An author I follow on Twitter, Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner), recently tweeted about an open letter from Susan A. Patton (Princeton ‘77) to The Daily Princetonian. In that letter of “[a]dvice for the young women of Princeton,” Patton counseled:
"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."
Patton stood by her comments in an interview with Maureen O’Connor, noting that Patton's ex-husband “went to a school of almost no name recognition ... A school that nobody has respect for, including him, really."
Jennifer Weiner’s take on the letter is, “I think it displays a dismayingly low opinion of men.” For my part, I wasn’t particularly troubled -- at least until my wife pointed out the superciliousness implicit in the letter; she felt that it insulted all men without Ivy League pedigrees. As the proud product of a public school education (except for that year I conned Harvard into letting me attend its law classes as an exchange student), my reaction was immediate and strong. I demanded to know, “What does superciliousness mean?” She told me to look it up in the thesaurus. HA! Even I know that the thesauruses (thesauri?) have been extinct for nearly a thousand years.
My wife sighed, as she often does when I speak. She told me -- in words I could understand, along with a few simple stick-figure drawings -- about the evils of elitism, eugenics and intellectual snobbery. Well, now I really was offended. Seeing my agitation, she suggested that I'd feel better if I blogged about it, and then she gave me a nice, cold glass of milk and a cookie – one of those big, chewy ones with the big chocolate ... sorry, I digress. My wife was right; I would blog about the letter.
But the more I studied Patton’s letter, the more I realized that she was right too. My year as an exchange student at HLS confirmed that finding an “intellectual equal” outside of the Ivy League is close to impossible for Ivy League women. Okay, I know that some less-enlightened folks claim that there are more important things to look for than a high IQ when shopping for a husband. And they’re also right: things like getting a degree from an Ivy League school. There’s no question that the Ivy League is brimming with hyper-intelligent people. But come on, anyone who’s seen The Social Network knows that not all Ivy Leaguers are smart (and that some are even a little creepy). But getting a sheepskin from such a place – well, now that’s fuel for decades of scintillating matrimonial conversation.
All right, I know what you’re thinking: “But what about all those Ivy League alumni who commit horrible crimes?” Oh, grow up. At least they’re not common criminals. And their transgressions are usually financial crimes, which simply do not reflect a lack of intelligence and certainly don’t indicate how good a conversationalist a man will be between T-Ball innings (after he serves his reduced sentence for good behavior). And don’t start up with me about Ted Kaczynski (Harvard ‘62). Between getting his undergraduate degree and becoming the Unibomber, Kaczynski went to one public school (University of Michigan) and taught at another (Cal). Nor can you fairly count Stephen H. Kessler (Harvard '57), dubbed the “Mad LSD Slayer” for stabbing his mother-in-law 105 times: he was found not guilty, by reason of insanity (hey, it still goes in the W column). Same goes for Aaron Burr (Princeton 1772). He wasn’t declared insane, but New York and New Jersey eventually dropped all charges against him for killing Alexander Hamilton, so Burr was never even tried.
The point is, all of these men could have made great husbands (in theory). But I will allow that the discussion gets more complicated when one considers Eliot Spitzer (Princeton ‘81), who reportedly patronized a high-priced prostitution service. And David Petraeus (Princeton Ph.D, ‘87) might not win husband-of-the-year honors either. But can anybody seriously dispute that both of these men are really, really smart? (Remember, we’re talking about book smart). And that's the important thing. As Patton instructs:
"[Y]ou could choose to marry a man who has other things to recommend him besides a soaring intellect. But ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you."
Well there it is. How could you possibly argue with such logic? If you’re an Ivy League woman, you need to stay away from state university graduates – or worse, the "self-educated" Abraham Lincolns of the world. Think how tedious that would be. This advice is for your own good and future happiness. Nothing supercilious about it. I know; I looked it up.
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