When the Troth Could Set You Free

 

Pennsylvania is on the verge of banning all “child” (under 18) marriages, even with the consent of parent or guardian of the minor.  Last year Delaware, bolstering its creds as a member of the Union rather than the erstwhile Confederacy, became the first state in the  US  to enact such a ban.

That reminded me that, when I first started practicing,  New Castle, Delaware was  the Gretna Green of the tri-state area.   AS it had been  long ago in Pennsylvania, 16 was the age of consent there.  Does any Ratty reading remember that as a thing?  A  quick online search reveals that New Castle still has a large number of “elopement chapels”.

But what struck me, O Ratty, was that back then (vicinity of 1980), getting married was regarded as a marker of freedom and independence.

I had a pro bono client, 16 and pregnant, in foster care, whose sole identifiable  parent was…..well, I never met the biological grandmom but I’m not sure she was even compos mentis….for whatever reason, her consent to my client’s eminently reasonable desire to marry the baby-daddy was not forthcoming. ( I told my young client I would do everything I could to get the emancipation decree in time for her baby could be born in wedlock; she replied, “Where’s that?” )

Here’s where we are now:  if a girl ( underage or just..still youngish) gets pregnant, marriage is the last thing on her, or anybody’s mind.  The rationale  for the absolute ban on any marriages by a party under 18 is that such “infants” are being sold or trapped into bondage without the mental capacity to comprehend the awful sentence of imprisonment to which they’re agreeing.

Here in our mountain fastness, I’ve often found myself congratulating a young friend who has conceived, and asking so, when’s the wedding?

The answer is very often: oh, not until after the baby is born; we’ve got no money, no sense in getting married when you don’t have money! ( Really? Cue Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe…) 

Okay then—-who does have the money?  Y’know, for prenatal care, infant accoutrements?  Usually, the young mom’s own birth family.  That’s the new American family unit: an unwed mom, her child, and the unwed mom’s mother or possibly both parents.  Casey Anthony is the new face of American motherhood.

Getting married used to be thought of by American kids as a bold gesture of independence, as emancipation from the chafing strictures of childhood. An act of defiance, of self-determination. The troth could set you free!

Elopement was daring, romantic, defiant: “…and even if we hafta run away/ I’m marryin’ that boy some day!”

Now—well, God only knows what the boys are thinking.  They’re liable for child support whether they marry the mom or not, so maybe they just don’t care.   And the girls, even if pregnant, don’t even seem to seriously contemplate such radical  change as marriage in their lifestyle or status.

In the course of my pro bono  representation of minors, I dealt with many kids whose main problem in life was their parents or guardians.  They couldn’t do much on their own because of the legal incapacities of infancy, and their elders, spitefully or just stupidly,  sought to obstruct any course of action to which they aspired.    They just had to wait it out.  They longed to establish their own households.

It’s just…a big change in attitudes toward marriage, the enormity of which dawned on me with sudden clarity today.  Any thoughts, O Ratty?

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37 thoughts on “When the Troth Could Set You Free”

  1. I would advise a pregnant 16 yr old to put her baby up for adoption. There are so many married couples who spend exorbitant amounts of money to adopt overseas- my cousin (who was herself adopted) spent $30K to adopt in Vietnam. The problem with teenagers keeping their baby is that it does indeed become a family of mother, child, and  maternal grandparents and most disturbingly of all, the cycle seems to continue over and over again. The “new norm” seems to be 3 or even 4 generations of illegitimate children.

    Marriage isn’t the answer because let us be frank, teenagers aren’t emotionally or financially equipped to raise a child. Granted, as my father used to say, “There is no good time to have a child; you just do it.” That was easy for him to say because my parents were 26 and 28, well educated, and married for two years when they had me but were poor as church mice. At their age and with an impressive educational background, they quickly overcame the financial obstacles.

    And yes, finances are important because kids need a lot of things and I’m a bit old-fashioned; I think it’s ideal to have one stay-at-home parent whether it’s the mother or the father.

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  2. Of course what you’re saying,  ET, is the conventional wisdom.  The horror: children having children!  But I think it’s time to turn it on its head.  For one thing, we in the US have got to start breeding earlier!  The client I was describing called me one Monday AM: she went to the ER over the weekend with back pain, and 2 hours later she had the baby.  I mean, really, health-wise,  16 or so is probably the ideal time for parturition.   And “emotionally equipped”?  Instinct kicks in with a wallop,  believe me, and it covers a lot of the day to day necessities.

