I always find it somewhat humorous when Baby-Boomers think they understand Millennials. They know as much about being young in today’s world, as I know about France after drinking a $12 bottle of Bordeaux. And yet, wisdom must be delivered, even though, frankly, we’re not receiving it.
The latest hot air comes from Susan Patton, or “Princeton Mom”, known for her very traditional values and marriage advice found in The Princeton University Paper and her new book “Marry Smart.” (read about her, here) When I first read Ms. Patton’s work, I thought it was satire. Her advice reads like the lines June Cleaver would deliver, but with less finesse. She writes a great deal about the ticking of a woman’s biological clock, and men preferring young pretty women over intellectual and mature equals- so, it’s best to find a mate during college. However, the thing that gets me most are these two statements.
“Here’s the most important thing … you will come to define yourself by your spouse,”
“the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry”
We all know the statistics. Divorce is at an all time high with roughly half of all marriages ending in divorce. And my belief, (I have no actual evidence to back this up, just an empathetic view of the world) is that these two statements are at the root of most marital problems.
I would not describe myself as a feminist, by any means, but a little girl power can go a long way (as can a killer pair of heels.) I couldn’t imagine defining my self-worth and identity through a man. In college, everyone has periods of self-discovery; pursuing new goals and finding true passions. Sometimes we get a little lost and cling to what we know, what’s comfortable. For many women, it’s her college boyfriend. And there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as the couple pushes each other to their own personal bests. But if that doesn’t happen, then the dream of a happy marriage becomes a reality of deep seeded resentments.
On the other hand, many people allow their careers to define them, and this can be just as unhealthy. Think about it. When you first meet someone new, you ask “and what do you do?” Sometimes we work so hard professionally that we suffer personally. So how do we define ourselves? It’s a balancing act, but so long as you keep sight of your talents, dreams, and compassion toward others, you’ll be the perfect someone for your perfect someone.
I may never get married. I may never have kids. While the idea is nice, that’s all it is to me right now, a very romantic idea. I think I can have a very happy future being, as Ms. Patton so nicely described, a “spinster.” The thing is, I am the only person responsible for my happiness. As soon as I place that responsibility on someone else, they will fail to make me happy, because it’s not their job.
I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my mom back when I was in college. My boyfriend had just broken up with me, and the world as I knew it changed. She didn’t say, “His loss!” or “You’ll find someone better!” She simply said, “Joanne, you do not need a man to be happy.” “There are plenty of unhappy married people.” Perspective is a beautiful thing. My parents met and married in their thirties and are still married almost thirty years later. My mother is also one of the most independent people I know, which is where I get my joy of “quality Me time” from. A spouse should only add to your existing level of happiness.
Most of my old college friends are already married or engaged to be married. And I harbor no jealous nor superior feelings towards them. Committed relationships are a wonderful thing, and right now, I’m loving the one I have with myself.
(I think it’s important that I point out Ms. Patton has sons, not daughters, and is divorced. So really, her effort to advise us, probably isn’t even about us. Which is why I can’t be really offended by her out-dated advice. She’s working out some stuff. Trying to find her own happiness again. And I applaud that.)