Over spring break, I got one of the biggest wake-up calls possible to remind me that I am (practically) a full-fledged adult. No, not another graduation e-mail, though I wasn’t exactly thrilled to pick up my cap and gown. It was a breathy, excited phone call from my oldest friend in the world — her boyfriend had proposed, and she wanted me to be a bridesmaid in her summer 2011 wedding.
Was I excited? Of course. I think they’re fabulous together, and they’ve been discussing this for a while now. And as I’ve quickly discovered, browsing bridesmaid dresses is an excellent way to pass time in class. Or a meeting. Or when I’m supposed to be doing homework. You get the picture.
But this isn’t the first wedding of a close friend I’ve been invited to. This month alone, I’ve (Facebook) RSVP’d to two weddings — both this June — and successfully navigated a bridal registry to purchase a shower gift. They’re all for high-school friends, but they’re not so different in temperament from my Penn group — brainy, driven, ambitious — which made me question my earlier logic: that it’s simply what happens when you move from a smallish town to the big city.
Yet when I look around Penn and at my classmates and friends, even the ones in years-long relationships are nowhere near putting a ring on it. In true Carrie Bradshaw fashion, I started to wonder why the same type of students are making divergent life choices. Would (gasp) some of my college friends be next?
Not likely. A few of the students I polled pointed out that they don’t know where they’re living in three years, let alone five. Chasing the perfect jobs and the best grad programs requires us to be flexible about location and even a little transient right now — hardly ideal for settling down behind the white picket fence. According to Penn Career Services director Patricia Rose, almost 80 percent of students “work for two or three years, and then many of them go to graduate school.” Altogether, more than 80 percent of College grads will eventually earn another degree, upping the chances that we’ll want or have to make a big move.
Partially because of that, recent grads “are not really at a place where they feel like they’re ready to settle down, [at least not] until their late 20s,” Rose added. And Penn students are pretty national and international — students who went to a more-regional college are probably less likely to make a big move post-college.
The mystery was finally settled when I looked at the data surrounding marriage. Statistically — even in Iowa, where I’m from — the friends tying the knot this summer are a little ahead of the curve: According to the Pew Center, the national average age for a woman’s first marriage is 26; for men, it’s 28. And just based on where everyone plans on living next year, Penn students have a while to sow the oats before saying “‘til death do us part”: The average ages in California, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are about two years higher than the national averages; in Washington, it’s a good four years higher.
So it’s probably going to be a while before I get the phone call from a college friend. Right now, I’ll just take these summer weddings in stride, pray for an open bar and smile as some of the girls I pretend-planned weddings with in fourth grade actually walk down the aisle.
Alyssa Schwenk is a College senior from Ottumwa, Iowa. She is the former editorial page editor of the DP and editor of The Report Card. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s What Schwenk Said appears on Mondays.Comments powered by Disqus
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