When to marry? When you find true love — not shallow infatuation or mere passion, but true love

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.

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  • Spartacus

    “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.”
    She may have a mirror to answer the question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” before going out, but apparently she doesn’t have any non-Princeton friends she could call up and ask, “Does this letter to the editor make me sound like a stuck-up elitist with intelligence-idolatry issues?”

  • Charles Martel

    I’m sorry, but I’m still trying to understand just what it is about a Princeton (or Harvard, or Stanford) woman that makes her such a superior specimen. Most of the Elite U co-eds I’ve run into over the years are certainly smart, but hardly breathtaking or overpowering–especially when they enter traipsing the standard leftist bilge about sex, politics, or the economy.

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    Good post.
    Personally, I find that people who endlessly harp about “intelligence” and “intellectuality” are rarely either particularly smart or possessed of broad intellectual interests.
    The level of credential-worship in this society (the wonderfulness of being a Princeton Person is taken for granted in Patton’s screed) is reaching absurd levels. I think it is basically a revised version of the kind of people who used to get their self-esteem from being descendants of Old Families who came over on the Mayflower, or whatever.
    When Tom Watson Jr (long-time CEO of IBM and son of the company’s founder) was young, he fell in love with a girl who was from one of the Old Families. Her mother absolutely banned the match, because Tom Jr was not well enough socially connected. Being the son of the founder of what was, even then, one of America’s most successful companies didn’t count with her nearly as much as being a branch on some moth-eaten family tree.
    Someday people will laugh at 2013s Ivy League obsession in the way that we now laugh at the mother of Tom Jr’s lost love.
    (The story is from Watson’s wonderful autobiography, Father, Son, & Co.

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  • heather

    I’ll be the first woman to comment, and I suspect from a different perspective.  Patton, despite her Ivy league snobbery, is correct.  
    It’s harder these days for a college-educated woman to find a man with similar education and goals, once she graduates, unless maybe she goes to work in a male-dominated field.  More women are getting degrees than men now, and so it’s just simple math.  After college, even though I lived in the DC metro region, the pool of men that I had anything at all in common with was very small.  I ended up turning to the Internet.  Found someone semi-local, so we dated in person, and I was almost 29 when we got married.  I wasn’t an anomaly.  Plenty of educated career women around me, and most of the men were puttering around at 25 taking one class a time at the community college and living with Mom.  
    Of course there are plenty of exceptions, but this still a real issue for women now – finding a compatible mate.

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  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    I’ll add to what heather said.  It’s not just that the pool of eligible males shrink, given that women have always, perhaps instinctively, married up (their lizard brains fixate on the bets candidates to help raise offspring).  The other problem is the hooking up culture.  Back in the day, the young feminists scoffed at mom when she preached against sleeping around:  “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

    Why indeed?  In days of yore, men who wanted milk had to go to prostitutes or get married.  Marriage was safer (no sexually transmitted diseases, no fear of public exposure) and society pushed marriage.  Now, men can wait and wait and wait until they finally realize that they want stability and children.  They’re in their mid to late 30s by then.  They then look around for the optimal “mother” candidate, and find her in the pretty 24 year old, who won’t have problems getting pregnant, who has the stamina to stay up nights with babies, and who hasn’t got that irritating “I am woman, hear me roar” attitude that makes so many older professional women Hell on wheels.

    As I said, I’m opposed to time-tables, but I definitely feel that if a woman has found a man she respects and loves, who in turn loves, cherishes and respects her, she should get married no matter what.  A career is until children; a good marriage is for a lifetime.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    Hope this doesn’t cost me my “man-card”, but I think Ms. Patton is absolutely correct. 
    It’s hard enough for young women to find a young man who WANTS to commit and get married, given the lack of any stigma attached to sleeping around with all and sundry. 
    If she actually finds someone she can love and respect, and who returns the same to her…..WHY would she give that up?  For a JOB?  Are you kidding?

