Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Ensnaring a good husband is not the point of an education. Or is it?

The bit about being more content if you marry an intellectual sort is patently ridiculous. I think it would be incredibly annoying to be married to a boffin, not least because you’d be incessantly reminded of your own scholarly inadequacy.

There’s been a lot of furore lately about a certain Susan Patton. She’s the lady notorious for writing an open letter to female students at her old college, Princeton, advising them to find a husband while there.

She believes that your future and happiness is linked to the man you marry and you will never have this concentration of worthy men. “Here’s what nobody is telling you: find a husband on campus before you graduate,” she asserts. Her reasoning? “Smart women can’t [shouldn’t] marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal.” She has now written a book about this, called Marry Smart: Advice for Finding THE ONE.

Strike while the iron is hot, is the message: your biological clock is ticking and you aren’t getting any younger, so catching your husband at college will at least ensure that he is your intellectual equal. Patton’s sons are at Princeton, too, and the older one has found himself a Princetonian. Patton herself had a long marriage – to a non-Princetonian – which eventually dissolved. Understandably, the media has been at her throat, with feminists outraged that women are being asked to put their professional lives in the back seat and concentrate on building a home.

Patton thinks if you meet your husband at uni, he’s more likely to be an intelligent sort of bloke by sheer probability, simply because there is such a huge number of smart people at uni. But I am unable to appreciate her point that marriage and children are the major factors conducive to happiness. What if family isn’t your priority at the moment? There’s a lot of time, effort and money being pumped into getting a university education, so your main goal might just be to make sure you get your degree to become independent. Meanwhile, enjoy the activities or clubs available and make use of everything that’s unique to your college years – there’ll be time later for serious relationships of the marrying kind.

The bit about being more content if you marry an intellectual sort is ridiculous. I think it would be annoying to be married to a boffin, not least because you’d be incessantly reminded of your own scholarly inadequacy.

In some cultures, getting married early is de rigueur. I know someone who got hitched at 19 and had a baby at 20. I can’t imagine the stress of continuing a college education while being responsible for another human. She eventually dropped out as it became more difficult to juggle everything, although later went back to school to study law.

My friend Tina weighed in that marrying early can put our careers on hold and, often, it is the wife on whom the brunt of the housework falls. When a baby enters the equation, the balance of responsibility becomes even more skewed. Patton thinks you’ll regret wasting your prime years if you don’t catch a husband – yet sacrificing work for marriage is likely to lead to different sorts of regrets. At least she’s initiating debate that will hopefully help us make reasoned, informed choices whatever course of action we eventually take.

The writer is an 18-year-old student at Cambridge who grew up in Dubai

Updated: April 12, 2014 04:00 AM

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