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Straight Talk for My College-Bound Daughters

If I married the guy I fell in love with in college, my kids wouldn't exist. I'd also probably be on my third marriage by now.

So I was slightly amused at the Valentine’s Day “Straight Talk” from Susan Patton in the Wall Street Journal last week, urging young women to wisely spend their time in college hunting for husbands. 

“Despite all of the focus on professional advancement, for most of you the cornerstone of your future happiness will be the man you marry,” wrote Patton, who told ambitious 20-somethings to stop ordering sushi and swooning over "Downton Abbey" and start finding a suitor while surrounded by a campus of smart, interesting men.

The self-described “Princeton Mom” started finger wagging a year ago in The Daily Princetonian, where she encouraged co-eds to jump her youngest Princetonian son before he graduated and faded out of reach – dashing their hopes and dreams of ever having a happy, fulfilling life as a Princetonian wife. 

Apparently that didn’t work. Now she has a new book – Marry Smart: Advice for Finding ‘The One – due out in March, and the wise editorial wizards at the WSJ thought their 70-to-death-year-old readership might find merit in her quaint ideas, cribbed from a Good Housekeeping advice column still smudged with Jell-O stains from 1952. 

Women of Princeton, I beg of you, will somebody please sleep with this guy so his mom will shut up? 

My daughters are four years away from college, but the thought that people like Patton still exist makes me realize I better pen my own advice. Here’s what I plan to tell them.

  • College is a hunting ground for knowledge, not a husband. Be curious. Take classes that challenge and invigorate you. 
  • Intelligence is not a liability. 
  • College is the best time to seek new friendships and relationships. You will be surrounded by many different men, women and various beings in between. Break out of your comfort zone and get to know people different from you. You won’t regret it.
  • Sleep with as many people as you can. Ha, just kidding. Be smart and selective, but don’t you dare believe that sex is a commodity or that somehow your value is tied to it. Contrary to Ms. Patton’s advice, you are not a cow to be bought. 
  • College is not the time to search for a sperm donor (or a sexually-transmitted disease). Condoms, please. 
  • Do not expect to find happiness in another human being. True happiness is knowing who you are and liking yourself, and that takes years to figure out.
  • Don’t look for a partner to take care of you. Statistically, odds are you both will work, which makes it even more important to pursue a career that satisfies you. 
  • Feminism is not a bad word. It just means you want an equal shot at being human.
  • Your education is far from over after graduation. Go on adventures. Climb a mountain. Backpack through a country. Learn a new language. You grow and change so much in your 20s. It is very important for you to know you can handle the world on your own. 
  • Don’t ever define yourself by your relationship status. 
  • We should all work at becoming the person we want in a mate. Finding a partner can be satisfying, but if you let that search consume you, life will be very dull. 
  • Eat lots of sushi and watch "Dowton Abbey" as much as possible.