BY HELEN COSTER
Class of 1998
As a Princeton woman who’s been out of school for 15 years, I offer my own experience—and the experience of almost all of my female friends — as an argument for why you should ignore Susan Patton’s advice.
At Princeton I spent four years taking classes I loved, juggling 10,000 activities and spending time with friends. I would have liked to have a serious boyfriend, I guess, but I didn’t.
A few of my friends married men they met in college. But most, like me, graduated and went out into the world without a wingman. It was hard — sometimes excruciatingly so. I spent my 20s paying my dues in my profession, working long hours while attempting to meet someone. I went on a lot of bad dates, and at times, I envied my friends who didn’t have to navigate adulthood alone.
I also had adventures. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, learned Spanish and backpacked through Alaska. I rose through the ranks in my career.
Every man I dated for any length of time loved the fact that I worked hard, that I had ambition, that I was curious about the world. They possessed those qualities, too.
(To Ms. Patton’s point: Yes, some men are attracted to women who are less intelligent than they are. But that’s not a reason to spend college hunting for a husband.)
When I was 32, a friend from work set me up with a kind, handsome guy. (He went to Brown, and is super smart, but I don’t automatically correlate intelligence with an Ivy League degree. Smart people are everywhere, and from everywhere. I know you know that.) We got married last summer — almost 15 years after I walked out of FitzRandolph Gate. By the time I met the man who would become my husband, I had grown up, and was well on the way to becoming the person I wanted to be. I had kissed enough frogs to know a prince when I saw one.
So here’s my advice, for what it’s worth:
Don’t focus on finding a husband in college. Focus on doing the things that you love, and being with people you love. Cultivate your intellectual passion, your extracurricular pursuits, your friendships. When you graduate, pursue a career that excites you. Take risks. Travel. Live the rich, full life of your choosing.
What I find most insidious about Ms. Patton’s letter is her belief that her sons have more and better marriage options than you do; that their intelligence is a virtue, while yours is a liability.
Don’t believe this for a second. Don’t be scared off by people who tell you that smart women can’t find husbands. The smart guys — the right guys — will be out there looking for you.
Helen Coster ’98