Carrying on: Not ready to put a ring on it

April 17, 2013

In the series finale of Gilmore Girls, Yale student and all-around perfect human being Rory Gilmore is proposed to by her cute, well-bred, and douchey boyfriend Logan at her college graduation. To much surprise, Rory turns down the proposal, opting to spend her post-grad years travelling the country pursuing her journalism career. And when that episode aired, somewhere in the world Susan A. Patton was clenching her fists and cursing at her television over Rory’s stupidity.

Patton, of course, is the mother who intentionally frustrated thousands a few weeks ago when she wrote to the Daily Princetonian urging every female Princeton undergrad to snag a marriageable man while in college and cling to him with her French-manicured nails for the rest of her life. The author was deservedly berated for her medieval values and blatant sexism, and for perpetuating the idea that a woman who graduates college at 21—no matter how high her grades, how good her job offers, how rich her experiences—has wasted her time and money if there’s no prospect of having a pricey ring on her finger in the near future.

Forget the purposeful offensiveness, the gross elitism, and the rehashed arguments about what it means to “have it all.” As a female college senior reading this article, my gut reaction was befuddlement—Get a husband in college? What a comically horrible idea.

This isn’t to say that marrying someone you date or meet in college is always a bad thing—I know there are plenty of happily married couples whose first meetings were over red Solo cups in sweaty apartments. But encouraging girls to find husbands puts additional pressure on the social lives of female students: Don’t meet people for the sake of meeting them, don’t harmlessly flirt, don’t pull a Taylor Swift and date a guy who you knew was trouble when he walked in. Between the ages of 18 and 21, you’re on a mission to find the father of your future Princeton-student children, and if you don’t then you’ve failed miserably.

Obviously, adding pressure to find a husband at a young age in a world where we live until we’re 100, more people are having children older, and post-grads (like Rory Gilmore) bounce across the country between jobs and grad schools seems both impractical and unnecessary. But the other thing which confused me about Patton’s advice stems from how, from my observations, college students really suck at relationships.

I have friends and acquaintances who fall onto all ends of the bad-at-dating spectrum: the cripplingly emotionally dependent, the too-obsessed, the narcissistic, the materialistic, the list goes on. But when you’re young, being bad at relationships is no big deal—you realize you’re unhappy/unhealthy, you break up, you cry about it, you move on, and you won’t make the same mistake the next time. But, if you follow Patton’s logic, there won’t be a next time. So that childish relationship which should be a learning experience becomes something a girl is scared to let go of, at risk of never finding something better. And that’s not to consider if the guy—who, paradoxically, has no such need to find a spouse in college—decides to explore other options. Then, in addition to heartbreak, our poor college girl is terrified that she’s been doomed to “Cat Lady”-dom, with a diploma on her wall and no man to show for it.

Of course, Patton was talking about a specific school in her letter, and there are many who would say that comparing the dating pool at Princeton to that at Georgetown is like comparing apples to much lower-caliber apples. But on the Hilltop, the attitude is strikingly similar; we’ve all heard some made-up statistic about the high percentage of Hoyas who marry other Hoyas (60 percent? 70 percent?). And, although they don’t say it on campus tours, somewhere deep in the Georgetown mythology there’s the idea that you’ll find your future-senator husband sitting next to you in IR, that you two will get married in Dahlgren Chapel with JTIII as the officiator and Jack the Bulldog as ring bearer, and you’ll finally become Mrs. Joe Hoya. Domestic bliss for the low price of $200k.

But perhaps the strangest part of Patton’s article to me is that, despite my gut aversion to everything she stands for, I see the effects of logic like hers on my peers. Within the past year or so, pictures of engagement rings have dotted my Facebook newsfeed, and it seems droves of people around my age are getting engaged like it’s going out of style—which, to be fair, it is. And while I can’t speak to every (or any) one of their situations, I wonder how many of those engagements are at least somewhat underlied by fear of becoming an old maid.

To those people, I suggest watching a few seasons of Gilmore Girls. Personally, I’d much rather be a cat lady than have to wind up with Logan.

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