Princeton Mom's One Saving Grace

What Women Really Think
March 13 2014 4:24 PM

Princeton Mom's One Saving Grace

Princeton_mom
Princeton Mom Susan Patton

Screenshot via NBC

This week in Brave Souls: Maureen O’Connor has infiltrated the tiger’s den to speak with Susan Patton, aka Princeton Mom, the spirit animal for professionally accomplished women who wish they had married young. The profile is rich in delicious details, like Patton’s “ringleted bouffant updo,” her dachshund Lucille (with “naturally orange fur,” because Princeton), and the fact that she wishes to remarry in the campus chapel, surrounded by orange roses.

The PM urges 29-year-old Princeton alum O’Connor to decide immediately whether she wants a husband and children, and it sounds a lot like momsplaining to O’Connor that she definitely wants a husband and children. When O’Connor floats waiting until the divorce wave and then “[marrying] into stepmotherhood,” PM is chagrined. “Is that what you want?” she asks. “You want to raise another woman’s kids? Terrible, Maureen. Terrible, terrible, terrible.”

Advertisement

This, in three words, pretty much sums up most people’s reaction to the Princeton Mom. And I agree: She is a nut with a devastatingly retrograde vision of gender relations, an unpardonable elitist streak, and probably two very embarrassed sons. (Hang in there, guys!) She is a lady who unironically compares young women having casual sex to lonely cows. She believes date rape should be called “mistake sex.” She’s against interracial and interfaith marriages, has weird hang-ups about older women courting younger men, and as far as I can tell views love as an economic transaction between two resumes

That said, O’Connor writes, “it’s hard not to be charmed by Patton’s spirit.”

Her snobbery is actually quite modern, and fueled by an unexpected streak of feminist gumption. Patton was raised in the Bronx by Eastern European immigrants….Though she was at the top of her class at her public high school, her parents opposed a college education. To apply to Princeton, Patton had to declare herself an emancipated minor. ‘I wanted a much broader life than just motherhood. My parents didn’t see the value in that, they couldn’t understand. They saw it for my brother, but not for me. And he would tell you this: He wasn’t much of a student. But I was, and I always wanted a bigger life, a more creative life, a more engaged life, out of the Bronx.’

Patton's life experience sure seems to contradict her advice to young women. (In her star-minting Daily Princetonian op-ed, and in a new book she has coming out called Marry Smart: Advice for Finding THE ONE, her argument appears to be that “just motherhood” actually fulfills us more than professional success ever could.) Still, Princeton Mom has an incredibly positive view of what women are capable of. She just thinks she knows better than we do what will make us happy.  

Many sexists uphold traditional gender roles because they believe women can’t hack it outside the home. Patton claims the opposite: “Incredibly accomplished women,” she tells O’Connor “come to me when they’re in their mid- to late-30s. … I’m talking about women who are editors-in-chief, heads of marketing, publishers. They’re making 400 or 500,000 a year. They have wardrobe budgets, salon budgets, T&E budgets. Endless budgets! They’re on every A-list in town.” Princeton Mom’s pet subject is women with resplendent CVs, a Rothko in the living room, and a hole in their hearts; she likes to warn girls about the frustrations of dating “someone who just can’t keep up.” Her take on the post-graduation dating pool: “Can you meet brilliant, marriageable men after college? Yes, but just not that many of them. Once you're living off campus and in the real world, you'll be stunned by how smart the men are not.”

In a way, the women in the Pattonverse are victims of their own worth and success, and PM's looney tunes ramblings take female megastardom for granted. Princeton Mom is wrong about what All Women Want, but for slightly less offensive reasons than the people who think ladies are too weak/emotional/dumb to do anything besides arrange canapés on a plate. Her breed of backwardness is kind of refreshing.

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.