What’s So Great About a Princeton Husband?

A response to Princeton alum Susan Patton's amazingly archaic advice

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Archival photograph of young Princeton students walking on campus in Princeton, N.J.
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Archival photograph of young Princeton students walking on campus in Princeton, N.J.

What is it about that place, anyway? Is someone there starting a Regressive Gender Issues think tank? In the most recent throwback moment, a Princeton grad (Susan Patton, Class of ’77) seems just a tad hung up on the excellence of marrying her own kind.

Given my wonderful friends who are Princeton grads, I’d like to think that they aren’t as hung up on the glory of their alma mater. But I have noticed, over the decades, that Princetonians in particular and Ivy Leaguers in general suffer from a cloying self-importance and parochialism. You know who I mean — the ones who let you know, in the first 10 minutes of conversation, where he or she went to school, especially if the place is Yale or … uh, Cambridge. But, hey, I went to Wesleyan, which means everyone thinks I dropped acid for four years.

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And yet there is also a certain amount of self-loathing for a woman who graduated from such a fine institution to be telling young Princeton women that they have to watch out for their “shelf life,” that they will never have a better opportunity than college to snag a husband, that they should make it “one of your many life missions to find your life partner.”

Patton wishes someone had given her this advice back in the day. She wishes she had married a Princeton guy because her ex “went to a school of almost no name recognition” and “had no respect for the hoopla, the traditions, the allegiance, the orange and black.” She was smarter than he was, and in the final accounting, Patton now says, “I am divorced. I did not marry a Princeton man. I wish I had.”

Like Princeton men don’t leave their Princeton wives?

As a matter of fact, I have some advice to all those Princeton gals who married the guy they sat next to in English 101. You’ve been swimming in the same small gene pool for, say, the past 44 years — if you were clever enough to snag the man of your dreams the day Princeton let your kind into their hallowed halls in 1969.

There’s got to be more to life. So now? Divorce him.

Seriously. You have no idea what you have been missing.

You know you’ve been tempted, oh, about a million times over the decades. You have long suspected that there is something more to life than an orange-and-black color scheme. You know there’s something unhealthy going on when every domestic dispute over, say, that pesky budget ends with “Rah! Rah! Rah! Rah! Tiger sis boom bah! And locomotives by the score.” (Say what?) Sure, you got a tiger by the tail, back in the day — and admit it, you felt kinda sorry when your sister had to settle for a U of Michigan Wolverine, of all things.

Oh? He’s already divorced you? That isn’t supposed to happen! You’re just as smart as he is — maybe even smarter (but don’t tell anyone!). You did everything right. You kept an eye on your Female Expiration Date and had babies before you had promotions. You did everything you could to support His Big Career because you knew your place: Princeton was, after all, a Men First World.

But I’m sure the Princeton alum magazine has a terrific classifieds section. Princeton Female, Still Roaring, Seeking Princeton Tiger, Hopefully Still Purring After All These Years.