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  • jj

    Spartacus, Martel, and Foster got there before I did – I wasn’t feeling great last night.  She has quite an estimation of herself as a Princetonette, and therefore a superior order of being, doesn’t she?  (Maybe it’s Princetonito.)  “Those who can’t do, teach.  Those who can’t teach, teach in the Ivy League.”  I am not the originator of that, but watching my one-time company go out of its way every year to recruit what turned out to be morons from the Ivies that we far-too-often had to let go six months after hiring, I am in sympathy.  Try having a conversation with John Kerry.  (I have.)
    It’s possible to look at the the “more women than men are in college these days” statistic from a couple of angles, and arrive at entirely different conclusions.  Having been doing it longer, it may be that men are just arriving quicker at an appreciation of what BS it’s all become, and it’s dawned on them that they don’t require their start in life to be encumbered with six-figure student loans.  I know it’s a famous cliche, but I actually do have a friend from my volunteer fire department days who’s a plumber.  He has two trucks on the road, his own and his son’s, and if the two of them don’t each generate $250K a year there’s something wrong.  I don’t know what his actual take-home is, but it’s a million-dollar house; he drives a series 7 BMW and a Toyota crew-cab Tacoma for rainy days; his daughter went through Smith commuting back and forth in her Jaguar; Momma drives a Porsche Cayenne, and they’re all cruising around Cape Horn from Chile to Argentina next month.  What the hell did this man need to spend as much as 30 seconds in college for?
    I look back over my own life, and realize that my college education, and various trips through grad school were certainly gratifying, but they hardly related to my actual life at all, in any real sense.  I did the grad schools because they were fun, I wanted to, and somebody else was paying – but it never meant anything to me, nor did it add anything to me.  I could have done the job I was doing perfectly well by the time I was through the tenth-grade, and the then-president of the network was pretty sure he could have done it without getting past middle school.  (And when GE bought the network, I think that’s what we had.  And not middle schoolers who stood at the head of their classes, either.)
    There are a lot of people realizing that the “go to college” automatic reflex up with which we all grew is nonsense.  I suspect that if we’re honest about it, 90% of what people do for a living doesn’t require “higher education.”  And the Ivy League is, by itself, no evidence of intelligence, as I’d have thought nearly everyone would have realized by now.
    Ms. Patton, I doubt if where you went to school is why you might have priced yourself out of the market.  Your shitty attitude might have something to do with it, but it wasn’t where you sat in a classroom.  And you don’t know just by looking, nor do you gain much insight from a series of conversations at dinner, or much of anywhere else.  What we know about other people is what they choose to reveal.  You may not be nearly as alluring as you suppose yourself to be, if no one has bothered to reveal to you that intellectually you’re just not that superior, or challenging. 

  • Beth

    Trying to raise the kids to discern their vocations first, their professions second; be it religious life, marriage or single life.  A job or career is not a vocation.  Our 18 year old son feels he is called to marry and thus is looking at careers that will allow him to provide for his future wife and family.  Our 21 year old daughter has not yet discerned between religious life or marriage; in the meantime, working toward degrees in mathematics and computer science–both of which she enjoys and is talented toward.  She has every intention of working to support herself but if marriage should be her discernment, she’s fully prepared to care for husband and children even if it means letting go of the career. 
    If marriage is the vocation, I recommend it sooner rather than later.  After having three of the eight children AFTER 40, my husband and I joke that having children is a ‘young man’s sport’.  No doubt our younger children have different advantages than our older children.  A trade off between energy and wisdom.  But had we not had children at a younger age, we would not have the wisdom we do to parent at an older age–if that makes any sense. 

  • HighPriestess

    I’m with Earl. 
    It’s HARD to find a man to marry.  In fact, for me it was impossible and I spent years in the university system.  I never found one.  All I found were a string of boyfriends who weren’t interested in a lasting commitment. I lived with a few of them and then we split up.  What a waste of time that was…but that was what life was offering everyone I knew.  I didn’t know anyone who had married young and was living a traditional life.  They were all doing what I was doing…shacking up for a period of time and then moving on.  When I think about it now the idea of getting married young strikes me as odd.  People really do that?  If so, where do they find someone willing? 
    I ended up marrying a much older, very eccentric man who has some money.  I’m not in love with him and I don’t even share a bed with him.  It was the best I could find.  He married me because he wanted someone to take care of him and because he’s strange no woman was interested.  I entered into what could only be called a “deal” with him and we married.  I get, in exchange for cooking, cleaning etc..his property when he dies. 
    Anyone else want to try this?  This is where you end up when you don’t find someone to marry while you’re young.  It’s either here or living by yourself in some dismal studio apartment.  I chose this.
    Before I finish let me say this:  I am PISSED!  I feel that the ‘sexual revolution’ and feminism ruined my life.  I want to sue someone for damages.

