This Above All

They may be sixteen and too cool for words, but they still love to do art projects.  Construction paper, glue, glitter, the whole bit.  So, to get them thinking about college, I assign them each a letter in the phrase THINK ABOUT COLLEGE and ask them to come up with a college-related concept: C for Campus, T for Technology, etc.  We're working on the decorative directive in class, and they're having a great time.

One group approaches me.  (They have to have their concept approved.)  "We have H, and we were thinking we'd do Husbands."

I grin at them.  "Very funny.  Come on, you only have about half an hour left to decorate it."

Their faces tell me they are not joking.  I stop smiling, too.  "Are you serious?  You're going to college to get an education, not to get married!"  One girl gets sullen.  "Well, I'm going to college to find a husband."  Her partner jabs her in the ribs.  "A hot husband."  They giggle at their clever alliteration, but I am not amused.  "I'm serious, you guys.  You have to know that's not what college is about."

Now we're attracting attention; other students are starting to listen and nod.  Another student speaks up.  "I'm going to college to find a husband, too."  More nods.  Slowly, I walk to the front of the classroom.  "How many of you think that college is the place to find someone to marry?"  All hands up, just about.  Good God.  "Isn't education more important?  Don't you want to learn, to be smart?"  One girl rolled her eyes.  "Of course.  I want to be smart so I can talk to my husband and his friends when they come over for dinner."

I do work in a "very traditional" school, but I had not foreseen this.  I was too shocked to say much of anything beyond "You're all nuts," which was probably not the most mature response.   Since then, however, I've tried to help my students see the importance of both traditional and progressive goals.

Look, I think marriage is a great thing; I love being married even more than I thought I would.  But I never would have met Rob if I hadn't moved to New York, burned out on architecture and life, and taken some time off to work for a firm.  We never would have dated if I hadn't spent a summer in Greece, piquing his interest and starting a conversation that continues to this day.  What makes a person attractive?  It's confidence, intelligence, interest in a variety of things and the desire to think and talk about them.  I've seen people (men and women) desperate to get married, and the more desperate they are, the less attractive they become.  People who are needy, bent on securing domestic stability at the expense of all else, are kind of scary.

The ironic thing is that the attitude of these students is considered such heresy today.  I don't subscribe to the belief that girls "don't need" boyfriends or shouldn't date until they've "found themselves;" that kind of attitude only leads to empty relationships based on hormones.  I think they should date, and wanting to get married is honorable and right.  But be true to thine own self, first.  If you don't have goals, if you don't have ideals, your husband or wife will have nothing to learn about, nothing to love.

The Oracle at Delphi has two phrases chiseled on opposite sides of the seat: "Know Thyself" and "All Things in Moderation."  Both need to be applied here.

(Post was re-written after WordPress inexplicably deleted it two days ago.  Meg's comment was lost.  Sorry, Meg!  Please re-comment!)