Marry Smart by Susan Patton

Title: Marry Smart
Author: Susan Patton (a.k.a. The Princeton Mom)
Originally published: 2014
Burn this book.

I picked Marry Smart up as a joke. I have a fascination with self-help books, especially those of a relationship-based nature, that I cannot explain other than I find them highly entertaining. My personal favourites are those that tell us unmarried gals how to find “the one” and what behaviours we need to adopt to do so. These tips have included everything from being nice for the first ten seconds after meeting someone and then be aloof and to be a total bitch so that he respects you. Most often these books have made me sigh and yet amused me, slightly saddened by the thought of a woman out there taking this so-called advice verbatim but hoping that, for the most part, they can see through it. Marry Smart was the first one I picked up that not only did I read cover to cover but that made me frustrated, offended, and angry.

You may remember a letter that Susan Patton wrote to the Princeton newspaper last year that went viral and resulted in her being dubbed “The Princeton Mom”. After a sit-down with some ladies attending Princeton she realized that no one was offering them advice on how to find their lifelong mate or the permission to do so. They had been, as it happens, beaten down by the feminist rhetoric that made them feel guilty for wanting a husband and children, apparently. This is upsetting to Patton as the “nasty loudmouths” (feminists) are using poor, innocent women as fodder to empower their cause, but not to empower women. We (yes, I am a feminist) are “bitter remnants of the once-proud women’s movement”. What I find so interesting about this is that Patton does mention a few times in her book the actual causes that feminism stands for: equality, respect, and the right for each woman to choose what she desires for herself without intervention from outside parties.

Any true feminist would have no problem with a woman deciding to marry and have children if that’s what she desires. What Patton is doing in this book is taking feminism and warping it to suit her ideals – using feminism as fodder to empower her cause, and I don’t really think that someone who can’t “tell the difference between a feminist and a lesbian” can be taken seriously when it comes to knowledge of feminism, can she?

I will give Susie (as she wanted her college peers to call her so that she seemed effervescent, fun, and interesting) credit where it is due: she warned me. She was very clear at the beginning that if I wasn’t looking for advice on how to find a man and have children then this book wasn’t for me. I have a hard time believing this disclaimer was about me so much as it was about protecting herself from those that would smear her image the first chance they got.

This book is full of incredibly odd literary references, used seemingly only to prove to the audience how educated and well-read she is. She does want to remind you that she is educated, after all – you can hardly go four pages without her mentioning being Princeton alumni. Education is the root of all of her advice, after all if you don’t find your man in college then good luck according to Patton – you’ll never find that many single, intelligent men who are on your level ever again in one place. Don’t worry, if you’re having a hard time finding someone on campus to call your husband you can always go to the cheese club and bond over a nice Camembert.

Yes, she actually said that.

Finding a man in college may be the best way to do it, she is right. You’ll have common interests and likely some shared ideas about the world. But don’t you go getting down and dirty anytime soon young lady: the cow who gives her milk away for free is never going to be the girl that gets the guy permanently. While men are expected to sow their wild oats and live freely, taking the opportunity to have noncommittal sex when offered them because, after all, they are men, women must be chaste. Men are bound to be dogs, according to Patton, who can’t refuse a free cut of meat. So if you meet the man you want you must wait until he’s finished doing his thing, probably a few years down the line, and then make your move.

I have never been more disgusted by a woman’s advice in my life. Not only is she demeaning and antiquated in her ideals towards women, she treats men as if they are simply sex machines who can’t help where their penis goes. And if you’re drunk around him then dear God, watch out:

If you are too drunk to speak, then you may be incapable of saying no or warding off unwanted advances. And then it’s all on you. Please spare me your “blaming the victim” outrage. If you are provocatively dressed, drink too much, and knowingly (or unknowingly) wander into an eager young man’s room, then you have displayed screamingly bad judgement and must bear accountability for what may happen next. This is not just some youthful indiscretion – it is absolute stupidity.”

I won’t spare you my blaming the victim outrage, Susie, because I can’t. What you are telling young women today is completely opposite from what any responsible parent should say. You, as the mother of two boys, have the responsibility to tell your sons that when a girl is drunk she is not their property and she is not at their mercy. She did make a stupid choice but it shouldn’t be something she has to pay further for. It comes as no surprise that later on in the book Patton drops an odd chapter about her choice to be a Republican (why should she have to pay more taxes, she says) that also includes the advice that if anyone ever tells you that they would never watch Fox News, you probably shouldn’t trust them because they are one-sided in their opinions.

No, we just like to get our other side of the story from a reputable source that isn’t produced by twelve year olds parading around in adult bodies.

Women are expected to lose weight, bleach their teeth, get manicures, and dress well. But we should look beyond the geeky exterior and awkward social skills to see a diamond in the rough. Also, according to Patton you shouldn’t be listening to what everyone else is telling you, you should make your own decision. But then she goes on to tell you exactly how you should feel. Your biological clock is ticking, after all, and you’ll never be as desirable as you are in your twenties so get rid of that flab, for crying out loud.

I hope that every parent that wrote to Patton that she calls out as “morally jealous” of her writes to her again. I hope that she understands that they were not upset because they felt that they weren’t as morally righteous as she was and therefore felt insane envy but that they saw her for what she really is: a backwards, non-progressive, opinion-touting woman who is dangerous for the good of society.

Women everywhere need to know only one thing: be happy with you are. If that includes losing weight then that is what you must do. But don’t listen to anyone, not the Pattons of the world and not the so-called “feminist rhetoric” that she bashes if you don’t want to (but please understand that the picture of feminism she paints is so off-base it’s painful). Listen to your heart and your gut. There is a place in the world for the working mom, the stay-at-home mom, and the non-mom. There is a place for the married, common law, and single woman. There is nothing wrong with who you choose to be and you do not need demonic advice to teach you otherwise.

There is so much about this book that makes me want to scream. The fact that she was paid to write this is awful on its own but the fact that there are going to be people out there reading this and feeling that it is true is too painful to think of. It is a disgusting, smutty piece of trash that never should have made it into a publisher’s hands let alone on the shelf. If you do any good deeds for the people of the world I hope you make one of them not ever buying this book.

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