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The Notre Dame biological clock

| Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Swiping through my stories before class, I click to see an announcement of the engagement of two Notre Dame seniors. A year prior, an announcement of the marriage of my fellow classmates would have shocked me. However, as a current sophomore at Notre Dame, an announcement of this significance was nothing out of the ordinary. Much like the majority of the student population being from the Chicago suburbs, Notre Dame seniors getting engaged prior to graduation is a stereotype that is very much alive.

When I arrived at Notre Dame for my first semester of college as a nervous eighteen year old, marriage was still in the same mental group as mortgages — something far in the future that did not require any present concern. As I learned how to navigate college life, the idea that I would find my spouse within my four years at Notre Dame had not even crossed my mind. However, as I grew more accustomed with Notre Dame, I became more cognizant of the abnormal expectation of finding a spouse within my undergrad. When I initially brushed the “ring by spring” stereotype off as an antiquated joke, I quickly learned that this stereotype rung true by a large subset of Notre Dame students. 

On a chilly spring afternoon, I was surprised to see a crowd of elegantly dressed individuals exiting the Basilica, which I quickly made out to be a wedding party. As I walked through the bustling crowd to my next class, a bridesmaid tripped into me. After murmuring a quick apology, she nodded towards my backpack and jokingly, “I missed campus when I graduated but I come back for friends’ weddings all the time.” Despite the brevity of our interaction, her words stuck with me as I became increasingly cognizant of the expectation of finding a spouse within my undergrad. In the following months, I observed more weddings on campus and engagement announcements of fellow students on social media. I watched as my friends eagerly filled out the annual Notre Dame marriage pact, musing what their supposed “perfect match” would be like. At the ripe age of eighteen, I felt that I had to find a spouse, with each subsequent year feeling like a countdown to the eventual deadline of graduation. 

When swapping college stories with hometown friends, I realized the pressure to find a spouse before graduation was something niche to Notre Dame, or rather that of religiously affiliated universities. Notre Dame, as one of the oldest Catholic universities in the country, prides itself on upholding traditional values that are reinforced by Notre Dame’s largely Catholic student population. This traditionally opposes the overall trend of Americans, particularly women, of waiting longer to get married due to prioritizing their education, career or financial security. Setting a deadline to find a spouse in college is an archaic expectation and places unwarranted pressure on teenagers and young adults. When immersed within a school culture that largely pushes towards marriage at such an early age, it is hard to not feel that I am not falling behind on some deadline. In these instances, I remind myself that Notre Dame is largely an outlier compared to the rest of the nation regarding marital norms. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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