Category Archives: Marriage

Susan Patton, Wise Up!


Susan Patton and Princeton — the college whose female undergrads should be grabbing guys.



The “Princeton mom”, Susan Patton – whose younger son is still in attendance there – has struck again.


Her latest salvo is aimed at the same people: Princeton undergraduates who happen to be female. The message is the same: grab your male classmates while you’re still trying to figure out college, so you can make a happy marriage and lots of babies!


Susan, Susan, Susan. Wise up. Get real.


Slate has a wonderful article here on who should feel more insulted by your words, women or men. Turns out, it’s a tie. Your assumptions on what make us tic – we of either sex – are breathtakingly limited and absurd, and it truly makes us wonder what your own marriage was like to a man who did not graduate from Princeton and therefore, logically, did not share your adoration for the place.


Look, it’s a wonderful university. Garners all sorts of awards. Lists on its faculty eminences like John McPhee. But it’s not the only fabulous college in the US, and its students are not uniformly going to reshape the world or even – I realize this is heresy – make the best spouses and parents.


While I admire your ability to turn yourself into a quotable brand, your message is lacking in substantial ways.


Is that sort of inattention to detail really worthy of a Princeton grad?


Here are a few things you manage not to address in your plea to female students:


Not every male at Princeton is interested in getting attached so young in life. Most of them, I warrant, are not. They don’t yet know themselves well enough. They are not yet prepared to take on the challenges of the roles: partner, husband, father. They want a chance to stretch their wings, try things out, and, yes, meet other women, as they grow into emotional maturity. Their parents may want that for them, too. I certainly would.


(In fact, male Princetonians’ parents ought to be unhappy with you, too. You’re turning their sons – human beings with feelings – into commodities to be grabbed. Did you consider that?)


So, even if a woman happens to coax one of these guys into marriage, he won’t be happy. Is that what you want for him? For them? For your own unmarried son?


Another thing, Susan. It may come as a shock to you, but statistically speaking, a number of female undergrads are lesbian. A certain different percentage are heterosexual but uninterested in having children, and perhaps even in marriage – at least, traditional marriage. So your message is based on a segment of female undergraduates, not all of them. And, hey, how about unmarried female grad students, whom you don’t mention at all? Are they past their prime? Incapable of married happiness, ever, even if they meet a kind and loving man?


Now, let’s get into those fictional heterosexual marriages between two Princeton alums who met while they were under the age of 25, recalling that that’s when brain experts say the frontal lobe finally matures, meaning a crucial choice made before that time could be the immature decision of a still-under-construction brain.


We know that Princeton students are not angels. (We know that, right?) So, again statistically, a certain percentage of those marriages you laud will suffer the pain of alcoholism, drug addiction, infidelity, violence, abuse of various sorts, shall we go on? Marrying a Princeton guy is no guarantee of a happy marriage. Your opinion that had you married a fellow student, your life would have been blissful, is but a fantasy. Your life may well have been worse. (If you survived domestic violence and abuse from your ex, I’m so glad you left. But it wasn’t his education that incited his attacks, it was his attitude.)


Even the best, most ethical, of Princeton men can change over time. Had you married one, the two of you might by now quite naturally have grown apart and have led separate lives while technically staying wed. Or a man may reveal a secret his wife simply cannot accept. That he is gay, for example, or he gambles online with their retirement money, or he sexually abuses children. His status as a Princeton alum will not transform a superficial, “lookin’ good” marriage into one both spouses find vibrant and healthy.


The woman who marries a fellow student who plays football or soccer (all those headers) for Princeton may find herself, years later, with a smashed jaw caused by her husband’s concussion-induced brain changes. Or a Princeton alumnus might, in two decades, demonstrate the start-up symptoms of early-onset dementia. In neither of these scenarios does the diploma prevent tragedy.


It’s impossible, too, to discover all the skeletons in the family closet before marriage. People run this risk every day. Oops, there’s a paternal history of infidelity. Gosh, there was some horrible abuse decades ago. Oh, that addiction gene! Even in premarital counseling – you do support that, don’t you, Susan? – people hide family secrets, especially from someone not yet a member of the family. No Princeton years, however, will camouflage the truth when it finally reveals itself.


