I have one daughter already in college and the other only a couple of years away, and I am so glad for Susan Patton’s new book, “Marry Smart, Advice for Finding The One” — Not!
Her key piece of advice is, “When she enters college, your daughter will never again be as young, as beautiful, as attractive to men, or as fertile. Encourage her to make the best use of this time.”
So, I’m to teach my girls that college is the best time to find a husband with good genes and prospects for producing and supporting my future grandchildren? Don’t waste your time, girls, with things like classes, discussing ideas, being creative and adventurous, playing sports, or building meaningful, lasting friendships. Instead, focus on catching a man, losing weight, finding a husband, learning self-reliance by baking and, did I mention, finding a husband.
At first, I thought I could dismiss this prehistoric view of women, relationships, and marriage as so many other commentators have in snarky and scathing critiques. Then I picked up my 16-year-old’s copy of Seventeen magazine lying on the kitchen table. This month is “The Hair Issue.”
Looking closely, there is a small logo in the corner of the cover that says “Girl Power” but 90 percent of the magazine is fashion, beauty, and “The Hot Guys of Divergent.” In the “Love and Guys” section, there is a piece called, “How Spicy are Your Moves?” Another stand-out is the article, “Spring Break Booty Camp.” All this in a periodical aimed at 12- to 19-year-olds. Where’s the girl power in that?
The message is overwhelming: what is most important to my daughters’ happiness is the attention they receive from men — the attitude is as pervasive as smartphones and air. How they dress, how they speak, how they act, walk, eat all needs to be tailored to the men they want to attract.
How I treat my kids, how I speak to them, and what I expect of them can provide some inoculation. I can tell my daughters they are competent, smart, creative people who can achieve whatever they chose, be it changing the world, having children or both.
I remember talking to a father of a high-school boy a few years back when the book and documentary, “Oral Sex is the New Goodnight Kiss” came out. That dad felt he couldn’t tell his son not to receive what might be offered. How do I prepare my daughters for the boys they will encounter?
“Marry Smart” is a guidebook to all the diminishing, marginalizing, sexist attitudes my daughters have faced their whole lives and will continue to face as they enter the workplace, adult relationships, and maybe, eventually, marriage.
I’ve decided they should read the book and the flood of smart, thoughtful critiques, and ask themselves, what is the life I want to lead?
Then they should go for that. Whatever it is will be a lot more fun, fulfilling, and challenging than worrying about finding a husband.