This past summer, two current Wesleyan students—Kirsten Sharpes ’08, formerly Kirsten Haller, and Dusty Sharpes ’08—were married. The wedded couple now shares a two-person woodframe house.
With the average age of marriage in the United States creeping towards 27 years old, the Sharpes, both 21, are an anomaly.
They first met during freshman orientation and, according to their friend Zachary Gidwitz ’09, they may as well have been married from the start.
“They went together everywhere,” Gidwitz said. “There was no possessive feeling about either of them, though. If one of them had to go and do something on their own, that was always fine.”
In the fall of their junior year, after having dated for slightly more than one year, Dusty asked Kirsten to be his wife. He confided in his parents beforehand, and his mother helped him pick out the ring. Kirsten’s family was in the know, too, as her fiancé-to-be had first asked her father for his permission.
“Our families were really supportive,” Kirsten said. “They were surprised that we wanted to get married so young. It wasn’t something my parents really expected us to be thinking about, but they were really happy.”
Nor did the couple’s news shock their friends at the University. Loose acquaintances, however, barely attempted to hide their astonishment.
“I think they think it’s really strange,” Kirsten said. “They don’t understand what the point was. No one has said negative things directed at us, though. They were just more like, ‘Wow.’ But I think it’s normal. It’s not weird to me at all.”
When considering possible locations for the wedding, the couple took into account their religious backgrounds, deciding to hold the ceremony in a nondenominational, historical chapel near Kirsten’s hometown to avoid making her non-Christian parents uncomfortable. Both Dusty and Kirsten are Presbyterian.
“I don’t think of my family as horribly religious, but by Wesleyan standards, I guess they are,” Dusty said. “My father used to be a preacher.”
Coming back to campus as a married couple, Dusty and Kirsten have not felt a big change in their lives. Their friends, however, do detect a slight transformation.
“There was a tiny, and I emphasize the word tiny, feeling of stress about getting everything done in time for the wedding,” Gidwitz said. “So all I can say is that they’re more calm now, though it was always peaceful and wonderful.”
Getting married while still in college has also allowed the young couple to continue taking advantage of the security that the University offers. Instead of choosing to live off-campus, they accepted a house provided by the University.
“It’s really nice, actually, to have the first year of our marriage not worrying about making money and having a place to live that’s provided for,” Kirsten said. “It definitely alleviates some of the stress that other people might feel during their first year of marriage.”
The school appears to have been less accommodating in other regards, however. When Kirsten tried to change her name in University records, Wesleyan was reluctant to comply.
“It’s kind of a pain,” she said. “But it’s okay, just so long as my diploma says the right name.”
Both Dusty and Kirsten also professed some frustration with the University’s left-of-center politics. Student attitudes toward what Kirsten described as “what is usually considered mainstream, including marriage” range from disinterest to intolerance.
“Neither of us has had the best experience with being at Wesleyan in general,” she said. “I think that that’s part of what made us close.”
Perhaps this also contributed to their decision to not wait until after graduation to get married. Dusty and Kirsten both felt that it was the right time. They knew what they wanted and were ready to act upon it. Apparently, their view has not changed since entering wedlock.
“Marriage is wonderful,” Kirsten said. “We’re really happy.”