No shame senior year: Marriages after Mac

By Sam Baker

One of the best stories I have ever been told came from an 80-something Macalester alum when I was making fundraising calls for the Annual Fund. He told me that every year he would pick out the prettiest girl in the freshman class and she would be his girlfriend. In his senior year, he was sitting in the library and he slid an index card to who he considered the cutest freshman. The note said, “Have coffee with me?” She wrote back, “Do you have a name, Stranger?” Clearly she was a clever Macalester girl. The two later married. While this alum told me stories of jumping out of windows when the girl’s parents came to visit, I could not help but wonder if our generation of Mac grads has the chance for a similar fate. Last year, I had heard a startling rumor that 60 percent of Macalester alumni marry other Macalester alums. After consulting the Annual Fund, I learned that the actual number is 18.7 percent. While not a majority, this number still appears to be high. It somehow seems unlikely that any of my relationships will amount to much in the long term, but as I look around our campus, it makes sense that roughly one fifth of us might find ourselves saying “I do’s” to another Macalester grad someday. For the other four fifths of us, however, we need not be hung up on a Macalester label. I have the sense that these relationships will not be similar to those we fill our lives with now. The people I imagine getting married are the pair of best friends who have flirted throughout college and might someday get it together, much to the celebration of their other friends who saw it coming all along. Or maybe you will fall for that guy who you never really thought of before, but is considerably more handsome and outgoing come our 10 year reunion. I think this alum’s experience highlights something important that we all would do well to recognize: Big rewards usually are only gained by big risks. Sometimes a great relationship just takes 20 seconds of confidence (yes, I am referencing the film We Bought a Zoo) to chase a girl out of Cafe Mac and ask her out. Other times it might require a bit of trust in fate. One summer, a guy from work called me to ask if I would want to come to his house and hang out that night. After weeks of rejecting him, I was still not convinced. I was hunkered into my apartment with a glass of wine and was watching Into the Wild, after all. But then he said, “I was thinking you could come over and we could watch a movie like Into the Wild or something.” I took the universe’s advice and found in him the best relationship of my life thus far. I worry sometimes that our Macalester generation (many of us with divorced parents, others with a lack of confidence due to previously failed relationships), has forgotten how to let ourselves fall for someone, madly and deeply. But for those who have known love, we know that that initial jump can be the best move we have ever made. As for marrying a Macalester man, I imagine it is more likely that I will meet a dashing ’07 grad when I go to some alumni event in whatever new city I find myself after this year, but I will let the powers that be figure that out for me. I think the point of the Macalester marriage myth (or reality?) is not that we will all marry someone from our class, but rather that Macalester both attracts and produces really cool individuals. And since cool people tend to date other cool people, it makes sense that Macalester alumni would find understanding and similar lifestyles in one another. The alum’s wife had died a few years ago and he said he was telling me this story because he had been looking through old photo albums just a few days before our phone conversation and found the index cards on which they wrote those first notes to each other so many years ago. Unprofessional as it might have been, I teared up at this. He reminded me to enjoy my time at Macalester and to also remember that love is really what this journey of life is about. Whether a Macalester marriage is in the future for me, I do not know (though I plan to attend a few friends’ weddings). I can recognize though that the environment that Macalester fosters is one in which I would be more likely to find people I am attracted to and I will certainly seek out similar environments in the future. Regardless of where I find love, I can’t help but hope that I remember the alum’s wisdom to put aside my studies and work when it someday hits me and let myself really fall when I meet the person with whom I want to share everything, even if that is just a cup of coffee to start.

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