Move over, Ted Cruz. When it comes to living proof that an Ivy League education does not prevent a person from being an ego-fueled blowhard with out-of-touch ideas that endanger society, you are no longer the poster child du jour.
Meet Susan Patton. She's the Princeton "educated" empty nester who's offering young women a one-way ticket back to Austen -- and no, that's not this non-Ivy Leaguer's misspelling of the progressive Central Texas city that I call home. I'm talking about a provincial place where attitudes echoing those in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice still rule the day -- only with far less charm and eloquence.
Patton is on the interview circuit to promote her new book, Marry Smart, which is a follow-up act to her open letter to the Daily Princetonian last March. This book provides definitive proof that (1) when it comes to insulting women, Patton is no one trick pony, and (2) it apparently is not nearly as hard as everyone says it is to get a book deal these days.
Patton seems to believe that the biggest threat facing young women today is that they'll be bamboozled into believing that it's OK to prioritize things like their education, career and being comfortable in their own skin. Patton's apparent dissatisfaction with her own personal life has made her conclude that true happiness comes from getting traditionally married early in life to a man with the right pedigree. Sure, young women who don't heed her advice to focus like a laser beam on getting their "Mrs. Degrees" in college may find themselves educated, well adjusted and perfectly able to take care of themselves. But with an inferior husband, or worse yet, no man at all, they'll be complete failures and their lives will be forever ruined.
But at some level, I can't argue with Patton. It is obvious that she got some scrambled messages somewhere along the road of life. And her story gives testimony to how cycles tend to repeat themselves, sentencing future generations to struggle with the exact same issues that plagued earlier ones. Clearly, Patton herself has become part of the problem. And since there's no saving her, I'll instead try to break the cycle by debunking her message.
The problem isn't that the feminist agenda has created a conspiracy of silence on college campuses, which results in no one telling young women that they should prioritize finding a husband before graduating; the problem remains that from the time they're tiny, girls are conditioned to think that getting married is a must. From Barbie bride dolls, to First Holy Communion ceremonies, to so-called purity rings, to quinceaneras, girls get constant reminders throughout childhood that they should be planning and practicing for the big day. But the truth is marriage isn't for everyone and we owe it to girls to stop telling them that it is.
Patton has said, "we marry for a lot of reasons." That's true -- and most of them are terrible ones. People marry because they want to have a fancy wedding, or they find themselves in a relationship with a good enough guy and feel like getting married is the logical next step, or they feel like they need to keep on schedule when it comes to ticking off important life milestones, or they want to have kids and they're worried that they're not getting any younger, or they feel like getting married is a necessary step on the road to adulthood.
As far as I'm concerned, the only good reason to get married is that you are so in love with someone that you cannot imagine living the rest of your life without him. And even though that's a good reason, it still might not be enough. There could be other considerations that, nonetheless, tip the scales against it -- like having irreconcilably different views on how to raise kids or even whether to have kids at all.
Telling young women that they should choose a husband while in college simply because you can't swing a backpack there without hitting a guy is like wanting babies to pick a car when they're infants simply because at no other time in their lives will so many people hand them car keys to play with. As the divorce rate indicates, it's not easy to pick the right partner for life. It's not just a question of availability, it's a matter of having the maturity, experience, intuition, and self-awareness to choose wisely. Research now shows that the human brain isn't fully developed until one's mid twenties. Can we really expect people to make a good decision on a matter this important when their brains are not even done growing yet?
Women who follow Patton's advice may well find themselves with a husband and kids at an earlier age than their peers, but then what? Getting married young doesn't exactly increase the chances that a marriage will stand the test of time. And if the marriage ends up being one of the 50% that ends in divorce, how exactly has Patton's brilliant advice helped? Women who do not follow Patton's advice, on the other hand, may well dodge their starter marriage and first divorce altogether. Plus, if and when they do marry and that marriage doesn't work out, they are more likely to have an established career to help them regroup and move forward.
So, listen up young ladies on college campuses everywhere. I trust you don't need me to tell you that Patton's "advice" is crazy. But on the off chance you're punchy from staying up all night, working on a paper or cramming for an exam and you're having a hard time tuning her out, just remember the following:
1. You have intrinsic value. And your value has nothing to do with whether or not you catch or hang onto a man. Focus on being the kind of person that you want to be rather than trying to contort yourself into being something that you think someone else wants you to be.
2. You are not a commodity. Patton's suggestion that you should consider having plastic surgery in high school in order to maximize your chances of being "as socially successful in college as possible" just might be the stupidest thing I've heard anyone say in the last ten years --and that includes all the crazy stuff that has come out of Sarah Palin's mouth. Your job is not to package and market yourself so as to attract a "suitable" husband. Your job is to create a rich and rewarding life for yourself.
3. College is not a four-year long season of The Bachelor. You are not competing against other young women for that coveted rose. The main person you should focus on pleasing is the person who looks back at you in the bathroom mirror when you're brushing your teeth.
4. You can do math (even if Patton can't). Realize that for every graduating class, there's a new incoming one. That means that Patton's assertion that there are 25 percent fewer men to choose from each year you spend in college is not just kooky, it's flat out wrong. Plus, things like email, text messaging, cell phones and social media make it easier than ever to stay connected. As a result, people maintain friendships even after college graduation! Given that her worldview seems to have been formed in the early 19th century, Patton may not realize any of this, but you do.
5. Patton's weird rules don't apply to you. There's no rule that limits you to dating guys your exact age or older, nor is it true that guys will only date women who are younger. (But if this is true, please don't tell my longtime boyfriend Clint -- he is way more than four years younger than me.)
6. You have options. If at any point you find yourself single and worried about having children, know that it is possible to become a parent (either the old fashioned way or through other avenues) without getting married! What matters is your commitment to raising your child and your ability to support your family, not your marital status.
No one can see the future -- especially not someone as backwards-thinking as Susan Patton. So, live a full life, be the best you and things will work out the way they're supposed to. Now, go hit the books.