Last weekend a couple of college students from Boston stayed with me when they came through DC for spring break. I didn't know them but had signed up through my church to take in some students, which some of my friends highly commended me for, but I did that kind of stuff in college too, so I feel like now I can pay it forward.
Anyway, they were telling me about what they're studying and what they want to do after college, and, after recommending they come back to DC for internships, I warned them, "If you want to get married, try to find a guy now."
They giggled and I didn't push it, because this is a taboo topic for career-driven girls. Just the fact that they would giggle was an indicator to me that it made them uncomfortable. But seriously, where else will you be around so many eligible people your age, and often with similar interests? And not only that, but when else will you be forgiven -- and be able to forgive yourself -- for making so many mistakes in love?
I had a love in college and I chose to end it to pursue a life goal that I felt strongly I should do alone. I don't regret my decision and I never have. But I do realize now that my ambitions for myself and my career, plus the notion that I had "plenty of time," put me on a path that has not led to a successful romantic relationship. I turn 33 in a couple of weeks, and no one is telling me I have plenty of time anymore. Now I get lots of unsolicited dating advice, which is mostly just veiled criticisms of how I've handled my love life.
Susan Patton, a Princeton alumnus and mother of two sons, recently told CNN, "If you know [marriage] is what you want, plan for it, because it doesn't just happen." She's getting a lot of heat for this interview, which was sparked by her Letter to the Editor of The Princetonian about her concern that the feminist focus on developing your career is so strong that messages about getting married aren't heard or even spoken.
"Clearly, you don’t want any more career advice," she wrote in her letter. "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."
In the article she frankly and boldly expresses what I've been considering since my late 20s -- "you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you."
I say this fully aware that I live in Washington, DC, one of the most (if not the most) intellectual cities in the world. But that fact contributes to one of the greatest problems with dating in this town, from my point of view, which is that many people come here to make a name for themselves or, at least, to develop their careers -- not to find love, and not to settle down.
Below Susan's Letter to the Editor, you'll notice the barrage of hateful comments. The opposers' comments are mostly short and accusatory in nature, but the supporters' comments are quite thoughtful. I think the quickness to judge what she's saying only reinforces her point -- that it's not a bad thing to want to get married, and if you feel that way, you should acknowledge it and work it into your life plan just as much as you do your career. Not all women need to work at this, but some of us do, and I think I, personally, could have been smarter about how to reach that goal. Young, professional women need mentors and peer support in this just as much as they do in their careers.
I'm quite happy with my accomplishments and even having ample time as a single person to figure out who I am and how I want my life to be. But I can't help but be concerned about how many of us eligible, smart, successful women are still single when we don't want to be single anymore, and we haven't wanted that for a long time.
I, for one, am thankful for Susan's advice, even though it came too late for me to apply it. It bothers me that our gut reaction to this topic is to snarl and scoff, when at its core is a plea to talk openly and honestly about a real and widespread issue that all of my girlfriends and I talk about regularly in private.
So? What do you think?