Just as you advise, I wed a college classmate. We should not have married. Aside from our children – wonderful, bright, loving people – and despite extraordinarily similar educations, we really had little in common. That included our unspoken views of our union. One of us saw it as a marriage of convenience, the other was all-in. I leave it to you, Susan, to winkle out which was which. The point is that despite our age at marriage (mid-20s) and formal education (nearly identical grad degrees), we really did not know ourselves that well, and hence we were ill-matched. Our shared alma mater was nothing – repeat, nothing – but mutual acquaintance and history.


Susan, that coveted Princeton diploma no more guarantees a high-quality person than a degree from the local state university. Quality guarantees a high-quality person, and that can only be discovered over time, through the myriad decisions a person makes in relationships and in the daily choice to love, and to do a good job at it.


Be kind to your daughter-in-law, hug your sons, and stop telling female undergraduates what to do with their valuable hearts and lives. Like all of us, if they choose to marry they deserve the best possible spouse . . . and “best” for each woman will not necessarily bear the label, “Made in Princeton”.


Most importantly, Susan, it’s time to wise up.



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First Comes Love. After That?


Marriage. Or, as in The Princess Bride, mawwige


We pretty much think we know what marriage is. It’s that time that happens after the wedding, be it ornate or a few mumbled words in a registry office, the months and years together. Sometimes apart. With children or not, through choice or impossibility.


We often think it’s a man-woman thing. Or a woman-man thing. In some places, it can also be a woman-woman or man-man thing.


Among people of certain religions, it can be a man+multiple women thing. Much less frequently does it involve one woman and more than one man, although anecdotal evidence out of India and China indicate that such marriages, usually involving brothers, are increasing and will continue to do so as the “lost girls” phenomenon (abortion of female fetuses) continues.


A lot of people, like this Washington Post columnist, think marriage is a state to be desired for all single people. Tell that to the women assaulted and murdered by their husbands, or the spouses of both sexes married to the insane, the emotionally cold, the manipulative, the sociopathic.


Marriage does not carry the cachet it did a generation ago, and with good reason. As divorce became easier, it grew apparent that what we need is a better way to be matched with a loving spouse.


It’s no wonder that in some Western societies, people intentionally have children before they marry. Sometimes they never marry. Swedish children are more likely to be raised by two unmarried parents than American children are to be raised by two parents still married to each other. As we know in rearing kids, healthy presence counts.


This Australian article mentions the thoughtfulness that the current crop of young-and-in-loves bring to the question of to marry or not.


“Australian Institute of Family Studies senior researcher Lixia Qu attributed the decline in the divorce rate to the fact more than 80 per cent of marriages were preceded by couples living together these days and couples marrying later in life. ‘People are quite cautious nowadays about marriage,’ Ms. Qu said. ‘When they do get married, they’re older, they’re a bit more mature, they’ve experienced a sort of weeding-out process.’”


They’re also doing less hormone-driven thinking. In the US, studies show that the divorce rate is higher where people are encouraged to marry young and have children right away. When they wait, they are more likely to have healthier marriages.


The Guardian interviewed 20 young adults from different nations to learn their takes on marriage. Yes, no, maybe so? Their responses varied from “oh, yes” to “probably not” and several stops in between. What was most interesting were their approaches. Thoughtful, measured, and in this era, with a definite eye toward economics.


Which is not to say that the heart has no say. Indeed it does, as well as a concern for both spouses’ well-being. This lovely article lists ten alternative wedding vows, genuinely meaningful ones.


“I promise to nurture your goals and ambitions; to support you through misfortune and celebrate your triumphs” – that’s #6 on the list. What a fantastic promise to make and to keep.


As the reasons for marriage have altered through the centuries (who in contemporary Western society marries in order to connect adjoining parcels of land? – a common course in the Middle Ages), so our taste for marriage waxes and wanes. If parenthood is no longer as important as in the past, if remaining with a partner is the most essential thing, including tax advantages, emergency care and passports, then we will still marry. We will still risk. Perhaps we will weigh the risks and marry not from obligation or temporary passion, but out of a loving friendship.


While searching for a photo, I found this lovely statement:
“If I had my life to live over again, next time I would find you sooner so I could love you longer.”


Says it all, really.


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