    This post wasn’t so much about having kids, though, (except in the sense that pregnancy used to be kind of an incentive to marry, and now it’s not. ) It was about the fact (in my opinion)  that kids used to aspire to, well, adulthood and independence,  and marriage was seen as a big part of that.  Now it isn’t.

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  3. Hypatia:
    It was about the fact (in my opinion)  that kids used to aspire to, well, adulthood and independence,  and marriage was seen as a big part of that.  Now it isn’t.

    I was raised differently but I certainly respect your point de vue.

    I was brought up to believe adulthood and independence should be established before taking on life’s biggest and most important responsibility. Again, with all due respect, I think the stats support my argument.

    In any case, super interesting post that I believe will provoke many comments! Looking forward to reading them all.

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  4. Hypatia:
    It was about the fact (in my opinion)  that kids used to aspire to, well, adulthood and independence,  and marriage was seen as a big part of that.

    Just another comment on this most interesting post. I had two proposals from perfectly nice men in my twenties but I realize now those marriages wouldn’t have worked and I’d have contributed to the ever growing divorce rate.

    I married in my thirties because I finally “gelled” as a human being and found my soul mate. We’ve been married for 20 years and I fully appreciate the fact that I had the sense to wait. Let’s just say my priorities are quite different now then they were in my twenties!

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  5. Thanks ET!

    What you said in your first comment made me think:

    For the first few years, you ( by which I mean the always-there parent, usually the mother)  don’t so much “raise” a child, as “descend” to her level.   This is necessary and expedient.  You have to see things as she does, to know what she’ll grab, lick, run toward, to anticipate what she will require to keep her calm and happy.   (Because if she’s not, she will scream, and Not-mothers have zero tolerance for more than, like 2 minutes of that..)   People not in that rôle do not have a clue, and even mothers grow out of it and forget.  And that,  too, is all as should be.  But you are just as  capable—maybe more—of this transmigration of soul to the infant  at 16 as you are at 35.  And for the first few years, this kind of care is what, and all,  the infant-to-toddler needs. It’s like they say about extreme old age: it needs very little, but it needs that little so much.

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  6. Just to pose the question, why isn’t a 16 year old mature now? I think before they probably were since they had to work on farms and new how to do the basic things of life. They could read and graduate from school before.

    Hyp, I agree that having babies early is probably better biologically. “Parturition” was a new word to me. 

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  7. Hypatia:
    I’ve often found myself congratulating a young friend who has conceived, and asking so, when’s the wedding? The answer is very often: oh, not until after the baby is born; we’ve got no money, no sense in getting married when you don’t have money!

    This is a rationalizaton designed to simply kick the can down the road.

    First off, as in the world of loans and exorbitant purchases — if you can’t afford it now, what makes you think you can afford it later?  This is an excellent clarifying question used by more than one loan officer to introduce young people to the math of life.

    Second, marriage costs nothing, whereas child-rearing costs everything.  The way I see it, if you couldn’t wait for a nice wedding that you cannot afford before engaging in such risky behavior, then you have no business sniffing around for a nice wedding once you have gotten yourself in extremis.

    Third, getting married will help the money (and maturity) situation, and staying single will prevent the accumulation of wealth (and wisdom).  The state of marriage answers a multitude of questions which plague the young and unattached — most of which are of the form ‘What should I do right now?’  The tradition of the young mother setting up home and caring for the young man’s non-work life  allows the young man to do just what he said — try to get some scratch.  If he is unwilling to share now, then he will not be more willing to share later.  Marriage is the re-orientation of a young man to face his responsibility and a chance to do so in a laudable fashion.  You want to make something of yourself?  Let’s start with Good Man, and there’s a lot that goes into that.

    Fourth, marriage should now be a higher priority than even healthcare for the girl.  A husband can help with healthcare, from money and argument at the hospital to cold cloths and aspirin reminders (or whatever) at home.  But no amount of healthcare will help bring in a husband.  At this point, it is in the interest of the girl’s life and that of her unborn child to strap the father down as husband as soon as possible.  The same sort of idiot thinking which got her in this condition is now advising her to press on in the riskiest, most threatening fashion.  There are two germane facts of life which are statistically reliable:

    • step-fathers are a threat
    • baby-daddies don’t pay

    These are implications of negating the truths about men that:

    • only a baby’s father actually has any interest in the well-being of the baby
    • the young ones need some structure to keep them on point

    People, especially young women, will fool themselves and deny these truths because it’s easier to deal with a fantasy world of government promises than the real world of men and women.  But it is not as though the girl will stop associating with men.  Nevermind the threats that the children will face from the rest of the world — against which having a father at home would armor and defend the tykes — the woman is overwhelmingly likely to be involved with a series of men who have issues.  Weak, toxic men who are afraid to pursue big dreams and free women, and who instead snipe for girls in trouble with limited options — and no matter what, a single mother is a girl in trouble.  This is the stratum of dangerous, loser men looking for a woman who cannot afford to be too choosy.

