Susan Patton is back to giving straight talk to young women once again. “Another Valentine’s Day. Another night spent ordering in sushi for one and mooning over “Downton Abbey” reruns. Smarten up, ladies.”
I’m the mother of two young women, aged 19 and 22. I’ve written about Susan before. This is the advice she is spouting today on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page:
…finally get around to looking for a husband you’ll be in your 30s, competing with women in their 20s. That’s not a competition in which you’re likely to fare well. If you want to have children, your biological clock will be ticking loud enough to ward off any potential suitors. Don’t let it get to that point.
I got married at 34 and got pregnant two months later. My second daughter was born when I was 37. Don’t let her scare you ladies. It’s like other op-ed pieces the WSJ published having to do with healthcare death panels or some such nonsense.
What are you waiting for? You’re not getting any younger, but the competition for the men you’d be interested in marrying most definitely is.
I can tell you what I was waiting for:
Backpacking through Europe.
Spending a winter as a ski bum in Vail.
My Mr. Right. The guy I fell in love with, my best friend. And no I didn’t check his financial statements. And yes, it’s been a rocky road financially. But other things happen to a marriage too. Kids get in trouble. They give you heartache sometimes. You are going to need a best friend.
Even rich guys lose their jobs due to downsizing, or restructuring as the WSJ would call it. Corporate mergers. Jobs shipped overseas. You could go from rich to poor in a matter of weeks. We all saw it during the Great Recession. Everyone had a friend or relatives or a fellow employee who lost a lot. In order to weather the financial storms and manipulations of Wall Street, you’re going to need to be married to your best friend. Even if he works on Wall Street. Especially if he works on Wall Street.
And what’s with this advice?
You should be spending far more time planning for your husband than for your career—and you should start doing so much sooner than you think. This is especially the case if you are a woman with exceptionally good academic credentials, aiming for corporate stardom.
This is why we send our daughters to college? To find a rich husband? Yes, I know. I’ve written about this before. But as the mother of two young women, I find this to be such bad advice. Instead of focusing on my career in my twenties or focusing on finding a rich husband, I was ski bumming and backpacking my way around the world. I admit that messed up my so-called career and no, I didn’t marry a rich man.
And you know what? I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. Not one single minute. Granted I should have been writing about it back then. But I’m writing about it now and my books are contemporary stories populated with strong, independent women looking for happiness and self-fulfilment.
In my latest book, Take Me Home, Josie gets this advice from her friend Louise:
What???? Go to another bar. Stay away from working class guys. We’re trying to retire, remember?
“No, I haven’t been to Miami and I don’t want to go with Harry. There’s no chemistry between us,” replied Josie. “We’re not looking for a chemical reaction at our age, we’re looking for financial security,” said Louise.
But Louise is not the heroine of the story. Josie is. And she believes in this:
“I still do believe in love, you know. I love the thought of HIM, out there somewhere. Right now, he’s just getting home from work, maybe going out for a jog or walking his dog. Like a boat approaching the harbor, he’s headed towards me. And despite all the disappointments and heartbreaks, I am headed towards him too. He could be thinking about me right now. I mean not really me, but the thought of me.”
Or as a character in The Reverse Commute says:
“What am I looking for? True love. My best friend, someone who loves me as I am, someone I have fun with and who listens to me and shares my dreams. Security is not one of my dreams. I’m not saying that’s a sensible thing, but who dreams sensible dreams?”
My daughters are pursing their own dreams right now. They have boyfriends and on this Valentine’s Day I hope they are getting sweet kisses and chocolates and maybe a nice dinner. But I hope marriage is the furtherest thing from their minds right now.
My advice to them is this. Life is short. The road ahead will not always be smooth. There could be illness, miscarriages, job losses, infidelities, mid-life crisis, sick children. Any number of things. There’s no need to rush into it. You’re only young once. And when you do enter that institution called marriage, if you ever do, make sure your best friend is right by your side. Don’t be checking his pockets first.