“Clearly, you don’t want any more career advice. At your core, you know that there are other things that you need that nobody is addressing. A lifelong friend is one of them. Finding the right man to marry is another.”
In late March, Princeton alumnus and mother of two Princetonians, Susan Patton wrote a little memo to the “daughters [she] never had” and sparked a conversation about marriage. There was a lot of disgruntling around the Duke campus when the article first came out. But, to be perfectly honest, Patton’s words didn’t really ruffle any of my feminist feathers. With Patton’s choice of words, I can see how women and men jumped out of their seats at her unwarranted “Stepford Wives-like” advice. Essentially, there are two ideas encapsulated within this letter and when it attracted national attention, only one was circulated and talked about. Here, in my blog, I want to talk about the other. So, one idea that Patton projects is that educated women should marry educated men. It’s an idea that I’ve definitely heard from my grandmother and mother. Of course, my grandmother would package her desire for me to marry an educated male with her desire for me to prance around in lovely little dresses and to walk more ladylike without constant reminders (in case anyone needs a refresher: you have to make sure your feet are parallel and walk so that your thighs are constantly touching each other).
Here’s the other idea that didn’t quite make it to the table: Patton raises the need to talk more smartly about marriage. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be married and have children. Young bright women may not start to vocalize their need to get married until later in their lives. There is no “prime time” to get married or a “one age fits all” for marriage, but there is absolutely nothing wrong for women to start looking early on. What irks me shitless is when I begin to talk about wanting to get married and receive perplexed looks. “I thought you were a feminist?” one girl or guy would say as if the two were mutually exclusive. It’s ridiculous that bright, successful women can only start to think about marriage after they reach success. In many ways, I think that marriage and professional success go hand-in-hand. Am I saying that Princetonians should marry each other while Dukies only frolic with other Dukies? Of course not. That’s not the point. It takes time to realize what you desire and need in the perfect partner. It’s a tough, sticky, hard decision that needs to be addressed with much care—as much care as we put in our school work and careers. Some women may not need this time to find the perfect one, but for the rest of us who aren’t as lucky, we need all the time and thought we can get. And we shouldn’t be judged because of it. I’m not throwing away my identity as a feminist just because I want to be in the perfect marriage and want to talk about it.
In sum, there really needs to be more smart conversations about love—and not only on the ever-pervasive subject of prince (or princess) charming and features they should have. But an intelligent discussion about marriage and how to approach it (I think my first exposure to such ‘wisdom’ was in Sex and the City when Carrie and Big initially decide to get married without the fuss of a big, white wedding and ring. The fact that I found such wisdom in Sex and the City is worrisome…). I’m still trying to figure out who I am and so definitely do not yet have the mental capacity or wisdom to figure out what I want (or need) in my future husband. So, let’s start talking (intelligently!!) about marriage and all you relationship gurus, get at me please!