Enough has already been said all over the Internet about the letter to the ‘Prince’ editor that Susan A. Patton ’77 wrote imploring us Princeton women to “find a husband on campus before [we] graduate,” because: “the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.”
All I can think about is that scene in My Cousin Vinny, with Marisa Tomei bemoaning to Joe Pesci about her ticking biological clock. Floral jumpsuit and all.
In a reply to NY Mag, Patton said: “I’m astounded by the extreme reaction. Honestly, I just thought this was some good advice from a Jewish mother.”
On the surface, the letter does sound like she just wants someone to date her nice, Jewish son (Class of 2014 goyim like me need not apply), but it’s more than that.
Patton, newly divorced, says she wishes she had married a Princetonian, because her own ex-husband “went to a school of almost no name recognition” and “had no respect for the hoopla, the traditions, the allegiance, the orange and black.” Meanwhile, I still refuse to do the Nazi-fist in “Old Nassau” because holy shit does this ever look normal?
What’s more, Patton’s own experience with her parents while going to Princeton, which she wrote about in a 2006 Princeton Alumni Weekly article, tellingly reveals something about her current stance on marriage. That is:
[Going to Princeton] was upsetting and shameful to my parents.
I would be the first woman in my family to attend college. The necessity of my continued education eluded my mother and father. My leaving their home before marriage was an utter disgrace to them. Princeton was unknown to my parents. They saw no honor in my admission to such a prestigious institution, and they were confident that I should be investing myself in other things. It wouldn’t have mattered where I wanted to go away to school. They were adamant that a young girl’s place is in her parents’ home, until she is in her husband’s home. European immigrants and concentration camp survivors, my parents couldn’t understand why at 18 years old, I didn’t direct my efforts towards finding a mate…
The fact that Patton was an emancipated minor, who had to support herself because her Holocaust-surviving parents so adamantly valued her marriage potential over her education, speaks to the struggles and trauma of being a single educated first-generation immigrant woman back in 1977.
Which is why it’s extremely disappointing to hear that the pioneering Patton would re-enact that shame on her would-be daughters with essentially a (slightly more pro-education, but tragically elitist) version of what her parents prescribed onto her: find a “worthy” mate, get married before it’s too late.
“Because these are the best guys,” Patton says to NY Mag. “You’ll meet wonderful men outside of Princeton, but you’ll never have the numbers in your favor the way you do now.”
Or, as Meredith Shiner said it best: “Michelle Obama really screwed up not marrying a classmate at Princeton.”