TIME The Awesome Column

Marry Young!

Illustration by Tomasz Walenta for TIME

Why meeting your spouse in college is a great idea (with apologies to my wife)

If I had followed the advice Susan Patton gave Princeton students and married my incredibly cool freshman-year girlfriend at Stanford, Angie Hockman, it would have worked out well for me–though less well for Angie since I still have a penis and she is no longer interested in such things. Angie is a lesbian.

Nevertheless, Patton had a point. Her letter to the Daily Princetonian pissed off a lot of women because it told Princeton gals to hunt for a husband on campus since they’ll never again be around so many smart, ambitious men who aren’t being tempted by hot, dumb, unambitious women. People have said her argument is sexist, antiquated and impractical. I will merely point out, as far as all these hot chicks who can’t resist Princeton men go, there’s a reason no one works Ibiza clubs under the name DJ Princeton.

But I do believe that all of us who went to elite colleges, men and women, were misfocused. All we planned for was our careers, assuming that after we laid a foundation for our lives we could easily slot in a partner. I thought a wife would just slow me down–prevent me from traveling, working long hours and sleeping with other women. But it turns out that other people build their own lives, and unless you build one together, it’s unlikely your slot will fit with their slot. Instead of spending my 20s becoming a more impressive mate, I was actually learning to be more selfish and less marriageable. If I hadn’t decided at 29 that I didn’t want to lose the woman who became my lovely wife Cassandra–despite the fact that when she first brought up the topic, I yelled, “We are way too young to get married!”–I’d still be single. I don’t really believe that, but I think it will make Cassandra feel good to read it. That’s what a relationship is all about. It’s also about pretending that after 15 years together, Cassandra still reads my columns.

My mom, who is an ardent feminist, would never have written a letter to the Stanford Daily telling female students to get married, and we never would have printed it. That’s partly because she dropped out of Queens College but also because she thinks it’s a bad idea. “I think everything that woman is saying is right about the pool shrinking and some men not wanting women as smart as they are,” she said when I asked her what she thought of Patton’s advice. “But that’s true for everything in life that’s important to you. The best things in life have a smaller pool.” She added that she would never have encouraged my sister Lisa to meet her husband in college when she was 19. This was awkward since Lisa met her husband in college when she was 19.

My sister met Mike, whom I like very much, at Rutgers, 20 miles from Princeton. “You didn’t think it was a good idea, but I disagreed then, and I disagree now,” she told me. “I didn’t have my heart broken and meet a bunch of losers and have unprotected sex,” she said, making my dating life seem way more exciting than it was. “As they get older, guys get better at honing their skills and deceiving women, and women get worse because they get desperate because they want a family. At college everyone is relaxed and having fun, and you see the real them.” I believe the word she was looking for is drunk.

And as Patton said, Lisa met a guy with similar ideals. “I’m glad I met someone who is similar in socioeconomic background. I didn’t want to marry someone from Princeton who thinks they’re smarter than me.” I believe the phrase she was looking for was smarter than I am. I’m starting to realize where she got the idea that she didn’t want to be around someone who thinks he’s smarter than she is.

College is an amazing time when you’re surrounded by people with similar interests and enough free time to both talk and have sex. You’ll never find another person as faux relaxed and wannabe jocky as at Stanford, as huge and earnest as at BYU, as depressed and self-aggrandizing as at Yale or as easy to have sex with as at Florida State except at the University of Florida, the University of Miami, the University of South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University. Sure, after graduation, you will self-select to a place with similar people, so you’ll have plenty of other chances. You just don’t have forever. This is all a very long way of saying that I’m losing my hair.

I wasn’t ready for marriage in college, but I was ready to figure out that a happy life requires more than a great career. At the very least, I was ready to use that line on dates. Which is why I would tell college students this: You need a lot of skills to have a full life. Also, stay in school and don’t do drugs. Or skip a few classes and do a few drugs. I don’t know how everyone should live, or if they should marry, or when. I just know I should have gotten a lot more dating in. Especially with heterosexual women.

Tap to read full story

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com