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 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Sat April 19, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
updated 7:23 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT