A girl from our school’s student magazine came by our apartment the other day to talk about our marriage. She wanted to know, among other things, whether we felt we’d missed out on the College Experience by getting married as undergrads.
She didn’t capitalize College Experience, of course. She was speaking out loud.
We were amused at being placed under the microscope like this because, truth be told, we’re not interesting people. We enjoy playing Chinese checkers, watching VHS tapes and going to bed early.
But because we took the plunge before crossing the stage, we are something of a novelty. The last I heard, we’re going to be featured in the magazine’s Valentine’s issue in a story about campus couples, alongside a homosexual couple and an interracial couple. We live in South Carolina; I guarantee our relationship has not faced as much adversity as either of theirs.
As for the College Experience, maybe we have missed out on a few things. As we discussed in the interview, that really depends on how you define the term.
In the strictest sense, the academic sense, nothing was unusual about our first married semester. We continued taking full course loads, and I pulled a 4.0. We were both working part-time jobs and sending out résumés. I even had room in my schedule for one of those largely impractical but intellectually stimulating classes you always picture yourself taking in college: Spanish film!
So I can speak intelligently about Pedro Almodóvar now, and my wife is a few steps closer to passing her final nursing exam. If that’s what the College Experience means to you, then no, we’re not missing out.
If the reporter’s question referred to the College Experience in the—ahem—extracurricular sense, then I guess we are indeed missing out. But then again, we never did buy into the National Lampoon vision of college.
Then there’s the other sense of the College Experience, in which you and your classmates challenge each other’s notions and push each other to greatness. Having grown up in a football town, I sometimes fantasized that my college years would be spent in coffee shops and bookstores with a lively cadre of philosophy majors and radical political organizers. On a few occasions, I have found myself in such company.
Do I miss out on that by being married? Sometimes.
Truth be told, I’ve had less and less of that type of College Experience as my four years of college have gone by. Nothing is quite like that kaleidoscopic freshman dorm experience, with a Marxist two doors down and an impromptu bluegrass band in the basement. I lost some of that just by moving off campus.
Nowadays, my wife and I do get invited to the occasional house show or art exhibit. But we’re less likely to go. And I’m a lot less likely to stay up late with my friends talking about the Big Questions when I’ve got a wife waiting at home.
We’ve made our decision, though, and we’re content. These past two days in Columbia, snow has kept the school closed, and I’ve been trapped in the apartment with a throbbing headache and a sore throat. We pulled our mattress into the living room to lie down and watch the sleet coat the trees while we took turns reading aloud from a Roald Dahl anthology.
I don’t know about her, but I was sure glad to be married.