Forgive my lack of a proper set up for this story, one with wit or something deep to draw you in. I can’t pull one together right now that has more depth than, “what the entire **** is going on?” So instead of giving you a bunch of symbols to replace the string of expletives I’d like to use, allow me to “use my words” and jump right in with the facts.
Last Friday, a Princeton alum from ’77 and mom to two sons, one who currently attends the university, wrote a letter for the school paper, The Daily Princetonian. It was billed as “what [women] really need to know that nobody is telling you.” The big secret? That matriculating women should be spending their college years looking for husband, starting in their Freshman year. I thought it was a satirical, something unexpectedly witty mocking the reams of bad advice that women are given to find a mate. But then I learned that Susan Patton, an Upper Eastside (NYC) Mom was entirely serious, and just like that, my whole head exploded.
When I was able to compose myself, I laughed an evil laugh. Because after all these years of Black women being pummeled with bad advice to relieve them from singleness, it’s sickly funny that our white counterparts are getting publicly heaped on for being single as well. Our misery just got company. And then I felt terrible, because I shouldn’t wish being piled up on for being single on any woman. Sorry, white ladies. My bad.
“For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry,” Patton warns. “You will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate.”
She also advises that women shouldn’t date men who are not their intellectual equal, nor should they date men who are younger than them (as in, if you’re a senior, you should only be dating other seniors.)
I’d tell you what else the page and half letter said, if I could actually read it. According to USA Today, where I located the nuggets above, traffic for the article literally crashed the newspaper site where it appeared. Womp.
Over at My Brown Baby, Denene Millner straight up called Patton’s piece “bullshit”, adding, “Those of us women who’ve been to college know the deal: learning how to live on your own, get educated AND juggle a relationship is no joke, and the petty foolishness that comes with trying to keep a man who doesn’t necessarily want to be kept can be distracting as hell.”
For obvious reasons, Patton’s article has generated lots of snarky replies and missives defending undergraduate women’s right to, you know, focus on school, self-development, fun and whatever else college is good for other than looking for a husband. Allow me to add to those pissed off ranks (while simultaneously pseudo ignoring the line about senior women not dating junior men because it’s unnecessarily limiting and a laughable argument in an article about the limited availability of prospects.)
Princeton is one of the few schools where the population of guys still outnumber gals. So in terms of finding guys to date, the numbers are there, unlike say almost any HBCU or hell, a state school like University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. (It was at Chapel Hill, where the female population is 60 percent, where the New York Times quoted white women lamenting their relationship options in 2010 and all the quotes about the scarcity of guys sounded as if they’d been lifted from Waiting to Exhale.) So yes, Mama Patton is probably right about the ladies of Princeton being in a rare position to have the odds in their favor.
But what do odds have to do with it, if the guys aren’t ready to be husbands?
I’ve been to college. I speak at colleges (including Princeton) and at no point have I heard of all these college-aged men searching for wives, and women who are refusing their eager proposals to build a life together. I wonder if Mama Patton is doing her part to encourage her college- aged son to find a wife, so he can help fulfill the husband quota for at least one of the women she’s advising. Or she is telling him to concentrate on his grades (and maybe have a lil fun too) so he can get into the best grad school possible?
You see, as much preaching as their is for hetero women or all colors to marry men, if the guys aren’t being prodded to start looking for wives in undergrad or at any other time, then this conversation is for naught. As many women would like to force men into marriage (or any other commitment), they can’t. They, you know, have to want it to.
In one way or another, women are pushed toward marriage and family from practically the time they pop out the womb. Many women even plan weddings in their heads long before there is a potential groom in their lives. Trust, there’s no additional prodding necessary. But the guys, the people the hetero woman folk are supposed to marrying? It’s about time they got some pushing, meddling and brow beating too. For once, can someone go fill them in on this game plan that includes them and get them to step up? And in the meantime stop antagonizing female students just trying to figure themselves out and let them focus on what college is actually intended for: a degree.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk.