Remember the Princeton Mom? That lady who wrote an open letter to the young women of her alma mater telling them they really, really needed to find a husband in college or else all would be lost? Well, she’s back. And this time, she has a book. In Marry Smart, Susan Patton covers the timeless, pothole-ridden territory of Advising Young Women About Marriage. (I know, you’re blanching, but read on.) Her ideas, though decidedly retrograde, are oddly compelling—mostly because they reveal so much about her own life and disappointments. You know that thing where you try to give advice to someone else but make it all about you? Well, that’s what Marry Smart is.
Anyway, this interview with Patton in New York Magazine is a must-read, in a she-said-what sort of way: her apartment is stuffed with Princeton memorabilia, she’s obsessed with orange, she fantasizes about marrying for a second time in the Princeton chapel, and she has no qualms revealing her insecurities/disappointments/vanities to anyone. (First thing she says to the interviewer: “You’re so tall and thin! Usually I hate that body type.”)
Her parents were Holocaust survivors, and it seems their trauma shaped her attitude towards education, gender, and feminism in a profound way:
It would be easy to caricature Patton as an old-fashioned, paternalistic snob — but her snobbery is actually quite modern, and fueled by an unexpected streak of feminist gumption. Patton was raised in the Bronx by Eastern European immigrants. “They survived the Holocaust. My mother was in Auschwitz; my father was liberated from Bergen-Belsen. They came to America with very old-world ideas about women.” Though she was at the top of her class at her public high school, her parents opposed a college education. To apply to Princeton, Patton had to declare herself an emancipated minor. “I wanted a much broader life than just motherhood. My parents didn’t see the value in that, they couldn’t understand. They saw it for my brother, but not for me. And he would tell you this: He wasn’t much of a student. But I was, and I always wanted a bigger life, a more creative life, a more engaged life, out of the Bronx.
So I guess read the book if you want to! Or don’t! Beyond her advice that women in their 20s should be mindful about whether or not they want get married/have kids (yes, THANK YOU EVERYONE for reminding us about our ovaries), it’s all a bit ridiculous. Not everyone wants to get married and/or have kids, and not everyone wants to do it young. And obviously, marrying someone who went to an Ivy League school isn’t going to make you happy—unless you’re Susan Patton. In which case, by all means, Marry Smart.