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Susan Patton and the Divorce Class War

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Alamy
Alamy

Like many good feminists, I sat and read Susan Patton's letter to Princeton women about their "shelf life" in finding a husband and how, "From a sheer numbers perspective, the odds will never be as good to be surrounded by all of these extraordinary men." She came from a perspective of hurt -- how, after 27 years of marriage, she's getting a divorce and thinks she would have been better off married to a Princeton graduate versus her ex-husband.

Honestly, I'm kind of thankful I'm supposedly not worthy of marrying one of her sons. However, she did make some interesting points, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't. What I am concerned with is that she set up a "have and have-nots" in a dating sense, a sense of class warfare depending on what school you came from.

As a fellow divorcee, I have to call her out on women needing to find a man in college because that was the only way we would find our equals. Who you are in university is not who you will want to be or even become. After all, in college was where I found my ex.

Our schools were sister schools, about 20 miles apart. Our educations were similar and we met through our college clergyman. We both grew up in suburban towns from similar backgrounds. When we met, we seemed to want the same things out of life and we had good conversations.

But as the years post-college passed, it was pretty clear that our class aspirations had become extremely different. While I was a city girl who was ambitious as hell, he strived to be like his best friend -- living in a rural part of the state, where a bachelor's degree was the equivalent of toilet paper and all there was to do was hunt, fish and drink -- not to mention refer to Obama constantly as a communist. He was happy just to get by.

Striving to be more successful was "elitism," according to him. Meanwhile, I remembered those nights when I was little where my mom was struggling to put dinner together. My father was trying to find work and we were at risk for losing our home. As a young girl, I got a brief taste of poverty, and I wasn't ever going to go back if I could help it. (I did in my divorce, but that's another story.) I sought the good life. I still strive for it.

My ex's ambition for that down-home life was odd to me, because his family was not working class by any means. Typically, people aim to have what we had, if not better. But his desire to live in an apartment building where it was clear our neighbors were drug dealers, or how he was perfectly happy working a low-paying job and only tried for something else because his mother and I begged him to, showed me that our desires were very different. The most interesting part? His new girlfriend, who debuted six weeks after I left, had very minimal education and took pride in calling herself "white trash." Clearly, he had found his match.

I agree with Patton on dating later, though: It has not been easy as a divorcee and woman just entering her 30s. After all, it's harder to find friends, let alone a partner, in a post-college world. However, I have male and female friends who are doctors, lawyers, physicists, business owners, financial professionals and even professors. We have great conversations about everything from pop culture to politics, and intellectually they are at my level. It's not about being an alumnus of the same school; it's finding the right people to associate with. That recognition comes with age and a certain amount of maturity that you don't possess in your early 20s.

I don't think the intellectualism is as much of an issue as ambition and aspirations. Patton set up a class war with her piece: Princeton graduates vs. the rest of the world. In truth, the class war in divorce and marriage isn't in the university you attend. It's in the company you keep and where you want to go in your life. It's not a matter of Princeton vs. not, but the road you take and the partner who goes with you.

I hope Patton will find peace with herself and her life decisions post-divorce. It's a hard road, and I feel her pain. I wish her luck. But divorce, no matter how hard it is, is no excuse to divide others.