    I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but there is a reason for these institutions older than written language.  Our culture surrounds our idiot incompetent selves in the invisible wisdom of the ancients.  Any particular version in writing is pretty much a stab in the dark — better than nothing, but not capturing the whole of the thing, which cannot be taught except through child-rearing, and which cannot be learned except by living.

    No government can provide the slightest shred of culture, and culture is the only thing keeping us alive.

    I had the benefit of a wonderful step-father.  He is a Good Man, and I am glad that he was and is in my life.  Well, to the extent that anybody is in my life, seeing as I’ve been gone for twenty years.  But there were issues there, naturally, as this is the shape of things.  I certainly made things difficult because I only partially and provisionally accepted him, as I had a father, and it was not him.

    I cannot take anything away from my step-father, as I feel that he did the best with what he had, and that’s more than a lot of people do.  But ignoring his personal merits for a moment, the simple fact is that I wanted my actual father, be he great or small, and I never forgot the difference.  I couldn’t forget the difference — it’s baked into our DNA, and it does not go away.  Government tells us that this is not true, that one is as good as another, because A) from government’s perspective it’s the same difference, and B) government in fact is motivated to erase family from your life as a competing structure.  Government wants to be your one and only, your parent and child, your husband and wife, your customer and employer.

    Government is the ultimate bottom-feeding loser.  It cannot afford to be picky, and in fact does not want you to be picky.  It insists that you accept it just the way it is.  It wants you weak and compromised, in trouble, with limited options.  And if you let it, it will gladly teach your children to be just like you.

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  8. ^So much sense in so few paragraphs it was chilling. Also chilling that it needs to be said.

    Government can’t give us culture. But it can do a lot to destroy culture, and it has.

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  9. Jojo:
    ^So much sense in so few paragraphs it was chilling. Also chilling that it needs to be said.

    Government can’t give us culture. But it can do a lot to destroy culture, and it has.

    I have listened to a lot of Stefan Molyneux this year.

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  10. MJB, Soxy and (in spades!) Haakon:  YES!!  That’s what I’m getting at, in fact, my revelation was the tip of the iceberg ; you’ve shown us the entire invisible base of the construct.

    Young people in their primes are being infantilized, kept legally incapacitated.  And the trend is to keep raising the age when they become sui juris.   Soon it’ll be 21 for all purposes; then, if this goes on, 25!  And my point is, the young have now been indoctrinated into believing this pap.  Think of the songs of the 60s, like:

    ”I dare a man to say I’m too young/‘Cause I’m gonna try for the sun!”  ( was that Dylan?)

    The idea of a young woman wanting to have sex—and a baby—at 16 is not pathological.  It’s what she was born to do( and it’s when she was born to do it!) The idea of a young man at 16 starting work, y’know, gainful employment, instead of being warehoused along with everybody  else his age in an expensive four-year winter sleepover camp, is not cruel .  Never will he have more energy, more drive—and it should  be channeled into creating his own future ( instead of into worrying that his innate impulses are “toxic”).  Talk about wasting a national resource!

    And I  think what I was noticing was that this infantilization  has seeped downward socioeconomically.  The kids I represented  in Children and Youth Services cases weren’t from the class which, at that time,  assumed everybody would go to college.  They knew they’d have to work.  We now read about how helpless young people are when suddenly, at 18, eligibility for foster  care ends.  That’s not THEIR fault: the system designed to deal with these “dependent” children should be geared to preparing them to END their dependence, and the kids should be lookin* forward to it.  And the adulthood they can’t wait to begin should include marriage and yes: parenting.

    i mean, if they don’t do it, who will?

    But specifically,just with regard toward attitudes toward marriage: it’s okay for  a society to have a…okay, let’s say elite—class which puts off childbearing and marriage and concentrates on intellectual pursuits  in its youth.  (We did: at the period in question I felt my teenaged clients  might be truncating their “opportunities”….)

    But when this attitude permeates the entire culture, you get  disintegration ,depopulation of that culture.  Welcome to USA 2019.

