Fear not, Ivy League women. Your prospects for a happy marriage don’t end the moment you graduate — despite what a 1977 Princeton alumna named Susan A. Patton suggests in a letter to The Daily Princetonian. Patton urges current female students to marry men they meet in college, because they’ll never again find such a smart and willing pool of suitors. Her missive drew so much traffic that it crashed the Princetonian website.
That’s because the letter combines age-old stereotypes about insular Ivy League snobbery with age-old fears about the dating prospects of successful women. (It declares that smart men could marry anyone, while smart women have “priced themselves out of the market.”) Sadly, it also makes the common — mistaken — assumption that the college you attend will determine the course of your life.
Patton has a point, in a statistical sense, about the dating odds on any college campus: Yes, you’ll find a larger-than-usual pool of single people who are your age and have enough free time to make new connections. On the other hand, those people are mostly 18- to 21-year-olds, who aren’t necessarily ready for lifelong commitments.
The women in Patton’s target audience surely know this already. And while Patton has said she’s only giving “Jewish mother” wisdom to help young women make good choices, one could also say she’s just getting a rise out of people while pretending to offer friendly advice. It’s easy to get attention by playing to the anxieties that many educated, career-oriented people harbor — about failing to have it all, about not pushing the kids as hard as a “tiger mom” would, about squandering their best chance for love. Anyone who really wants to help will stop second-guessing other people’s life choices and avoid glib advice that only turns up the pressure.