The Left has been kerfuffling lately when it comes to the age by which women should marry. (If “to kerfuffle” isn’t a verb, it should be.) The kerfuffle (now I’m using it as a noun) started when Susan Patton, who was one of the first women admitted to Princeton, wrote an opinion piece in The Daily Princetonian advising young women not to wait, but to get married while still in college:
For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and 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. Yes, I went there.
I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless. Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again–you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.
The Left was outraged, accusing Patton of trying to reinstate the sexist old joke that, when women go to college, the degree they’re looking for isn’t a B.A. or B.S., it’s an M.R.S. James Taranto nicely sums up the outrage Patton’s opinion piece sparked:
Many of the attacks on Patton were notable for their infinitesimal ratio of ratiocination to emotion. “Oh no,” wrote Maureen O’Connor of New York magazine, adding: “Ugh.” She sarcastically characterized Patton’s argument thus: “Touching the flesh of an older woman will actually cause a man to wither and disintegrate into dust.” (To her credit, O’Connor phoned Patton a few hours later and conducted what seems to have been an entirely civil interview.)
“Why would the Daily Princetonian publish such inanity?” demanded Katie Baker of Jezebel.com. “Patton could’ve saved herself a lot of time and energy by simply writing ‘[obscenity redacted] my youngest son while you have the chance!’ ” Gawker.com’s Caity Weaver got even nastier and grosser: “If Susan A. Patton had daughters, she would be encouraging them to marry their brothers, for there is no finer achievement in a woman’s life than securing the prized stallion that is a Susan A. Patton boy.”
Slate.com’s Amanda Marcotte made something of an effort at a substantive rebuttal. In the course of an epic tweet-down Saturday, she cited the strong correlation between college education and marriage as if it refuted Patton’s argument (and this columnist’s defense of it). We explained last year why that correlation is far less encouraging than feminists wish it to be, but in any case Marcotte’s argument was a non sequitur.
Typically for Taranto, he also has the correct rebuttal to the feminists’ argument, which boils down to the fact that biology means that women do have a childbearing, child-rearing imperative that starts to time out as they get older. Also, while they’re male peers can look downwards (both on the age scale and the education scale) for a mate, professional women are stuck looking for someone their own age to meet these biological demand. They’re looking for the men, but the men aren’t looking for them. Sexist it may be, but it’s also the way the world works. And under that analysis, having spread before you a pool of intelligent, upwardly mobile, attractive, age-appropriate young men is as good a time as ever for a woman who wants a family to go spouse-fishing.
The debate about when feminists think women should marry got rekerfuffled today when Julia Shaw, who married at 23, said early marriage was a good thing for her. She was grateful that she didn’t let her externally-devised, rigidly-constructed professional timeline prevent her from finding the right partner for her life. Once again, Amanda Marcotte led the opposing charge:
Watching conservatives desperately try to bully women into younger marriage with a couple of promises and a whole lot of threats is highly entertaining but clearly not persuasive. Women marry later because it makes sense given their own career aspirations. . . . I’m glad young marriage is working out for Shaw, but for the majority of women, dating and cohabitating until they’re more sure is working out just fine. If he’s good enough to marry, he’ll still be around when you’re ready to make that leap.
Marcotte is always irritating, even when she has a point. When she doesn’t have a point, as is the case here, she goes well beyond irritating into whatever emotional area lies “well beyond irritating.” For one thing, it’s overwrought for Marcotte to contend that having one say “it worked for me,” amounts to conservative bullying. For another thing, by what possible standard does Marcotte assume that living together, followed by the maybe of marriage, to a man who might just stick around (or may look for greener pastures, where he can get new milk for free) actually works for the majority of women? If she thinks Shaw is being doctrinaire (“marry early”), Marcotte is being just as doctrinaire (“marry late; I’m sure he’ll wait”).
Here’s the bottom line about marriage: finding someone you love, who loves you back, is one of life’s great blessings. I’m not talking about free-floating physical passion, which is an enjoyable, but transient thing. I’m talking about meeting someone where you have that perfect and blessed combination: love, respect, companionship, comfort, and passion, or at least strong physical attraction and affection. Bid that good-bye because of some sort of arbitrary time-table, and you may never be lucky enough to find it again. And no, even good people won’t always wait, because the mere fact that you insist on waiting may signal to them that you don’t view them with the same level of commitment, love, respect, and passion that they have for you.
Here’s another bottom line about marriage: people change. They change in their 20s, their 30s, their 40s, their 50s, and so on and so on. Passing by your soul-mate because you’re young and assume you’ll change and grow away from others is foolish. Change is inevitable. But if you are lucky enough to find someone who respects you as much as s/he loves you, that change can be an enriching, not an alienating, process.
These feminist time-tables are irritating. True love is precious. If you are confident that you have found it and it has found you, take the leap, whether you’re young or old. You may not be as lucky a second time if you throw the gift away just because some opinionated harridans told you that you’re not on the politically-correct timetable.