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  11. I’m from the generation that  invented the idea that you shouldn’t “rush into “ marriage and parenthood. ( At least, not if you were among the elite. At that  time, not everybody went or aspired to the 4 year winter sleepover camp that now, is college! )

    But really: why not?   Getting divorced is almost as easy now as getting married.  It can be done very cheaply and in a few months,  if the couple hasn’t accumulated any property and neither one is making much income; it’s later in life, actually, that the consequences of getting married are going to be more life-altering if it doesn’t work out.

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  12. I’m writing here as an anthropologist; just observing how things are going.  I don’t know if it CAN be changed.

    y’know what’s funny, though? (Helooo, any body still reading?). In my state, you can’t put a bandaid on a kid ( under 18) without parental consent.  Any and all medical or “healthcare” procedures require it— EXCEPT  abortion (which is considered a “treatment” for the health”condition”  of pregnancy),  treatment for sexually transmitted disease, and treatment for addiction.

    I dunno…..if we really believe a person isn’t a responsible adult till he/she is 18 (as of now)—

    then wouldntcha think the above “conditions” , if any, WOULD be the ones where a parent oughta be able to counsel and guide?

    (OTOH, if the kid finds herself pregnant, addicted , or poxed , I guess you could argue the ship of parental guidance has sailed already…)

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  13. 10 Cents:
    Just to pose the question, why isn’t a 16 year old mature now?

    A lot of reasons, mainly because of:

    1. A longer life expectancy.

    2. More economic opportunities available that will require more time for education.

    3. More sophisticated economic opportunities that may require a more mature mind.

    4. And as societies continue to develop, parents want to give their offspring the opportunity to learn things they may not be able to teach them.

    As an aside, universities and many PhD courses are dominated by women 52-48%. This has to have an effect on lower or later marriage rates

    The good news is that stats show marriage is thriving in middle to upper middle classes and among the wealthy. The bad news is that the loss of working class jobs in this country give many no incentive to start a family.

    Edit: Trump seems to be the only president in my lifetime who really gets this.

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  14. Hypatia:
    But really: why not?   Getting divorced is almost as easy now as getting married.

    Because divorce just isn’t done among our sort.

    Have an affair.   Have two.   Or murder your spouse.   But not divorce.

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  15. MJBubba:

    Hypatia:
    But really: why not?   Getting divorced is almost as easy now as getting married.

    Because divorce just isn’t done among our sort.

    Have an affair.   Have two.   Or murder your spouse.   But not divorce.

    None of the above is acceptable, my good friend! There’s no guarantee with marriage but I can only speak from personal experience…. wait for the right one. I was so extremely cautious I insisted on living together first, buying a home and starting a business with both names on the deed.

    This took the age old economic motivation out of the picture and we simply married for love and extreme compatibility.

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  16. I view putting a child up for adoption as a reasonable alternative to abortion, but not to raising your own child — unless you are truly wasted.  This is only good when the obvious right answer will result in unacceptable harm to the child, rather than unacceptable harm to the mother.  She made her choices.

    What, pray tell, do I mean (by implication) by “acceptable harm”?  The sort of harm that is done to each of us through being raised by flawed mortals.  Guess what — it happens to each of us.  There’s a line somewhere.  Merely being a terrified 16-year old who doesn’t know what will happen next is not sufficient grounds to throw *your baby* whom *you made* out into the world.  Terrified and clueless is common and survivable. Moreso than being orphaned for convenienve or cowardice.

    Therefore, I also approve of shotgun weddings.  “Goose, meet Gander — oh, I see you’ve met.”  Again, obviously there’s a line, but that’s my go-to answer.  “Get married and raise your child — both of you.”

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  17. Several years ago I had an argument on “the other site” in which I advocated for shotgun marriage. I was astonished that there was opposition on a supposedly center-right site. Humorously,  Dime got the impression that I was pregnant and arguing with the father!

    If your culture does not enforce shotgun marriage then its  “marriage” is not about encouraging order in the formation of natural families. In that case “marriage” is      insignificant and your culture is dying, or evolving to a post-human/ inhuman future.

    Uh oh.

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  18. Jojo:
    Several years ago I had an argument on “the other site” in which I advocated for shotgun marriage. I was astonished that there was opposition on a supposedly center-right site. Humorously,  Dime got the impression that I was pregnant and arguing with the father!

    If your culture does not enforce shotgun marriage then its  “marriage” is not about encouraging order in the formation of natural families. In that case “marriage” is      insignificant and your culture is dying, or evolving to a post-human/ inhuman future.

