Neil Stokes and Carol Cagle


“I Will Be Married in One Year”

Someday My Prince Will Come (but why wait?)

Thirty students sit in rapt attention, busily taking notes and frequently raising their hands to ask questions. The instructor, who has been teaching this particular class for eighteen years, presents information in an orderly fashion, using a hybrid format that’s half-lecture, half-discussion. She distributes several handouts and puts detailed outlines on the board.
As routine as the scene might seem, one swift glance around the room makes it clear that this is not your typical Emory class.
The average age of the students is somewhere in the thirty-five to forty range, although there are people in their twenties and a few grey heads, as well. Several races and ethnicities are represented, but the group is heavily weighted toward the female gender, with only seven men. Styles vary from business women in suits and pumps to bearded, laid-back guys in rumpled khakis. One young blonde woman is disabled and takes notes on the floor with her bare foot.
About the only thing this group has in common is this: They all want to be married in a year.
Indeed, that’s the title of the evening course, “I Will Be Married in One Year,” a staple of Emory’s Center for Lifelong Learning for nearly two decades. Instructor Janet Page (left) approaches the class in a brisk, businesslike fashion that appeals to adults who are ready to stop playing games and settle down with Mr. or Ms. Right.
During this class, for instance, she goes over a twelve-month plan outlining the appropriate steps for each month of a new relationship. By month five, she says, you should have thoroughly assessed your emotional compatibility, and this is the time to call it quits if it’s not clicking. “This is not a famine, get out and move on,” Page says. The students write it all down.
There’s a reason the course has remained popular: it works. One of Page’s star pupils is Neil Stokes, an Atlanta lawyer who took the class shortly after Page started teaching it eighteen years ago. At the time, he was recently divorced after a twenty-year marriage, and he was eager to settle down again and have more children. But his busy career made it tough for him to meet new people.
During the class, Page, a licensed psychotherapist, brought in a professional matchmaker who helped Stokes organize his search for a new mate and introduced him to a series of women she determined would be compatible. At first, he was leaning toward what he calls “type-A, competitive personalities,” but the matchmaker guided him toward a more creative type. When he met Carol Cagle, a Suzuki violinist and instructor, he knew she was the one. Thanks to the course, the couple has now been married seventeen years and have four children together.
“It worked like a charm,” Stokes says of Page’s “I Will Be Married” class. “What it really did was help you get organized and gave you the tools you needed to search for a proper mate. I am an ex-engineer, so I am used to learning something and then applying it.”
The class is a combination of intuitive conversation and no-nonsense, practical instruction. Page doesn’t sugar-coat her advice: “If your partner is selfish, you’re participating in it,” she tells the women in the class. “If they’re boys, you’re the mama. Your job is to fix your attitude.” But she also offers softer insights: “People don’t feel loved if they don’t feel comprehended,” she says, and, “Being envied is a whole lot less desirable than being happy.”
Stokes says the class was the best $50 he ever spent. “I got the fairy tale,” he says. “Seventeen years and happily ever after.”—P.P.P.






© 2005 Emory University