Letter to My Daughters: Real and Imagined

Let’s get this over with — Ack!!! I was compelled to write this letter to my daughters in response to this…

First of all, Susan Patton – Princeton grad….Is this really your big, meaning-of-life lesson you wish to impart to your imaginary daughters?

At your core, you know that there are other things that you need that nobody is addressing. A lifelong friend is one of them. Finding the right man to marry is another.

Seriously, that’s what she said. Read it for yourselves.

Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had.

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.

No, no, no, a thousand times no. And to those agreeing with her in the comments – ptooey.

I realize I should just dismiss this silly missive for what it is. One woman’s narrow-minded, clouded point-of-view, aimed at a very limited audience, of which, I am not a member.

Except, I have daughters, real and imagined, and I would be remiss if I let this one slide. If anything it gives me chance to impart my own thoughts on life and marriage.

Misinterpretation

Mrs. P. offers up a cautionary tale and advice to the young ladies of her alma mater based on questions asked after a business conference.

Questions she has interpreted to mean, that though Princeton grads are savvy, and smart enough for ivy league educations, they aren’t up to the task of procuring spouses. At least not once they’ve left the confines of their university.

That’s her supposition – young women are clueless as to how to find suitable men to marry once they graduate and join the work force. Women, presumably intellectually able to lead corporations? That, and women’s happiness and self-fulfillment is dependent on marrying “worthy” men. She advises they cull them from the collegiate pool before they’re snatched up by lessor women, you know, those outside the Princeton gene pool. Mothers, hide your sons.

They Wanted Assurance

Susan Patton’s letter was prompted by the Q&A that happened after the morning session of the Women and Leadership Conference. Comments and questions that were asked after all questions relating to the actual reason for being there, were answered.

Imagine these young women, students—who after having had a full load of intellectually stimulating speeches, and conversations — got personal querying their elders about life, friendships and making it all work.

Ma’am, where did you get the idea these question subsumed the importance of all that had transpired previous to those questions? Your letter implies their main interest in participating in the conference was mining you for dating advise. Did anyone actually say “Darn, too bad we had to listen to all that business and leadership tripe when all we really want to know was how to bag a husband?”

She couldn’t imagine these ivy-league educated, future leaders – generations away from her own college experience – were merely wondering how to manage their personal and professional lives?

Letter To My Daughters

Dear Eva, and Lillian, my darling daughters, and to all the other daughters I treat as if they are my own. I want you to read this woman’s letter and promise me you will never, ever let this kind of backwards-ass thinking define who you are. Or your idea of who ivy league women are. She, are not they.

It is plainly wrong to imagine you will find happiness and self-fulfillment through another. The major flaw in this thinking is, what happens if you don’t find a husband, or don’t want a husband, or he leaves you – who are you then?

The Only Life Lesson You Need.

Here it is, my big life lesson for you — self-fulfillment and happiness comes from defining your values, and ideals and living by those principles.

That’s it.

The Purpose of College

You are going to college to obtain an education. To explore worlds bigger than the one you currently reside, and expand the possibilities of who you are, and who you thought you could be. Hopefully, you will develop relationships with all manner of people, of all sexes, peers, and professors, and they will enrich your life, as you will theirs. If you can, travel and get to know the world through others eyes.

Marriage

The purpose of developing intimate relationships isn’t so you will find happiness or self-fulfillment through them. It is to support one another in the pursuit of personal fulfillment and happiness. A pursuit not dependent on the other but facilitated by it.

Find the person whose values, and ideals align with yours. Find the person who encourages you to pursue being the best person you can be for your own edification, not for theirs. And you in turn, be that partner.

If there is anything we have learned over the last few months, it is that other people’s marriages are not based on or defined by ours.

Ideally, and I’m hopeful it will be a legally sanctified choice for all, the definition of marriage is for the partners to define.

The current reality is — women have more decisions and choices to make trying to balance the physical and mental challenges of “having it all.”  I agree that it is mythologized to the point that women often end up feeling unfulfilled. Mrs. P’s answer to that reality is wrong headed, and counter productive.

Successful Relationships

My friends and I, those who have “worthy” husbands, stable, kind, involved partners, we still struggle with self-actualization. Because no matter the state of those relationships – it is not our partners who define us. Nor is it the roles we play in others lives, such as mother, daughter, friend.

The choices we make based on our own values, and morals, being true to these internalized motivations are what lead us to satisfaction and happiness.

The problem with defining yourself by others, is that people change, those relationships evolve, even dissolve — and when they do, who are you then?

If you are always you, you adapt, and respond. Above all, you are always true to you.

Now go out there and make good choices!

Comments

  1. Hi Lynne, Great post and love your message to your daughters! I hope I can speak it as plainly to my daughter (right now there’s just a lot of screaming going on). While I was initially infuriated with Patton’s speech I think I understand better what she meant by “Finding the right man to marry is another”. I think it is linked to your ideal – “it is to support one another in the pursuit of personal fulfillment and happiness.” So many women I know (and men too) consider their spouses’ support as a key to their success (and you can define success however you wish). I think it is critical to support one another in marriage and to so so, you have to find the right man or woman. Otherwise don’t get married.
    Now, that she believes college/university is the time to focus on that because that’s where you’ll find the most concentration of men worth of you” is moronic and total BS.

  2. Well said. It is really that simple when you spell it out so eloquently, Lynne. The issue is or will be as our children journey to find their place in the world they’ll take a left instead of a right, you know, kiss a frog or three, and then maybe consider what they want to do the rest of their lives. Great post, shared the link with my daughter.

    • Lynne Favreau says:

      Thank you Brenda, I’m flattered you felt it worthy of sharing.
      Thank you too, Jodi and Chris. I appreciate you reading it.

  3. I think we get married or have relationships because we are only a self in relationships. Like you, I agree that we are a witness for each other and this mirror is how we grow.

  4. LOVED this! You truly have a gift with words.

  5. This was really wonderful, Lynne. I read that article and was really frustrated. It reminded me of this lecture given by a sociology professor to freshman women called “The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Mate Selection,” wherein he told us that we were surrounded by the most “elligible” men that we ever would find at this point and that the longer we waited to settle down, the harder it would be. It made me extremely mad when I sat in the lecture my first year of college. I am happily married and I met my husband in college, but not until my junior year and we didn’t get married for 3 years after I graduated. Clearly, “mate selection” was not my primary objective in college. This woman’s intellectual elitism is nearly as frustrating as her sexism, in that she implies that men without Ivy educations are not “worthy.” I’ve always found worth to be a subjective concept and so her treatment of the worth of a person was also frustrating. I loved your response, though, and you put into words a lot of things I’ve been considering since reading the original piece.

    • Thanks Kate. My husband has an AA in Graphic Arts, and is smarter than most people I know, no matter whose education level you’re comparing him to. You can’t teach common sense. Gee, he married down because I only had my GED when we met at age twenty six, at work. I guess I’ll have to divorce him now that I have my BA.

  6. Hi Gang! Forgive the shitty formatting. WordPress and I are not seeing eye-eye this morning.

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