Perhaps you’ve seen her on the news recently, or you may remember “Princeton Mom” from her last round of publicity when she stridently advised/warned young college age women that nailing down a husband while in college should take a bit more precedence over actually getting an education. Well, she’s at it again…louder and bolder. She was smart enough to take the mini-controversy she started and turn it into a book.
I wrote about her the first time around. You can find it here, if you want a memory refresher. I’ve found this whole topic quite interesting, not the least of which is because I mostly disagreed with her but was surprised to find that a few of my close friends agreed with her. (Just when you think you know somebody…)
This time around, one of my favorite fellow spinsters, Lisa Brignoni, has a few choice words for Princeton mom. When she’s not giving Princeton Mom a piece of her mind, Lisa is a travel enthusiast who enjoys blogging about her adventures, and believes women should support other women through helpful advice.
Here’s what Lisa has to say:
Princeton Mom: You missed a few things…
Recently, I became acquainted with the thoughts and opinions of Ms. Susan Patton, The Princeton Mom. The reaction to her is mixed – people either thinks she’s right on the money or needs to be sent back to the 1950’s. As my own life stands as a strong contradiction to all of the advice put forth by this woman, I feel compelled to point out a few flaws in her theory.
Princeton Mom’s basic premise is that women in college need to focus on finding a husband and do whatever it takes to make that happen. Her logical basis for this advice is that a woman will never be younger (okay she got us there), prettier or have such a deep pool of qualified candidates.
She also advises enhancing one’s social success by learning to bake cookies and getting cosmetic surgery as soon as possible. Oh dear. She shows off pseudo-scientific pie charts to demonstrate how women should spend 75% of their time on husband-searching and 25% on professional development, though her advice does have some gaping flaws.
One of my biggest concerns is her liberal use of the term “personal happiness” as an interchangeable substitute for marriage and babies.
I’ll try not to go into a long diatribe about how promoting marriage and babies to the exclusion of other goals is a negative message to send to young women. But I will send a caveat to young women considering her advice and even older women questioning their own situation: Personal happiness should be exactly that – personal. It should be something you determine, free of undue pressure from societal expectations.
I can tell you from my personal experience that I was the anti-heroine to the Princeton Mom’s ideal in college –skinny with a dorky haircut and no fashion sense– and that I spent the majority of my fertile years as a single and disappointed woman because of failed relationships. As I matured and figured out what it would take to make me happy, the disappointment dissipated. My personal happiness wasn’t going to be found in a husband or a promotion. It was going to be found by traveling around the world. I set my goal and it’s been amazing. I found a path to happiness that didn’t involve stalking men, and so can other women.
My goal in sharing this is to offer up another path for women who may be feeling like life isn’t working out for them because they don’t have a husband or kids. And just as I have my story, I’m willing to bet that there are millions of other women out there who have gone “off-mission” and still achieved a sense of personal happiness.
That said, my advice is simply to consider the alternatives. Should you be a woman who wants to prioritize marriage and babies however, I still think you should strongly reconsider following the advice of the Princeton Mom and here’s why:
Flaw #1: Men do factor into your strategy
During her TV interview, the Princeton Mom dodges an excellent point made by the interviewer about a possible negative reaction from men in regards to these tactics she is suggesting. Perhaps these young men might find women who follow her advice to be a bit too desperate. Princeton Mom doesn’t care, and replies that her book is for women, not for men We know that a predator must understand the movements of its prey if it’s to be successful. Shouldn’t women also be told that men may invoke counter-measures to their painfully obvious actions and adjust their strategies accordingly? As of yet, Princeton Mom has no suitable answer for this realistic battle scenario.
Flaw #2: Her own observations contradict her advice
The problem with instructing women to find husbands amongst their deep pool of peers becomes clear when you realize that everyone is the same age in college. All of these supposed husbands women would be chasing also have their own deep pool of female candidates for them to play around with until they’re ready to get married. The conventional wisdom is that men are most likely to want to marry once they’ve established themselves in their careers and feel they have a stable financial base. Wouldn’t the logic then follow that if women work hard at inserting themselves in the workplace they’d have a better pool of qualified candidates from which to snag a husband? Except, if they paid more attention in college to getting a husband than an education, finding that job might be a bit of a challenge. In fact, her strategy could backfire.
Flaw #3: What if all women followed this advice?
Today, women make up a large part of the workforce and drive the economy forward. But what would happen if all of these women followed Princeton Mom’s advice when they were still in college? First we’d have a lot of women flunking out of university due to only spending 25% of their time on their studies. But let’s say you were so socially successful, you managed to snag a husband before you got expelled. Wonderful! Well, it better be a happy marriage in every way because now you’re stuck for the rest of your life raising your children and taking care of your husband because you have few marketable skills. And if the majority of women in the workforce followed this advice, we’d likely see a major decrease in GDP. Thanks for blowing up the economy Princeton Mom.
There’s more. What happens next? Is Princeton Mom going to write a book on relationship- building? She’s divorced. Has she learned enough to advise young women on how not to be her?
And what about those young women who can’t afford cosmetic surgery? How will they become “socially successful”? Is she writing them off?
Here’s the thing. We all have to find our own paths in life and need to be careful to not let some random woman with a book deal take advantage of the struggles in our journey of personal happiness.
In closing, I would like to indulge a little alma mater rivalry and say I should know about achieving personal happiness. I went to Penn. (NB: I guess that’s an inside joke that I don’t get, says Eleanore. I assume Penn and Princeton folks will).
In a perverse kind of way, I (Eleanore) applaud Ms Patton for taking her idea and figuring out a way to make a business out of it. At the same time, I have disdain for what I believe is some pretty bad advice to young women (for all the reasons I cite here.) I do appreciate that this brouhaha may stimulate some thoughtful discussions about life’s opportunities and how young women everywhere can think about making the right decisions for themselves.