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Princeton Mom is on the Prowl, and 6 Other Things We Learned About Susan Patton

4 minute read

BREAKING NEWS: Because Princeton Mom’s son is married, there is a woman out there who actually has Princton Mom for a mother-in-law. But that’s just one of many juicy tidbits in Maureen O’Connor’s excellent profile of Susan Patton in New York Magazine. Patton’s book Marry Smart is an extension of her much-maligned letter to Princeton women, whom she calls “the daughters I never had,” advising them to prioritize their personal lives over their professional lives so that they don’t end up alone and barren.

Here’s some of what we learned from the piece:

1) Like many Princeton grads, Susan Patton is obsessed with tigers and the color orange and her home reflects that:

There are Princeton pennants and disembodied tiger tails and orange-and-black craft projects. Orange-and-black pebbles fill a decorative bowl; an orange-and-black quilt drapes the sofa; an orange feather boa sits on a shelf. “Who doesn’t need an orange feather boa?” she asks, wrapping it around her neck and vamping. Lucille [her dog] Patton points out, has naturally orange fur.

2) She’s recently divorced from her sons’ father (who “went to a college of almost no name recognition,” natch) and is on the prowl for hot, Princeton-educated men. She has “many boyfriends,” including two who went to Princeton, and said that now that she’s not looking to find the father of her children, she can just date guys who are “fun, funny, entertaining, sexy.” Not that she’s ruling out marriage– if she tied the knot again, she’d try to do it in the Princeton chapel. “How fabulous would that be? With orange roses.”

3) Imee Marcos (offspring of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his shoe-enthusiast wife Imelda) was her college BFF. Caroline Kennedy is her “imaginary” BFF.

4) She was raised in the Bronx by traditional Jewish parents who were Holocaust survivors (her mother survived Auschwitz, her father Bergen-Belsen), and she had to declare herself and emancipated minor to apply to college. Here, she actually sounds kind of feminist:

“I wanted a much broader life than just motherhood. My parents didn’t see the value in that, they couldn’t understand. They saw it for my brother, but not for me. And he would tell you this: He wasn’t much of a student. But I was, and I always wanted a bigger life, a more creative life, a more engaged life, out of the Bronx.”

5) She’s got some pretty adorable views on date rape, which she calls “mistake sex:”

[The phrase] “‘date rape’ is like ‘politically correct,’” Patton tells [O’Connor], as she holds out a bone for Lucille [her dog]. “Either something is correct or it isn’t. Saying something is ‘politically correct’ is like saying you ‘almost won.’ You ‘almost won’? That means you lost.”

“Rape is rape,” she goes on, using the term “mistake sex” to characterize intercourse with a woman too drunk to consent. “I’m troubled by the term ‘date rape’ because it diminishes the true horror of rape,” she added.

6) She regrets not finding a husband when she was a nubile young Princetonian:

But women’s liberation was in the air, and she was too embarrassed to husband-hunt on campus. (Princeton went co-ed in 1970). “After I graduated I spent years dating men who were not nearly as good as the men in my class. Ultimately I married the man I was dating when I was 31, because I was running out of time to have children.”

And here’s Patton’s advice to women who are career oriented: “You’ve been so invested in your professional super-stardom that you took your eye off the ball. You have no husband and no children, but the ship has already sailed! It’s too late. You don’t get to have everything.”


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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com