Wow, this is a tough one. Suddenly the blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook et al have got their panties in a bunch over comments made by Susan Patton, a Princeton alumna.
She thinks women should be looking for a husband at Princeton right from the get go, their freshman year in fact. At the tender age of 18. "These are the best guys out there," she says.
Before I begin, there are two things you should know about me. I didn't get married until I was 35. And I am the mother of two college age daughters and have strongly advised them against marrying young. Marriage is a marathon and there's absolutely no need to jump out of the gate too soon. You need to pace yourself. Get some trial runs in. Build up to the commitment, because that's what a marathon (and marriage) is. A commitment. As a character in The Reverse Commute says, "I'm only 25 and I don't know if I believe in happily ever after. I'm very happy the way things are right now and I just don't know if I want things to change. If I get married at 25 that's a lot of ever after ahead of us. Real life begins awfully early."
I married for love and I married for fun. There was no consideration of where did this guy go to school? What did he major in? Art or engineering? What are his ambitions? I considered these factors: He's fun to travel with, he likes live music, he's a great cook, we can talk for hours and he has a great sense of humor. Twenty two years later we're still married. But......Like I said, this is a tough one. One more thing, he paints houses for a living. Make of that what you will.
Everyone's acting like they've never heard this advice before. Please! Hello?? Again, in The Reverse Commute, two women are discussing relationships. One of them is stuck in a loveless relationship with her college boyfriend, afraid she may marry him by default. He is a successful banker who started his climb up the corporate ladder the day after college graduation, diploma still in hand. She laughs at her friend's mother's two pieces of advice: "Marry a man who likes to work" and "It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich boy as a poor one."
Don't act like you haven't heard it before. Don't act like you're not one of the ones who took this advice. There's nothing wrong with it. Apparently, for some women, it is just as easy to fall in love with a rich boy as a poor one. And I'm not saying that sarcastically. I knew a girl when I was in my twenties who had graduated from high school and was spending the summer before she left for an Ivy League college working at a local department store that no longer exists. A really handsome, sweet guy who worked at the food counter selling hot dogs and popcorn had a crush on her. He asked her out several times but she kept turning him down. I happened to be in the store one night and saw him. I wished he'd asked me out. He was adorable. I asked why she couldn't just date him for the summer. It'd be fun, a good old fashioned summer romance. She said, "But I know he's really nice and I might fall in love with him. But I also know four years from now he'll still be selling hot dogs and popcorn and that's not what I want." Are you shocked? Never heard this story before? Am I being as treasonous as Susan Patton? This girl is now married to a very successful man from a very well-off family and she is very happy. She knew what she wanted and don't kid yourself, a lot of women want that. Call it security. Call it not wanting a lack of ambition. Whatever you want to call it, some women want to fall in love after certain criteria have been met. They are following another old piece of advice: don't put the cart before the horse. Check his resume first.
In The Reverse Commute, a group of women meet for a Wine Emergency and discuss this very topic. They touch upon some other issues that seem to be blowing up on the internet these days. They talk about the hardships of working and raising children a la Ann-Marie Slaughter and her piece for the Atlantic regarding the fact women can't have it all. They jokingly say "Go to college, get your M.R.S. and marry well." These women aren't Ivy League graduates. They aren't stay-at-home moms. They are women working in middle level jobs, struggling to pay bills and provide health insurance for their families while raising kids. They would laugh about the broohaha that Susan Patton has stirred up. This is a "first world problem" as one of my friends would say. One that women with lots of choices have time to fret about. "Should I leave my job with Hillary Clinton and go back to that job at Princeton with the good salary, flexible hours and great pay with benefits? Gee, I don't know. Let me think about this. It doesn't seem fair." As Sophie's friend Linda says, "Life isn't fair Sophie. Who ever told you it was?"
So what does Sophie do? Does she regret marrying for love without a plan for the future? If she had it do over again, what would she do? You're just going to have to read the book to get the answers. Check out my new cover and buy a copy today for $5.99. Yes, I am shamelessly hawking my book. This weekend it just felt so topical. Besides, I have bills to pay and I didn't marry a Princeton man.