Saturday, March 30, 2013

Brochure for the Princeton M.R.S. Program

I am still having trouble creating a hierarchy of problems with the Princeton alumna and mother's letter to the Daily Princetonian advising the undergraduate women students of her alma mater that they really need to get married before they graduate because everyone knows that a woman has to marry a man who is older and smarter than she is or else she won't be happy, and she'll never find so many possible candidates all in one spot again as she will when she is a freshman at Princeton.

Really. I'm not kidding. Take a minute and read the letter. The link's just up there. I'll be here when you get back.

(Tapping fingers. Twiddling thumbs. Counting to thirty.)

Now that you've read it, would you like to sit down for a moment? Are you shocked? Sputtering?

I am at such a loss for anything critical, valuable or thoughtful to say — I just don't even know where to start! — that perhaps this means I'm dumb enough to still be marriageable at the age of PhD and almost-30 I'm just going to offer a roundup of links to some of the commentaries that have run elsewhere on the web:

Princeton Mom to Female Students: Find a Husband

Some Poor Kid's Mom Wrote a Letter... Begging Girls to Date Her Son

Mother Scolds Princeton Women for Not Marrying Her Sons

And letter-writer Susan Patton's attempt to dig herself out of the hole by digging deeper:

Princeton Mom Wishes She Married a Princeton Man

Actually, it's not that I can't think of what to say (although as I said, the question of Where to begin, even? poses a challenge); it's that there is nothing contained in this letter that actually merits a serious response. It's so transparent and so stupid and so tone-deaf. Yet I'm offended as the alumna of a peer institution, and I'm troubled as someone who teaches men and women in the target age demographic who have a whole range of personal and professional aspirations. I'm a big proponent of showing people up by the simple act of living well, so I shall spill no more ink on the matter, get back to my exciting and over-brainy existence and just back slowly away from this bizarre wormhole to 1950 before it sucks in any more feminism. Turns out we don't actually have that much to spare.


  1. And here, in Ms. Patton's rebuttal, may lie the kernel of the problem: But she does wish she'd married a Princetonian. "Yes! Yes. Yes, I wish I married someone who went to Princeton," she replied when I asked. "That way I could have embraced Princeton for the thirty years that I stayed away from it because my ex-husband had no respect for the hoopla, the traditions, the allegiance, the orange and black ... It wasn't until both of our sons became Princetonians, and my marriage ended, that I was able to again embrace the university, and I did so with both arms."
    Some fundamental differences in what she and he value and an inability to embrace what the other values.

  2. Bizarre. What happened to the notion that people in college are really still too young to get married? In the mid-eighties, a lot of my classmates at a "Public Ivy" were sprouting engagement rings, but I could not work out who they were marrying---I didn't know any boys who were up for that, except one very nerdy computer scientist who had skipped college entirely and was looking for a capital-W wife. I would have wanted someone who would follow me to grad school and then to a job, and it really seemed we were all in pretty much the same situation, and getting the same advice that there was plenty of time.