Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Laughter, pleasure, malice, and the pursuit of adult fun

Will Princeton Replace Match.Com and eHarmony?

It’s not a dating jungle out there, Mrs. Susan Patton. It’s a university.

Has Princeton lost its New Jersey mind? Is Snooki going to write the next letter addressing the deepest needs and ambitions of the women in Princeton classes 2012 through 2016? Or will it be JWoww?

Either would be better—more effective, more realistic, and more intelligent—than Susan A. Patton.

Suggesting that Princeton compete with Match.Com, JDate, and Christian Mingle as a service to provide husbands for girls in a hurry (and every girl should be in a hurry, according to Patton), she illustrates perfectly the maxim that you can be dumb and even if you earn a diploma. 

For those of you have been out of town, here's the story: Princeton alum, Susan A. Patton ’77 offered some remarkably specific advice to the female undergraduate population at her alma mater. Published in The Daily Princetonian and titled “Advice for the Young Women of Princeton: The Daughters I Never Had” Patton, a self-proclaimed “executive coach” felt a deep need to offer the following executive career advice to the young women she met during a “Women and Leadership” conference: “Find a husband on campus before you graduate.”

Yes, this is the advice given by a woman who was once the President of the Princeton Class of 1977. And her advice is directed to the female—and only the female—students on today’s campus. This is what Princeton women are hearing in response to an alumnae who, presumably, was invited to attend the leadership conference. I'd like to think she broke through the gates to get in or climbed in through an open window, but I doubt it.

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Patton argues that her admonition to marry early is directed towards girls only because “It's amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman's lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty."

The implication, of course, is “Honey, with your IQ we all know you ain’t exceptionally pretty. If you were pretty, you wouldn’t have had to go to college. You would have been married by 16, just like the cute girls on ‘Teen Mom.’ You only studied for your SATS because you couldn’t get a date in high school. This is your last shot.”  

You think I’m exaggerating? Patton’s argument says that girls have to start baiting their Tiger traps for husbands the minute their clawed feet hit Ivy League soil: “As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from.”

When I was first sent a link to the piece, I thought it was an April Fool’s gag. “What a riot,” I thought “’The Onion’ really got it this time.” I was about to send it around to my pals. But then I realized Patton’s “open letter” was published on the 29th of March and had, in fact, received so many hits when it went live that it crashed the university website.

Patton wasn't joking. She was for real and she meant what she said: she repeated in interviews with the NY Times (I'm just being a Jewish mother!") and clarified her point further in an interview with CNN’s “Money” when she declared that girls should face the fact that they have a “shelf life.”  [princeton-mom-women]

Why did Patton feel a need to write this letter? During the Women and Leadership conference on campus, apparently “You girls” were not impressed by her credentials as executive coach. Their attention “glazed over at preliminary comments about our professional accomplishments.”

Patton draws the only possible conclusion: “Clearly, you don't want any more career advice.” How about drawing the conclusion that they were not impressed by her professional accomplishment? That would seem to be conclusion number one.

But Patton sees the truth underlying their glazed and obvious lack of interest in her career choices: “At your core, you know that there are other things that you need that nobody is addressing… Finding the right man to marry…”

Yeah, right. That was what the Princeton women were hoping to learn about at a leadership conference. If I were a Princeton parent paying full-boat, I’d ask for a reimbursement of my child’s student-activities fees.

I’m one of the keynote speakers at a women’s leadership conference being held at Dartmouth College this weekend where alumnae—I’m a ’79—will be talking with the young women on campus. On the panels will be several MacArthur Fellows, CEOs, CFOs, artists, comics, doctors, writers, filmmakers, professors, and attorneys.

I suspect we won’t be urging The Women of Dartmouth to start laying marriage traps as soon as they get to Hanover. We’ll respect them too much to treat them as voracious man-eaters, and, for that matter, respect the young men too much to treat them as too dumb to realize they are nothing but prey.

It’s not a dating jungle out there. It’s a college. 

Gina Barreca, Ph.D., is Professor of English at UConn, and author of It's Not That I'm Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.

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