The XX Factor

Mother Scolds Princeton Women for Not Marrying Her Sons

Princeton women wasting their time studying instead of showing gratitude for this awesome opportunity to get that MRS. degree.

Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

As reported by Hanna Rosin in the Atlantic back in September (and blogged about here!) researchers who actually bothered to spend time with students on college campuses have discovered that the traditional narratives about the “hook-up culture” have it all wrong. Casual sex is not something imposed by wily young men on young women too dumb to hold out for a ring. It’s often more a strategy young women use to delay commitments that they perceive as obstacles to their personal and career goals. Rosin reported on the findings of researchers Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton:

Armstrong and Hamilton had come looking for sexual victims. Instead, at this university, and even more so at other, more prestigious universities they studied, they found the opposite: women who were managing their romantic lives like savvy headhunters. “The ambitious women calculate that having a relationship would be like a four-credit class, and they don’t always have time for it, so instead they opt for a lighter hookup,” Armstrong told me.

Now we have further evidence that this is exactly what’s going on. Why else would Susan Patton, the mother of two Princeton-attending sons, direly warn young women in a letter to the editor of the Daily Princetonian that if they don’t snatch up the bright young men in college—men like her son—then they run a very high risk of being forever alone with their cats and their books?

Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.

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. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless. Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again—you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Patton’s sons deserve the benefit of the doubt here: They’re probably not Ross Douthat types, turned off by these modern women with their birth control pills. They probably did not instigate conversations about how their female classmates are too busy studying and partying to get serious about finding someone to marry. If I know anything about meddlesome older people, I’d guess that the description of Princeton women as unhurried on the subject of romantic commitment was proffered to end a series of tiresome questions about when parents can expect to see serious girlfriends brought around. 

With that in mind, I’m guessing her sons are pretty embarrassed right now. Mothers have been embarrassing their sons since time immemorial by declaring that any woman should be happy to have a man so fine, but most mothers have the common sense to keep that sentiment inside the walls of their home. Dressing it up as concern for women’s wellbeing and running it in a university’s paper, however, takes cheek-pinching offspring-humiliation to another level entirely.