Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

If only I'd snagged a Princeton man

By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
updated 3:35 PM EDT, Tue April 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Donna Brazile: If only Susan Patton had offered her man-catching advice earlier
  • Then, says Brazile, she might have chosen to live through a man instead of her own goals
  • She says Patton successfully satirized the Princeton stereotype with her retro advice
  • Brazile: Maybe Patton thinks Princeton women should be taught how to be pretty?

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- Susan Patton kicked up a firestorm with her letter last week to the editor of The Daily Princetonian urging female students to find a man to marry before they graduate because "the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you."

If only the Princeton alum's advice had come out 30 years earlier when I was in college, perhaps I could have avoided the costly mistake of focusing on what makes me come alive and then pursuing it for a living. Perhaps if I'd focused instead on nailing down a man by the time I was 22, I could be going to cocktail parties and co-opting my husband and children's successes, bragging about them as if they were my own, rather than being forced to talk about the current state of politics or what we can do as a society to engage the next generation in the struggles of today.

Perhaps, if I'd had Ms. Patton's wisdom and foresight about what really matters in college, I wouldn't have taken so many pesky classes, and instead concentrated on designing my hair, makeup, attire and personality to create the perfect man-catching machine.

Donna Brazile
Donna Brazile

Perhaps it would have all worked out exactly as Ms. Patton implies -- the perfect house, kids, husband and future. And yet I'm skeptical. I made a lot of stupid decisions in college; I'm really glad the choice of life partner wasn't one of them. How many people, do you think, could choose a tattoo at 22 years old and still be happy with it by the time they are 50? Let's be generous here: maybe a quarter of all people? And tattoos don't even talk.

Choosing a life partner requires a maturity and self-awareness that I can't imagine more than a small fraction of college students have. I know I didn't. Not only that, but people change. Who you are at 22 is not who you will be at 35, and in my experience, the decade following college is the interval where the rate of change is the greatest.

So while it may be tempting to imagine the white picket fence and 2.5 children I could have had with my hastily chosen college boyfriend, I can't help but think a divorce at 28 or 32 would have been more likely, had I chosen that route. What then, Ms. Patton?

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



I find it refreshing that as the same-sex marriage debate swirls through society, Ms. Patton remains untouched in her heteronormativity. Does it even occur to her to question the premise that "the cornerstone" of a woman's future is finding a husband? No! Of course not! It simply must be. I haven't heard regressive rhetoric like this since I mistakenly tuned in Dr. Laura on the radio.

I have to ask, what are lesbians supposed to do? Must they also find mates while in college, or are lesbians the only privileged group of women allowed to search for self-fulfillment before partnership?

That said, Ms. Patton really must be commended for what has to be her grasp of satire. She knows the stereotype of Princeton is that it's filled with self-satisfied, conceited, bloviating jerks, and she captures that tone perfectly to make her point. Without such bold elitism -- an op-ed that took the perfectly defensible position that college is a target-rich environment free from the awkwardness of bars, set-ups or online dating -- there would have been no stir.

Princeton mom: Women get a Mrs. degree

Certainly it wouldn't have crashed the servers, and the women of Princeton might have spent another day thinking the future is filled with untold adventure and opportunity, rather than simply another day closer to their expiration date as a desirable partner.

I applaud Ms. Patton for her bravery. There aren't a lot of well-educated women who would be courageous enough to completely sell out the feminist movement responsible for securing women's equal social, political and economic rights (to the degree that we have them) in favor of the 1950s' mentality that a woman's worth is determined by her marital status. Also, to come out with it while her youngest son remains unmarried? Brave. Though the "universe of women he can marry is limitless," the universe of women who would be willing to be her daughter-in-law is finite.

In all this advice to "the daughters (she) never had," there is one point on which I cannot disagree with Ms. Patton: "It's amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman's lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty." Perhaps Princeton should forgo academic requirements for its female students and instead teach "How to Be Exceptionally Pretty."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Mary Allen says because of new research and her own therapy, she no longer carries around the fear of her mother, which had turned into a generalized fear of everything
updated 3:59 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Gilbert Gottfried says the comedian was most at home on the comedy club stage, where he was generous to his fellow stand-up performers
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Iris Baez, whose son was killed by an illegal police chokehold, says there must be zero tolerance for police who fatally shoot or otherwise kill unarmed people such as Michael Brown
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Maria Cardona says as he seeks a path to the presidency, the Kentucky Senator is running from his past stated positions. But voters are not stupid--and they know how to use the internet
updated 10:19 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Gene Seymour says the shock at the actor and comedian's death comes from its utter implausibility. For many of us over the last 40 years or so, Robin Williams was an irresistible force of nature that nothing could stop.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Soledad O'Brien says the story of two veterans told in a documentary airing on CNN shows the challenges resulting from post-traumatic stress
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT