If you haven’t read or heard about Susan Patton’s Letter To the Editor in the Daily Princetonian (link below), where have you been?
In her letter, Ms. Patton appeals to the undergraduate women of Princeton, “the daughters” she “never had,” to “Find a husband on campus before they graduate.” She has been absolutely skewered since writing the piece. The outsized and outraged reaction caused DP’s website to crash.
There is some truth in what Patton says, if you can wade through the overwhelming amount of self-laudatory crap. But, let’s call this piece what it truly is: a delivery system for good news about Susan Patton. And, I think that is what most people are objecting to, not necessarily the fundamental idea, but the tone.
Patton begins by giving herself kudos for having maintained her relationship with, “her best friend from freshman year.” She alleges that at the Women and Leadership conference she attended at Princeton, the undergraduate women were avidly interested in how she and her best friend had “sustained a 40 year friendship.” Really? Is having a long-term friendship fabulous? Definitely. Is it a subject of rapt fascination for 20 year olds? Um, no. I’m around a fair number of college age kids and I have more than one long-standing friendship. Not one of the twenty somethings I know, including my own children, has ever expressed a scintilla of interest in how my friends and I sustain our relationships. Sorry, I’m just not buying it.
Then we get to the heart of the matter. Ms. Patton states, “I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone.” Really? He could have married anyone? Anyone? I think Patton just wanted to inform the Princeton community that her sons go/went to Princeton and that her older son is married and, better yet, he married a girl who went to Princeton. The younger son’s dating potential is, according to mama, “limitless.” Oy. I hope the younger son has entered the witness protection program. Poor kid.
But, putting Ms. Patton’s self-aggrandizement aside, I think she makes a fair point. I knew people in college who made silly lists of qualities for potential dates, not too short, not too thin/heavy, brown hair/blonde hair and so on. Susan Patton is correct that college is one of those critical times in life. Don’t make lists that confine you. Look at your classmates with an open mind. Making friends is every bit as important, if not more so, than the classes you take. And, you never know, your best friend or your life partner or both may be sitting next to you in class.
So, here is what I would tell “the daughters I never had”: College is a fantastic place to meet someone but if you don’t meet “the one” in college don’t panic. There’s time. Don’t say, “He’s too nice.” Nice boys generally grow up to be nice men and nice men are, well, nice. If a guy is crazy about you, put that in the plus column, bolded and highlighted. Look for red flags and if you see them, don’t walk, run. Don’t pass up the very good for the perfect because perfect doesn’t exist. Choose someone who makes you laugh because at the end of the day you want to spend a lot of time with someone who makes you laugh. If you can’t stand to be with someone even if they have a 200 IQ or 200 billion dollars, say goodbye. It’s just not worth it.
And, I would tell my mythical daughter the same thing I will tell my real son. You will meet the right person at the right time. And, when you meet that person you will know, maybe not immediately, but you will know.
Trust your own judgment. I do. And, remember dad and I love you.