No Thank You

Sorry, but Women Do Not Need to Lock Down Their Husbands in College

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Love sculpture

Susan Patton is at it again. You may recognize her as the author of the infamous letter to the women of Princeton (of which she is an alum), advising them to lock down a future husband before graduation. Now she’s back, with some so-called “Valentine’s Day Straight Talk” published in the Wall Street Journal.

“Another Valentine’s Day. Another night spent ordering in sushi for one and mooning over Downton Abbey reruns. Smarten up, ladies,” the piece begins. Patton then goes on reiterate the same points she made in the original Princeton letter for a wider audience: find a man in college, because it all goes down hill from there. She chastises today’s young women for taking their 20s to focus on their careers rather than their love lives (love being “the cornerstone of [their] future happiness,” after all).

Patton’s central claim is that post-college it will become much more difficult for you to find eligible men who are your intellectual equals, partially because the pool is so wide that smart men are harder to spot and partially because younger women will swoop in and steal all the good men out from under you. Because all men are just looking for the youngest, hottest thing to throw their junk at. They aren’t capable of feelings, silly girls!

College is the best place to look for your mate. It is an environment teeming with like-minded, age-appropriate single men with whom you already share many things. You will never again have this concentration of exceptional men to choose from.

Does Patton have any idea how small a world most college campuses are? I went to Sarah Lawrence College, a tiny liberal arts school in suburban New York. There were approximately 1,500 students, 65 percent of which were women. The pool of available (and straight) guys became less and less appealing with each passing year. It wasn’t until I made an OkCupid profile and ventured off campus that I met someone and fell in love.

But Patton’s essay is problematic for other reasons. With her plucked-from-the-1950s views on life, love, and womanhood, she treats men and women as commodities. It’s not about falling in love when the time is right, it’s about forcing a relationship to fit into the mold you’ve carved out for your picture-perfect future. Although there are a few sensible tidbits here and there (“stop wasting time dating men who aren’t good for you: bad boys, crazy guys, and married men”), they are far overshadowed by her ancient ideas about relationships.

She writes as if men are gullible idiots that women must outsmart in order to ensnare them into marriage.

When you find a good man, take it slow. Casual sex is irresistible to men, but the smart move is not to give it away. If you offer intimacy without commitment, the incentive to commit is eliminated. The grandmotherly message of yesterday is still true today: Men won’t buy the cow if the milk is free.

Ew. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought men were actually capable of loving people without being fooled into a commitment by the withholding of sex. And I am not even going to touch the women-to-cows comparison. Newsflash, Susan Patton: women like sex (some women like casual sex *gasp*), men are not wild animals that need to be tamed, and it is actually possible to have both a career and a successful relationship. “Smart girls” are doing just fine without your crappy advice.