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  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    Discussion of the Patton thing, and some interesting data, here.
    Note especially the graph showing historical average age of marriage, for men and women.

  • Charles Martel

    My son, who will turn 28 in two weeks, tried junior college for a year before dropping out. I was relieved at his choice and told him so in plain terms. The academic life makes little sense given that a.) very few kids are intellectually disposed toward or qualified for it and b.) it’s a dead-end when it comes to emerging with an applicable set of real-world skills or critical-thinking capabilities.
    Ten years after his decision not to become a debt slave and a credulous, self-absorbed Occupy type, my son reminds me of the Jamaican family that was a staple skit on “In Living Color.” Like the Jamaicans, he’s holding down several jobs, including the assistant managership of my county’s biggest music store, giving drum lessons on the side at $60 per hour to schoolkids and teens, acting as the retail sales manager for a start-up company that plans to sell a breakthrough piece of music technology in a market now dominated by the Japanese, and growing a thriving side business as a musical track designer for some major rock acts as they prepare to go out on tour. 
    In many ways, he’s like jj’s plumber–smart, self-motivated, energetic, and often bemused by college-educated classmates he runs into from his high school days. “Dad, they are some of the densest, most ignorant people I’ve ever met.” While he does still carry some silly leftist memes left over from his high school indoctrination, his increasing brushes with reality have stripped away most of his political correctness.
    So I see a silver lining here: As more and more young men come to see the worthlessness of a college degree, college will become an increasingly feminized and futile institution, great at handing out fossil credentials in a society where independent young men (and women) are realizing that they can begin actual adult lives at 18 or 19 rather than fend off adulthood by hiding in the great nurseries we call universities.

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  • http://www.marchhareshouse.blogspot.com March Hare

    Why does Ms. Patton think that academic intelligence is the only kind out there?
    Hubs has a couple of years of community college; I have a degree in biological sciences from Cal.  When the washing machine needs fixing, guess who can repair it?  (I’m better at the tech stuff.)  When we first started dating, I earned more; now he earns more.  Most importantly, our values concerning the important stuff coincide (for the most part) and after 34 years, he still makes me laugh.
    Broaden your scope, ladies!  Don’t be blinded by the glare off the diploma!

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    I think a lot of academics hide between passive aggressive helplessness. I’m too smart to change light bulbs, take out the garbage, put together the furniture, unclog the drain, etc.  In my house, I do all that stuff because I enjoy the feeling of competence.

  • Spartacus

    Faced with too much substance to comment upon substantively, it’s time to go shallow and off-topic:  Is anyone else deeply disturbed by the phrase, “epic tweet-down” used in the Taranto article?  Was he being deliberately ironic?  If not… has anyone seen my culture?  I could swear it was around here somewhere not so long ago…

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Taranto?  I bet it was sarcasm.  He enjoys tweaking pop culture.

  • Mike Devx

    Seems to me that Ms. Patton is looking for a Mr. Patton who is her cultural clone.  If I had any advice, I’d suggest she marry a guy who is a jack of all trades around the house, a Mr. FixIt, and who likes her, loves her, and is interested in most everything she thinks.  No college degree of any sort necessary.

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  • Leah

    35 years ago, at age 19 I met my husband, he was 22. We married 6 months latter and had three sons. They all got the message. Son #1 married at 24, Son #2 is getting married in 3 weeks, son #3 is gay and is marrying his partner next year at 25.
    Son #1 already has two children so I am loving being a young grandmother.
    I have many friends who touted the feminist route to their daughters and sons for years. Get a career – don’t marry young! Their kids are listening to them – though now that the parents are in their 60’s they are saying get married already – I want grandchildren. YOu’ve been living with your boyfriend for 4 years now – get on with it – to no avail.
    Feminism may have started with a good idea – but the damage it has done to society is beyond repair at this point.

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  • socratease

    (If “to kerfuffle” isn’t a verb, it should be.)
    Any noun in English can be verbed.

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