    Uh oh.

    I don’t remember this.

    I wish society would promote responsibility. Recently I see society encouraging reckless behavior. Single moms and biological absent fathers hurts society more the a few words in the PC dictionary.

    I don’t know if responsibility can be taught in a textbook. I think it has to be modeled by a good person.

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  19. It was perhaps seven years ago Dime, and of course it was a lot funnier to me than to you. But I do recall it happening that way.

    You are right that responsibility is taught by modeling. Also irresponsibility.

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  20. Yes, MJB and Jojo, that’s what I’m saying.  “Get married!” used to be the go-to solution if a girl found herself pregnant.  Now, as I said, it’s the last  thing anybody thinks of. That’s what I was noticing.

    And Haakon, yes, yes , yes! So true, each of us is “raised by flawed mortals” and to quote Larkin:

    ”They f—- you up, your mum and dad./They may not mean to, but they do./They throw in all the faults they had,/ And then some extra, just for you!”

    Right! And then you go through puberty, go out pick a biological mate,  and form your own flawed family unit!    (Larkin’s advice to the contrary, of course..) It’s beautiful!  It’s what makes the world go ‘round.

    And now, it’s being marginalized and even criminalized.

    I mentioned Delaware, which previously allowed marriage  by people well under 16 with a parent’s consent, if the minor was pregnant.   One magistrate  bragged that, before the law changed,  a 14 year old, her mom and the (horrors!) 27 year old dad came to him, with their license issued pursuant to law, requesting the mandatory solemnization.  Hizzoner made up some reason why he couldn’t do it till the next day—and when they came back, he had the dad arrested for statutory rape.

    Great.  That baby will surely be much better off with a criminal convict * for a dad, than if he had married the mom and established a household with her.  Why, she mighta been dependent on him,  instead of on the governments of Del and the US!  Whew! Close one!

    *  … and: separate issue: if mom’n’ baby have to live in public housing, as is likely , Dad will never be able to live with ‘em. S’ one of the “collateral civil consequences “ of incarceration.  Oh—and he’ll be registered as a sex offender for— well, they keep extending the time, soon it’ll be for life— which means there will be practically nowhere he can live.  Oh,the principled bravery of that magistrate!

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  21. Hypatia:
    Yes, MJB and Jojo, that’s what I’m saying.  “Get married!” used to be the go-to solution if a girl found herself pregnant.  Now, as I said, it’s the last  thing anybody thinks of. That’s what I was noticing.

    And Haakon, yes, yes , yes! So true, each of us is “raised by flawed mortals” and to quote Larkin:

    ”They f—- you up, your mum and dad./They may not mean to, but they do./They throw in all the faults they had,/ And then some extra, just for you!”

    Right! And then you go through puberty, go out pick a biological mate,  and form your own flawed family unit!    (Larkin’s advice to the contrary, of course..) It’s beautiful!  It’s what makes the world go ‘round.

    Jews and Christians have been saying for over 3500 years that “the sins of the fathers come down through the generations.”

    The new thing in this generation is the embrace of the Anti-West Left of anti-family policies.   The “Do your Own Thing” mantra of the boomers led them to want “self-actualization” for their kids in ways that optimize consumerist capabilities at the expense of family formation.   Which is why I see “granddog” pictures on Facebook instead of grandkids.

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  22. MJBubba:

    Hypatia:
    And Haakon, yes, yes , yes! So true, each of us is “raised by flawed mortals”

    I am bookmarking this for use in a future post.

    Why?  Surely it’s no epiphany to you!  It goes back to Adam and Eve, those ol’ Original Sinners.   If Jehovah had behaved like the modern Progs , he’d a taken their sons away from ‘em as soon as they were born.  But He didn’t; he left ‘em in the care and tutelage of those defective human parents.  And look what happened: murder….

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  23. Hypatia:

    MJBubba:

    Hypatia:
    And Haakon, yes, yes , yes! So true, each of us is “raised by flawed mortals”

    I am bookmarking this for use in a future post.

    Why?  Surely it’s no epiphany to you!  It goes back to Adam and Eve, those ol’ Original Sinners.   If Jehovah had behaved like the modern Progs , he’d a taken their sons away from ‘em as soon as they were born.  But He didn’t; he left ‘em in the care and tutelage of those defective human parents.  And look what happened: murder….

    I wanted to observe the adjective “flawed.”

    It implies that the people are not living up to some standard.

    How do you know what the standard is?   Why is it that a standard exists?

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