Monday, June 05, 2006

College Reunion for the Married

We spent the weekend at Mrs. Gruntled's college reunion. This is always a happy time – we see old friends, walk the gorgeous campus, hear how much better the student body has become over the years, and eat cheesesteaks (one of the very few important deficiencies of central Kentucky). I also get to engage in the sociologist's favorite pastime: finding patterns in groups.

Two strong patterns stood out. First, no one smoked. In our college days, a fifth of the class smoked some, maybe even a fourth. This weekend, I did not see smoking by anyone in the class, and indeed almost none by alumni in any class. Mostly, I think, we grow up and put away adolescent things. But it is also likely that the smokers are just less likely to come back. The people who seemed most alienated from the college at the time were also very likely to be heavy smokers.

The second strong pattern was how married the returnees were. Now, most college graduates get married, so it is not surprising that a college reunion is mostly a gathering of married people. But this group was almost completely married. In fact, nearly all (approaching 90%) were married parents, and kids' schooling was the default topic of conversation.

I can see a two opposing factor that would make reunions disproportionately married. Reunions draw pro-institutional people; so does marriage. This goes double for people who marry classmates or college-mates like the Gruntleds – their marriage loyalty reinforces their alumni loyalty. The opposite force comes from divorce, especially for those divorced from classmates. There are happy exceptions – we ate with a woman who had served as "best man" at her ex's second marriage. At the same table were her ex and her new husband, all swapping stories.

Next year is my reunion. I do want to see my married classmates. I want to see the others, too. I guess I had better volunteer for the committee, to encourage everyone to come.

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