Ah, the college experience. Most of you will spend the four-to-six years of your college career in a drunken haze of self-discovery; you will meet new! and interesting! people, experience heartache and hangovers in a brand new way, and build the sort of friendships that will last the rest of your life, assuming you’re 18-22 and riding the parental money-train to adulthood.
And then there are those of you who, like me, jumped right into grownup-land after high school, working your way toward the American dream until one day you woke up and realized that a nice paycheck and a two-car garage just wasn’t going to cut it, so, you went back to school, mortgage payments, wedding ring and all.
Starting college when you’re a few years older than most of the graduating seniors can be a bit daunting. Starting college when you’re a few years older and you’re married can be a bit, um, well you’re going to have some issues. Your classmates will gasp in fear when you tell them what you’ve done. “You’re married? Why?” And words like “husband” or “family” will suddenly be treated like verbal forms of leprosy.
And then there are those of you who married somewhere between sophmore and junior year. Or, you are graduating soon and have already made huge strides toward “adulthood” by changing your boyfriend’s name to “fiance.” It sounds strange doesn’t it? “This is my fiance.” “My fiance and I…” But, ohhhh love, that is not the only thing that will change. Wearing a wedding (or engagement) ring in college is like wearing a parachute on an airplane–it may not be that weird, it may even make sense, but you are going to scare the hell out of the other passengers.
So, with nearly four-years of experience of sheepishly admitting that, yes, seriously, I know, um, it’s not that crazy, actually, uh-huh, oh-my-gosh shut-up already YES I AM MARRIED!, I thought I’d share some tips with those of you who are about to experience college in a whole new way.
How to wear a wedding ring in college:
1. Always be prepared to explain yourself. Whether it’s why you would do such a thing, or just a simple “Yes, I am old enough” or “No, I am/was not pregnant.”
If you are under 25 and newly engaged, you will deal with a lot less rudeness and judgement because everybody likes to pretend they are excited about engagements. People love asking questions about the planning stage–it’s the after-the-wedding part that everybody hates. However, you may notice some not-very-secretive glances toward your belly. It’s not uncommon to feel the need to explain that you are not pregnant. If you are pregnant, I’m sorry to say, there’s nothing I can do to help you. No amount of “but we were already planning to get married” will change anybody’s mind. With those judgemental folks, I suggest waiting until their eyes find your baby-bump and then laughingly placing your hands on your belly and saying, in your most amused tone, “Oh! (haha) No! Not because of the baby! (Haha) It’s not even his!” (If they’re going to talk, you should at least give them something interesting to say.)
If you have already tied the knot, be prepared to ward off some common questions: How long?; What made you decide to do that at your age?; Were you high-school sweethearts?; Are you Mormon?
Because I also happen to look like a twelve year old, I am not unaccustomed to mouths-hanging-open when I admit how long Wes and I have been dating/married. For example: A few weeks ago, my music teacher (who is about 28) saw my ring and nearly shouted her disbelief.
Professor: “YOU’RE MARRIED?”
Me: Oh… yea. I am.
Professor: Wow! How long have you been married?
Me: Um, five years
Professor: (mouth hanging open, obviously unsure of what to say next)
Me: I’m, uh, I’m twenty six.
Professor: Ohhhh! You look soooooo young! I thought you were, like, eighteen.
Me: Yea, I did not get married when I was 13.
Professor: Ohhhh kay! Good. (followed by embarrassed laughter)
Do you see what happened there? She didn’t know how to react, and I instantly explained myself in order to reassure her. I’m old enough! I’m an adult! Don’t worry!
2. Always stay one-step ahead of the boys.
Most of your peers do not know yet to look at your left hand before hitting on you. This is really tricky territory. How can you explain that you are married without sounding conceited and embarrassing yourself and the hitter-on-er? It took me a long time to figure out (there was the boy in World Civ that asked me to dinner after class and I just stuttered “um, n-n-no thanks” and left him standing awkwardly in the hall), and it took a lot of help from my friends (the time the guy at Starbucks wouldn’t leave me alone and when he finally exclaimed that he and I were soulmates, Jessica replied “yea, I’m sure her husband would disagree.”) but I finally figured it out. It’s like celebrity name-dropping but more awkard. Any time a boy I do not know speaks to me and I start to get the feeling that things are two-seconds from uncomfortable-city, I casually mention Wes. Even if it’s unrelated. Even if, sometimes, I’ll admit, it makes things more awkward. Note: Don’t interrupt his funny story about playing trivia at Mellow Mushroom just to say “Wait, you like pizza? My husband loves pizza!”
(On a serious level, if you are friends with a man and have had more than casual, class-related conversations with him, and he does not know you are married, then you need to ask yourself why you haven’t told him. It’s kind of a big deal. And don’t try that “Oh, it just hasn’t came up.” It will always come up.)
3. Accept your role as a professional relationship coach.
It doesn’t matter that you are the same age as (or younger than) your single friends. You have become something they all want to be: a wife. And now you are going to have to show them the way. For some twisted reason, wedding rings are seen as a symbol of status just as much as a BMW is: they say “look! I did it! I can make a relationship work!” And many other women hear that proclamation when they see your ring, and they will come to you from miles away just to sit under your teaching.
The thing is, I don’t know how to be single in college. I don’t think I’ve ever given any good single-in-college-advice. Maybe you do, and maybe you’ll have great advice for all the ladies. Good for you.
4. Behave like a normal person (because you are one).
Really, wearing a wedding ring in college is not a big deal. (It’s certainly not as big of a deal as I have made it out to be in this blog.) Lots and lots and lots of people do it. You may be slightly more stressed than your classmates (unlike college, you can’t just do marriage part-time for the semester or take a break over the summer), but for the most part you’re still a regular twenty-something trying to live a regular twenty-something life.
Yes, it’s challenging and difficult and (sometimes) pretty craptastic, but eventually you’ll be out of college and then you’ll have more time to focus on doing more grown-up, married-people things like wearing matching Christmas sweaters and attending couples’ retreats.