The young men of Princeton’s Class of 2014 are midway through an Ivy League education at one of America’s most prestigious universities. At least one young man among them may also be suffering a bout of intense embarrassment: his mother has just addressed every woman in his class with some specific dating advice.
“You will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you,” wrote Susan Patton, 58, in a letter published in The Daily Princetonian, the student newspaper “Here’s what nobody is telling you: find a husband on campus before you graduate.”
Ms Patton expected that her letter, titled: “Advice for the young women of Princeton”, would be read by a few hundred of her son’s classmates. Instead it has been discussed all over America. Some feminists thought it an April Fool. The website of the student newspaper crashed apparently under the weight of interest.
“I’m stunned by how this has become the shot heard around the world,” she said yesterday. “Everybody is terrified of voicing this opinion because it sounds anti-feminist . . . But if the feminist movement truly accomplishes its mission, it will afford all women the opportunity to make any choice, even some that appear retrogressive.”
A mother of two, her elder son, Daniel, who also attended Princeton, had “the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his” but she could not guarantee that her younger son would choose one of them as his bride. “The universe of women he can marry is limitless,” Ms Patton wrote. “It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty.”
She did not believe this avenue was open to Princeton’s women. “It will frustrate you to be with a man who is not your intellectual equal. There is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are.”
In an interview with New York Magazine, she implied that her own 27-year marriage may have suffered because her ex-husband was not a Princeton graduate. “He went to a school of almost no name recognition,” she said.
She declined to discuss the relationship yesterday. Nor was the letter inspired by the romantic travails of her son. “It’s nothing he hasn’t heard me say a million times,” she said. “This has nothing to do with him. It was me very specifically thinking about those young women.”
“If they spend the next ten years doing nothing but career development, they find themselves in their thirties, without a life partner.”
Ms Patton, who coaches New York business executives, now wonders if she might offer advice to a wider audience. “What I really want to do is be a talk show host on a radio programme, where I can offer advice without having to get dressed up,” she said.