Would you get married as a freshman?
NYU students are coming of age in a time when half of all marriages result in divorce, gay marriage is legal nationwide and polyamory is increasingly accepted. Needless to say, there may be no such thing as a traditional marriage anymore.
So, I set out to find married couples at NYU. I talked to two couples and discovered that although their marriages are unconventional, they are founded on love and joy.
Enter Dante Capone and Mei Liu, two Tisch freshmen studying Film and TV. Though Liu had always dreamed of a perfect marriage, she worried that it may restrict her from growing personally. Capone had been against the entire idea of marriage for a while, explaining that it seemed like an arbitrary societal construct that requires participants to give up their self-worth for commitment. After having been friends for a good portion of their first year, Capone and Liu fell in love and suddenly had just one question about marriage — why not?
After filling out the necessary paperwork, the ceremony was the only thing left to make it official. They finally found time on a Thursday between classes.
In the presence of two of their friends as witnesses and one guest, film professor Paul Owens, the couple tied the knot in a Chinatown courthouse. They split the cost of the marriage: Capone paid $35 and Liu $25, but, as Capone pointed out, “she bought us bagels that morning.” Afterward, the group celebrated by drinking champagne out of Styrofoam cups in Washington Square Park and making it to class on time.
“It was one of the best days of my life,” Capone said. “I was really, really, really happy.”
The love between Liu and Capone is palpable as they giggle and smile at each other from across the table. While they don’t wear rings — they haven’t even told their parents — they are proud of their marriage. Professors teasingly tell Capone that his wife is coming when she enters the classroom, and Capone likes to joke that he and his wife are separated right now.
“She lives in UHall, and I live in Third North,” he said.
They explain that the marriage is half-satirical, a kind of performance art that flips the entire conventional marriage on its head. The couple recognizes that the odds are against them and that they might even get divorced after they graduate. For them, it’s not about the future, but being happy, honest and in love with each other today. They are young, still growing personally every single day, but they are doing so together.
“It’s light-hearted, but it’s completely genuine. We love each other,” Liu says.
Capone, now a seasoned expert on marriage, shares a pertinent comment on the matter.
“Marriage is wild,” he says.
LS junior Falon Papale found love unexpectedly in while spending her freshman year abroad in Florence. Her story sounds like a fairy tale: a handsome stranger in the right place at the right time took a chance and introduced himself under the guise of needing directions. Coincidentally, it was Papale who was lost trying to find the campus bookstore to return a book she had accidentally purchased.
Some may call it fate: after their initial meeting, Papale and Ibrahimi Fitim began spending time together and eventually decided to get married as the ultimate display of their love for each other. Even though Papale had had dreams of a big wedding, their ceremony was intimate and low-key. The couple wed in Kosovo, where Fitim is from, in an unheated office in the dead of winter.
“I was wearing jeans and a hoodie. His brother took a picture of us, the only one we have of the day. I don’t even know where it is now,” Papale said. Later in the day, Papale and Fitim washed windows at his family’s home.
For the rest of her year in Florence, Papale kept the marriage a secret from her classmates, except for a couple of very close friends. Despite the unconventional timing, she says she was extremely happy and in love. The couple worked hard over the next year to get Fitim to be able to come to the United States and lived apart for the majority of Papale’s sophomore year, though she was able to visit him a few times.
Now, during her junior year, Papale and Fitim are able to live together for the first time. Things are relatively normal for them in their apartment in New Jersey, about which Papale says happily, “It’s all ours.” The hardest thing, she says, is “being a full-time student while supporting him, because he is just starting out in New York.”
It is hard to find yourself and support your spouse, but their marriage encourages mutual support. Right now, Papale and Fitim are working together on projects such as getting Fitim a driver’s license and helping him learn English.
Marriage can be a partnership and a support system. Papale isn’t too worried about the potential Tinder dates she’s missing out on.
“It’s not as weird or scary as a lot of people think it is,” Papale said. “Honestly, it’s a lot of stress relief. I don’t have to worry about going out or getting assaulted on a Tinder date. That’s what scares me the most, not marriage.”
The two couples profiled here are obviously not the norm. For those of us who are still looking for love, just remember that there is still plenty of time.
Email Camille Larkins at [email protected]