Susan Patton ’77 argues in her new book, “Marry Smart: Advice for Finding THE ONE” that women should work hard to find a husband, especially since they have a limited window in which they can have children. The book hits stores on March 11. The Daily Princetonian spoke with Patton about how to find “the one,” how to “settle smart” and how women should be responsible for their own safety and happiness.
Daily Princetonian: Your letter to the editor was published almost a year ago. What has the last year been like for you? Why did you decide to write a book?
Susan Patton: It’s been an amazing year. I’ve been connected to so many people as a result of the writing that I did a year ago. It was certainly never my intention to write a book. I’m not a writer; I’m a human resources professional, but right after my letter was published in The Daily Princetonian, and there was such an international firestorm created, I was contacted by many literary agents, many publishing houses directly who were very eager for me to put this into book form and expand upon it.
DP: What happens if a woman cannot find a husband before graduation? Then what should she do?
SP: Well, you have to keep looking. The places that I’m recommending? Get involved with your alumni association. The second thing I’m suggesting to young women if they miss their opportunity to find him on campus is to think about continued education. I don’t even mean getting an advanced degree — although maybe that’s not such a bad idea — but take courses in something you’re interested in, and even more specifically, courses that are more of a workshop sort of setting. A third suggestion I would make to a woman who has missed her opportunity to meet him on campus is go to synagogue, or go to church, or go to whatever your house of worship is. Another suggestion is tell everyone you know and trust that you would be very receptive to an introduction to an appropriate man. I think people are reluctant to make these introductions lest they be seen as meddlesome or presumptuous, so I think it’s important that you have to let the people you know and trust know that, not only would you welcome their introducing you to appropriate men, but you would view it as a favor.
DP: The book discusses feminism, and you suggest that women should reject certain feminist doctrines. What do you have to say to those who suggest your advice is taking a step back for women?
SP: It’s absolutely not taking a step back for women. If feminists are truly concerned about women pursuing and having all that they want for themselves, they have to back off and stop making women who aspire to marriage and motherhood feel like they’re somehow betrayers to the sisterhood.
DP: Each chapter of your book ends with a few bullet points of “Smart Advice.” Which piece of smart advice is the most important?
SP: One, you have to plan for your personal happiness. Two, men and women simply are not the same and it’s unreasonable for women to think that they can pursue their personal happiness in the same way that men do. The third thing I would say is, there will never again be this concentration of extraordinary men to choose from as you have while you’re an undergraduate on a campus like Princeton or any school that you go to. And probably the last thing I would add is about how women are responsible for their own safety; not only for their own happiness, but they’re responsible for their own safety.
DP: You write in the book that men do not need dating advice, but it seems as though you portray men as having bad dating habits, since they have come to “expect free sex” and end up dating “dumb, mean or nasty” women. What advice have you given your sons in regard to finding love?
SP: Well, I’ve given my sons no advice whatsoever. They need no advice from me, nor do most men need any advice from me. Men can take as long as they want; there’s no time clock on them, there’s no limitation on their ability to become fathers, and as a result they don’t need any advice from me. They can date for as long as they want to date. When they’re ready to settle down, they’ll settle down. There’s nothing that’s at risk for them.
DP: A lot of emphasis is put on having the woman actively search for a husband; do you not think men should also be looking for wives?
SP: I don’t know what men should be looking for, but men don’t seem to be complaining about not finding women. The reason that the emphasis is placed on women being proactive in this is again because they have a biological imperative that puts distinct limitation on their ability to achieve their life’s goals.
DP: Once a woman gets to her thirties, you suggest that she consider “settling smart” in order to have a child in wedlock, even with the idea that the marriage might end. Do you think that could be harmful for the children?
SP: Well, divorce is always harmful to children, bad marriage is always harmful to children, but, you know, you can only plan for so much. I think you enter into a relationship and have to commit yourself to making it the right relationship, but I absolutely think if you know as a woman that above all else you want to have children, then, yeah, maybe you have to back away a little bit from your search for the perfect man and settle for Mr. Good Enough. And you may be surprised, he may turn into Prince Charming.
DP: You write that men may feel threatened or insecure by a more successful wife, but also that a woman can get bored by a husband who is not as smart as she is.
SP: Those are both saying the same thing: that well educated women will absolutely want to be with a man who she can look up to and communicate with on a comparable level, who shares her intellectual curiosity, who aspires to the same success that she does. And a man who does not aspire to any of that and doesn’t care for any of that would probably be turned off by that woman in the same way that woman would become quickly disinterested in that man.
DP: Some have said that your arguments that women should work on their physical appearance in order to attract mates has resulted in fat shaming.
SP: Certainly my intent is not to shame anybody, but I am suggesting that women who are not satisfied with their own appearance and certainly women who are dramatically overweight, morbidly obese, are not satisfied with their own appearance, so it’s going to be very hard for them to put forward their most positive and most attractive self if they are not comfortable and happy with their own appearance.
DP: You wrote: “Please spare me your ‘blaming the victim’ outrage,” saying that a provocatively dressed drunk woman “must bear accountability for what may happen.” Why does the woman hold the responsibility in the case of rape or sexual assault?
SP: The reason is, she is the one most likely to be harmed, so she is the one that needs to take control of the situation. She is that one that needs to take responsibility for herself and for her own safety, and simply not allow herself to come to a point where she is no longer capable of protecting her physical self. The analogy that I would give you is: If you cross the street without looking both ways and a car jumps the light or isn’t paying attention, and you get hit by a car — as a woman or as anybody — and you say, ‘Well I had a green light,’ well yes you did have a green light but that wasn’t enough. So in the same way, a woman who is going to say, ‘Well the man should have recognized that I was drunk and not pushed me beyond the level at which I was happy to engage with him,’ well, you didn’t look both ways. I mean yes, you’re right, a man should act better, men should be more respectful of women, but in the absence of that, and regardless of whether they are or are not, women must take care of themselves.
Interview conducted, edited and condensed by Anna Mazarakis.