Susan Patton, the famous “Princeton Mom” whose book is soon to be released and Valentine’s Day editorial in the Wall Street Journal that further emphasizes her message of pushing young women to begin searching for a husband while at college, would likely consider me an extremely pitiable individual.
On the threshold of thirty, I am still single. In the years since my college graduation, I have prioritized building a career and recently been rewarded with a new VP position at an advertising company. As such, it’s not uncommon for me to log over 100k miles annually in air travel—all business related! After hours however, you can find me alone at home indulging in Chinese takeout paired with rye whiskey and my Netflix queue full of terrible sci-fi movies. Plus there is always room for one more—my cat!
“Another Valentine’s Day,” Patton wrote in her recent WSJ op-ed. “Another night spent ordering in sushi for one and mooning over ‘Downton Abbey’ reruns. Smarten up, ladies.” Hey, this sounds like my life! In the press release for her forthcoming book, “Marry Smart: Advice For Finding ‘The One’,” she states her aim to help young women “avoid an unwanted life of spinsterhood with cats.” (Ma’am, please stop belittling my cat.)
There is an abundance of articles embracing the single life for women, particularly urban-dwelling women in their 30s. However, Patton’s series of op-eds about earning a M.R.S degree reignited this discussion with some humorous yet factual satire from Washington Post and other publications as well. Yet what I noticed wasn’t covered adequately amidst the ongoing “Princeton Mom” phenomenon was her supposition on how employment works today in our 21st century society – which should be explored further than it has been thus far! Susan Patton believes that it is completely acceptable for young, ambitious women in college to pursue their dreams just as much as they should be actively searching for a future spouse. According to her advice, the best place to look are on university campuses: quads, campus centers and field houses.
To the career-driven female college students: I’d like to remind you of two key points in today’s fast-paced and often unpredictable professional world. Most obviously, it is essential that you are prepared for a rapid climb up the corporate ladder with sidetracks along the way. At 29, I have switched careers more times than both of my parents; and many friends who initially invested in traditionally secure career paths (such as law degrees) had to change their plans when the job market was not what they anticipated. Furthermore, it is essential to note that a profession, especially one you are passionate about, has transformative qualities. It can modify your aspirations and beliefs for the better whilst also transforming your overall outlook on life.
Proverbial wisdom advises us to never forget that if you decide to settle down with a long-term partner in the beginning stages of your career, this can significantly hinder your ability to be flexible. Your choices and options are increasingly limited as certain pathways become impassable, while others remain difficult obstacles throughout your climb up the ladder. Representations that women should land a partner while the ideal person is still available, and then proceed to prioritizing their career paths fail to recognize how complicated relationships can be when both partners have independent lives and objectives.
Sadly, I know a lot of individuals who were pushed into marriage by their families or culture at an early age. Unfortunately, due to the divergent career paths they had chosen for themselves causing them both to grow in different directions and become incompatible with each other’s values and life goals, many of these couples divorced before 30. All of those people would tell you that when they thought they’d found “the one” in high school or college, none of them foresaw this kind of outcome. It may be true that some people are ready for a long-term commitment at 22, yet the majority of high achievers with an affinity towards business typically aren’t prepared. If we were to accept Susan Patton’s proposal without further examination, it could result in immense misery and heartache – I’ve seen it happen firsthand.
While Patton’s book is yet to be released, it remains uncertain whether or not she’ll address this topic in her work. However, one thing can already be stated with certainty: the idea that being an unmarried 30-year-old professional who owns a cat equates to misery is false and out of date for our 21st century world. In fact, there are many single people making great lives for themselves at any age–cat owners included! I don’t waste my days in the workplace worrying about how long I’ll stay employed, as Patton mentioned in her original Daily Princetonian piece. Instead of attempting to assemble a list of potential partners during college, I spent my time earning honor-roll status and varsity letters – something that could never be considered an error.
Whenever I’m occupied with a hectic day at the office, it feels like no matter how much preparation I do in advance there’s still something forgotten. There are conference calls to attend and after-work drinks meetings that run late; usually leaving me without sufficient time for my dinner date or to go home first and make sure my cat has enough food.
McCarthy graduated from Princeton University in 2006.