Sunday, March 22, 2015

Marriage and a College Education

This morning I read a column by George Will about the worsening dating/marriage prospects for college educated women. In it he bemoaned the declining college graduation rates of males vs. females. He also quoted from an article written by a recent Princeton graduate named Susan Patton who opined:

"Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are . . . It will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you."

Of course, Ms. Patton makes a good point, men are overly attracted to pretty women. For too many of us a well-filled out sweater trumps all else. Where she goes off the rails is in her narrow view of what makes someone "smart." For Ms. Patton and scores of others, smart equals highly educated. While a college degree certainly helps in the acquiring of knowledge, it cannot bestow wisdom, nor can it confer common sense. The fact is that there are many facets to intelligence, some of them can be measured and analyzed but many cannot. Take Pam and me for example.

We are both college graduates, she from James Madison, Summa Cum Laude, me from University of Richmond, Thank the Laude. I consider myself reasonably intelligent. I am well read, knowledgable of world affairs and history and possessed with an encyclopedic memory for millions of things from which I can make no money. Pam, on the other hand, knows virtually nothing about world affairs,
even less about history, and has trouble remembering where she left her cell phone. So, which one of 
us is  "smarter?"

I will not here open this subject to a vote by the readers of this blog for fear of being humiliated. But to answer this question is difficult, because smart is extrordinarily difficult to quantify. The fact is that I am smarter in some areas than she is, but in other areas she makes me look like a moron. If I were tasked with formulating and executing a plan for teaching a struggling 3rd grader how to learn his multiplication facts, I would be lost. If I were asked to plan and organize a dinner party for 8 guests, it would end up looking like an episode of the Three Stooges. But, ask Pam to offer up an informed opinion on the efficacy of index fund investing in a bear market, or the deleterious effect of the designated hitter on baseball statistics and wouldn't be pretty.

The fact is that Pam and I are two kinds of smart. She tends to be smart in areas that I am ignorant and vice versa, which has contributed to 31 happy years together. Can a woman with two Master's 
degrees find happiness with a plumber with a high school diploma? Not likely, but certainly not impossible. Love is funny that way. How do we measure devotion, faithfulness and selflessness? Are these not vital to a successful marriage? From which department at Princeton do you acquire such things? My advice to Ms. Patton is to maybe come down from her educated high horse for a while and open herself up to the possibilities for happiness in that great marketplace of humanity out of which she has priced herself. Finding a mate is not a financial transaction, Ms. Patton. It is a matter of the heart, a magical discovery where two independent people find someone who compliments them, who provides a contrast, who brings something new and different to your life and makes it better. Sometimes that person has a Doctorate, but sometimes she just might be a plumber.