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 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT