Engaged and underage
February 23, 2008
p. They met as blind senior prom dates, at a colonial dancing competition and in eighth grade gym class. They’ve sacrificed time and money to make long distance treks between schools or as far as an Army base in Bamburg, Germany. They’ve even sacrificed family and religion. Yet they aren’t the pregnant bridezillas and discouraged high school dropouts that MTV’s “Engaged and Underage” advertise.
p. The only common factor for engaged and married students at the College seems to be that each of their relationships has been tested by long distance, and each are looking to the future with a level-headed preparedness. While others haven’t yet chosen their majors, these ring-clad students know where they want to start their families.
p. Yet young engagement seems to be a taboo fed by shotgun weddings and the immediate connotation of the words “divorce rate.”
p. “I think it is more of a problem with society,” Faith Bland ’08 said. “I have a problem with Oprah because she insists that women should get everything that they want. I think you should have to work for the good things in your life, especially relationships.”
p. Faith met her husband, Paul Bland ’08 at a community college in Fredericksburg through their common hobby of colonial dancing. Paul transferred to the College first and, as Faith said, “If you’re going to follow your boyfriend to a school, you can’t do better than William and Mary.”
p. The two were engaged in July 2006 after dating for almost two years. They were married one year later in Wren Chapel. “I’ve got to admit, I kind of bugged him about [getting married],” Faith said. “I felt it was the natural progression for the relationship. We were not sure if financially we were ready — but that alone is not a good enough reason [to wait].”
p. Their parents’ responses to the decision were bipolar. Faith’s parents were supportive. She believes her rational approach to the relationship helped her parents see that she was approaching the situation with maturity. “I tried to keep a very realistic view about it and recognize the problems,” Faith said.
p. Paul’s family received the news with criticism that young marriages often fail. Though Paul’s mother married at age 18, she was still hesitant. “I think I’m on a different level with them,” Paul said. “I’m not their little boy anymore.”
p. While most friends were very supportive of the engagement, some people received the couple’s decision to marry in college with surprise and wariness. “Sometimes I sense it is a little weird for them,” Faith said. “I am tied down; that’s the path I’ve chosen. We were just the first. We were the trendsetters.” The trend seems to have caught on — two of Faith’s four bridesmaids have set the dates for their own weddings.
p. Both were each other’s first serious relationship, but they do not believe that they were too young. Among other reasons, the time was right with regards to their conservative religious views, the couple said. “I personally feel it was the right decision. On many levels it is actually much more convenient and less expensive. We save on rent, food, car insurance and even share some books,” Faith said.
p. Despite the Wren Chapel’s year-long waiting list, the couple obtained a Wren wedding at an opportune time, almost exactly one year after their engagement. For $500 the couple received a strict two-hour time slot in the Chapel. Friends provided choral and string musical accompaniment free of charge, and other friends helped reduce catering costs.
p. Marriage was right for the Blands financially as well as because of their religious, but both have proven to be an obstacle to Chase Albert ’10 and Rachel Brown ’10. While marriage is in some ways an acceptance of preparedness to make sacrifices, the couple discarded family and religious beliefs for their relationship.
p. The two met first semester of their freshman year of college and were engaged just a few months later in the spring. When summer sent Brown home to California and Albert to Northern Virginia, the couple faced telling their parents about their engagement.
p. Brown did not tell her family for several months. Her parents did not agree with the relationship, which, along with her overall college experience, had prompted her to question many things, including her Christian upbringing.
p. “When I started acting like I was questioning, many of my Christian friends started treating me with this arms-length cautiousness — like they could catch what I had by hanging out with me too much,” Brown said. “One of the factors that played into the poor treatment I got from my Christian friends was how serious Chase and my relationship was, which they considered un-Christian. I would say that going through the very traumatic experience of deconversion together definitely built a stronger bond.”
p. In reaction to her parents’ strong disapproval, Brown moved across the country to Northern Virginia, where she now works as she takes a year off from school to save money. She now considers herself to be agnostic. Albert began questioning his religious views before he came to college. “I don’t have a religion,” Albert said. “I sometimes say ‘anti-theist,’ but I don’t have any real meaning for that. I don’t classify myself as an atheist, because that’s just the sort of lumping I was trying to get rid of when I deconverted.”
p. Though Brown’s family was concerned about her engagement because she is young, her religious decision to disaffiliate was devastating for her parents. “My family considers me a prodigal, and they pray every day that I’ll go back to Christianity,” Brown said. Albert’s family also reacted with initial surprise, but they have welcomed Brown into their family.
p. For Albert, age was never a concern. “I have never felt too young,” he said. “I kind of thought it a silly consideration to make — statistically, a marriage this early is doomed. I don’t know. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Rachel. And I hate that cliche.”
p. Brown plans to return to the College this fall. She is applying for in-state and independent status with the university. The couple would like to get married in April of their graduation year. “We can’t really get married before then because of financial aid reasons,” Brown said. “If not for that, we’d definitely already be married.”
p. For Brown and Albert’s cross-country relationship, distance was the least of their problems. Their brief courtship pales in comparison to the relationship of Kristina Forero-Hordusky ’11 and Matthew Smith, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University.
p. “The whole time I was dating [Matthew], I didn’t think, ‘He’s the one, he’s the one,’” Forero-Hordusky, who met her boyfriend in eighth grade gym class, said. The two have been together since freshman year of high school.
p. “The looming idea of college made us realize how close the future is,” she said. Her fiance proposed the summer before their freshman year of college. “It really wasn’t even a thought that we would go to the same school,” Forero-Hordusky said. “It’s hard, but, I mean, we understand that we have time. If we can last four years, what’s another four?”
p. The couple plans to wait at least a year after college to marry. Forero-Hordusky’s mother married young and divorced. “It definitely made me realize that I don’t want to go out and rush things,” Forero-Hordusky said. “College really does change people.” Forero-Hordusky said most people are pleasantly surprised to hear she is engaged, which she attributes to the fact that the couple plans to put off marriage until after school. “That’s the weird thing — no one has told me, ‘You’re crazy,’” she said.
Forero-Hordusky will face three more years of separation from her fiance by a 40-minute car ride.
p. For Jared Calfee ’10 and Alicia Glorfield ’10, commuting didn’t work. As freshmen, Calfee attended Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Glorfield attended Emory University in Atlanta. They were separated by a six-hour commute that defined their freshman year relationship.
p. Both transferred to the College in the fall of 2007. Calfee and Glorfield met while in high school and got engaged just a few months later with plans to wait until after college to marry for financial reasons. “Our parents have said ‘Once you are married, you’re on your own,’” Glorfield said.
p. Calfee and Glorfield attended different high schools in Richmond and were set up as blind dates from senior prom by mutual friends. Though they got engaged just a few months after prom night, Glorfield said, “We both know what it’s like to date others, which has been a good frame of reference for our relationship.”
p. The speedy engagement was received with shock by their parents, particularly their mothers. “The first thing they said was ‘You’re going to wait until after school, right?’” Glorfield said.
Despite their parents’ reactions, the couple knew what they wanted. “It was something we both felt we were ready for,” Calfee said. “The weirdest part was just telling others — we already knew it was what we wanted. Only you can know if it’s right for you.”
p. Their one year apart during freshman year of college strengthened their relationship. “You have to let the other person know you are completely there,” Glorfield said, which she says the couple achieved through good communication. Long distance also required time and energy to visit and maintain the relationship over the phone. “You should never feel that you are sacrificing anything,” said Calfee.
p. Ashley Bateman ’08 and her husband understand the benefits good communication, and know a thing or two about sacrifice. Communication via telephone is Ashley’s main experience of married life. Her husband Jonas Bateman, a 2006 graduate of James Madison University, is currently serving in the Army in Afghanistan. He gets up at 5 a.m. to call his wife every morning before work.
p. Ashley met Jonas at a New Year’s Eve party that neither planned to attend. Despite their chance meeting, they pushed the limits of superstition and got engaged on Friday the 13th on the Crim Dell bridge in April 2007.
p. The couple dated long distance between JMU and the College; the distance increased when Jonas was stationed in Germany. They had been talking about marriage for a while before he proposed. “I always said I would never get married in college,” Ashley said. “We always knew he’d be deployed and go to Germany. We kind of got serious fast. It’s very serious now being in the Army — they are working 16- to 18-hour days and need to know they have complete support.”
p. The couple was married this past January, when Jonas was able to return briefly from his current deployment in Afghanistan where he works in transportation as a first lieutenant. “Afghanistan is much less developed,” Ashley said. “If he were in Iraq, he would be able to contact me more.” Though there may be more technological obstacles in Afghanistan, she is happy the area is a little safer than Iraq.
p. “I haven’t really gotten to experience married life yet,” Ashley said. “I went eight months before and now I have to wait another six months without seeing him — only hearing his voice over the phone,” she said. After Ashley graduates, she will move to Germany where Jonas will continue to serve after returning from Afghanistan. “The next few years we will have to sacrifice where we want to live to help make sure that he doesn’t get deployed again. Luckily, by the time he’s done, I’ll only be 26,” she said. The years she has ahead as an Army wife will influence their decision on when to have children since it will determine where they will live.
p. While some couples are ready to make such a sacrifice, it isn’t the right move for everyone. “Make sure it’s something that you really want if you are going to sacrifice for it,” Ashley said. “I know it is important to have your own life, but I don’t regret anything that I might have missed out on. College doesn’t seem that flexible, but it is. You have space and you have time.”