Last weekend, I went to visit my Grandma for the Easter holiday. In those two days together, Grandma dispensed everything from baked goods to old photos to sage advice.
"Whatever you do, dear," she trilled, while patting my arm and placing a mound of apple pie in front of me, "just don't get married yet. It's not like it was. You're so young. There's no rush. Take your time."
Ironically, this particular nugget of grandmotherly advice came on the heels of Princeton alumna Susan Patton urging Princeton students to "find a husband on campus before you graduate," noting:
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... you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.
Patton has since been charged with varying titles, ranging from "backwards," to "WASP" to "1950s-era housewife." And while the hoards of progressives -- and my 89-year-old grandmother -- might be jumping at the bit to discourage her advice, I initially agreed with her... in theory.
We read a seemingly endless stream of sad editorials insisting that as women outpace men in higher education and gain more territory in the workplace, women are having trouble finding equally successful partners. In her article, "Where Have All the Good Men Gone?," Kay Hymowitz shrewdly notes that this era is one in which men are living in a prolonged adolescence that knows no responsibility or consequence, while women are excelling.
"[F]or these women," writes Hymowitz, "one key question won't go away: Where have the good men gone? Their male peers often come across as aging frat boys, maladroit geeks or grubby slackers."
Hymowitz is right. Women now surpass men in college degrees by almost three-to-two. Consequently, there are more college-educated women in the workforce than men and young 20-something women out-earn their male peers. To quote famed feminist Gloria Steinem, "women are becoming the men they want to marry."
Presumably, however, in top-tier universities like Princeton, women are surrounded by the kinds of men they would want to marry. These men, like their female classmates, are handpicked by a group of highly-selective administrators for their brains, brawn or bank accounts -- sometimes a combination of all three. Theoretically, these young men and women are la crème de la crème, intimately interacting with one another on picturesque campuses for four years.
But whether or not I theoretically agree with Patton is moot because, if the status quo persists, these Princetonians are never going to marry one another in droves, simply because they're never going to date one another.
In a recent survey, Donna Freitas, author of The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, found that, "In today's college culture, it seems that taking a break from carefree sex, or even embracing dating, are a lot like having premarital sex in the 1960s." Put simply: Few people seriously date in college. Casual sex is the new norm. And, no matter how you slice it, casual sex is -- by and large -- not going to make you a prime candidate for marriage.
I went to a top-tier university where, for four years, I was truly surrounded by some of the world's best and brightest young men and women. And yet, it never occurred to me in any serious capacity that the men with whom I shared a lecture hall could also be husband material (...yikes. Even as I type, the notion of surveying a lecture hall for a husband is seriously irksome).
First of all, I -- like many college kids -- was simply not conditioned to even think about coupling beyond my next formal date. Secondly, these men may very well have been la crème de la crème, but they were also the guys who, on a Friday night, were more likely to be seen drunkenly stumbling around a frat basement or sloppily sucking face with some girl in a bar.
The same is true of women: Myself and my female peers might have been intelligent, engaging, and vibrant students bound for success, but all of that went out the window when seen at 9 o'clock on Sunday morning, walk-of-shaming home from the frat house.
Patton is mistaken in her assumption that the only reason women are delaying marriage is because they have prioritized "professional advancement [and] breaking through that glass ceiling" above finding a husband. This assessment presumes that women are in total control; that, should a young woman decide to value finding a good husband as much as finding a good job, she will find both, no problem. What a convenient narrative. Unfortunately, ladies, it's simply not true. After all, what guy wants to marry some girl who has slept with half of their friends by the end of sophomore year?
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