that intellect is often limited to only certain areas. Yet we seem to have developed an overclass of degreed gentry who resemble nothing so much as the landed gentry of the past.

    Mike

  10. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are.

    Gee, I have no idea why a woman with that attitude would have trouble finding a partner.

  11. OldSouth says:

    @swbarnes2:

    That’s a good observation, and should be borne in mind as the decision is made about marriage.

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    But, please, it’s not like Princeton graduates are several standard deviations of brilliance above, say, Bucknell or Northwestern graduates. Or, hell, Clemson graduates.

    Any one individual Princetonian? Not necessarily. But yes, the average group of Princetonians is indeed smarter and more accomplished than the average group of Bucknell, Northwestern or Clemson grads.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    Ooooh….this is gonna be fun watching. I sorta understand, though. I went to a certain engineering school located up the road from Haahvahd and most of my classmates seem to have married other classmates. Am not married as of yet (and may never), but if I ever do, it’s going to be to someone else who thinks that projects like creating a video game to teach Chinese ideographs or a housecleaning robot are really, really cool.

    (The Roomba was invented by someone at MIT. So was Technicolor, it turns out.)

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    I will note this: of the several hundred Ivy League classmates and friends I have, the most successful tend to be those married to other Ivy Leaguers. Merely adding their two average salaries together gives them a boost over most everyone else, not to mention the added network effects, and getting two brains for the price of one.

  15. Lynda says:

    If you link money with happiness, according to this study she would be better off giving this advice to her current sons rather than any hypothetical daughters.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/getting-married-later-is-great-for-college-educated-women/274040/

    Women who marry later make more money per year than women who marry young. The average annual personal income for college-educated women in their mid-30s who married after age 30 is $50,415, compared with $32,263 for college-educated women of the same age who married before age 20–a 56 percent difference.

    Men who marry in their 20s make more money by their mid-30s than men who marry after 30, regardless of education level.

    I doubt that Michelle Obama wishes she had followed Susan Patton’s advice. She met Barack at a law firm after she had finished both Princeton and Harvard law school.

  16. Tyrell says:

    Advice for women: find a rich husband so you will not have to go to Princeton!!

  17. superdestroyer says:

    The article is humorous considering that the average male graduate of Princeton will be older than 30 before they marry. What is amazing is how few children the women who graduate from Princeton will have in their lifetimes. A good example is that Al Gore (Harvard graduate) has four children but only three grandchildren. I would assume that most Princeton graduates face the same demographic situation.

  18. When we went out to eat tonight we overheard (OK eavesdropped on) the couple at the next table, in advanced middle age, on their initial internet date with each other. While college (all colleges, not just Princeton) used to have kind of an exclusive claim on being a place where the numbers stacked up best to meet the one you love, in the world of Match.com it ain’t so anymore.

  19. Franklin says:

    @Rob in CT: Ditto.

    I also find the whole issue of intelligence amusing. I have no idea whether my wife is more or less intelligent than me. I can crush her in anything math-related, yes, but little else. So who wins?