Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What is the right age to marry?

A recent Washington Post op-ed argues against the current trend for Americans to marry later in life.

The argument for earlier marriage has generated no small amount of reaction. For some of these, visit The Other McCain, The American Scene, or TAS again. (For the record, I realize these links are all to posts by men. The Other McCain has some links to the feminist reaction if you really want to check that out as well.)

The op-ed aligns with my own pro-marriage views, so I think you should go read the whole thing for yourself. One point in the piece though, is worth emphasizing. It is one the author included, but didn't necessarily focus on:
Now we advise our children to complete their education before even contemplating marriage, to launch their careers and become financially independent. We caution that depending on another person is weak and fragile. We don't want them to rush into a relationship. We won't help you with college tuition anymore, we threaten. Don't repeat our mistakes, we warn.

Sara, a 19-year-old college student from Dallas, equated thinking about marrying her boyfriend with staging a rebellion. Her parents "want my full attention on grades and school because they want me to get a good job," she told me.
For the vast majority of middle class and upper middle class Americans, this represents the most damning case against early marriage, and yet for me it is the absolutely least convincing.

It boils down to, don't get married and have kids at 20 or 22 because they will be teenagers when you are only 33 or 35. You won't have hit your peak earning years yet and teenagers need braces, and name brand jeans, and a cell phone with unlimited everything - you don't want them to be socially handicapped do you? Oh and don't forget the trip to Mexico or Florida for those long mid-western winters, and a car, and you shouldn't make them work - their grades will suffer, then they won't get into a good school, then they won't earn a lot of money, then what will their kids do?

I can think of reasons to not get married at twenty, but not being able to buy the latest sneakers for your kids ain't one of them.

The Other McCain really unpacked the marriage issue in a recent post over at Hot Air in which he calls this aspiring middle class ethos idolatrous. (Warning: Radical ideas at the Hot Air link. Those invested in American cultural norms which elevate comfort and material prosperity above all else, pregnant women, and those with heart conditions should think twice before clicking.)

This is not to say that everyone should get married early. I mean, if 20 year old Suzi and Bobby get into a knock-down drag-out in the Burger King parking lot stemming from the fact that they wanted to split an order, because they thought it would be cute, but then couldn't decide between the chicken fries or the jalapeno poppers; the result of which is the police being summoned, reality TV crew in tow, and disorderly conduct citations being issued, then maybe these are not the type of 20-year-olds that are ready for marriage.

Matching court dates are not the basis for a long and happy marriage. But neither are his and hers SUV's with vanity plates that read "W8D2MRY."


Your Lovely Wife said...

I hope everyone clicks on that Hot Air link and reads it! It's great!

Your next logical post, should you chose to accept it, is the REAL reason for marriage: procreating!

Last but not least...
Marry early but not often!:)

johnny said...

As far as im concerned the government should get out of the marrying business or open up the benefits of marriage to all.Since when do people need their much vaunted limited government to weasel its way into their bedroom and sanction how deep their love someone. IF two dudes(or women) want to get married what business is it of the government or anyone else for that matter to say that they cant or to deny them rights that a heterosexual couple could enjoy by entering into matrimony. If that hot air blog you linked to is correct(and i have no reason to believe it isnt) there are the same number of two parent families now as when tricky dick took office, yet the economy has grown by leaps and bounds(other than the last little while) and the population has grown by a third and we havent experienced the terrible end that was forecasted by marriage proponents. If a couple wants to enter into some ceremony with their church that codifies their love for one another,fine, more power to them but the government has way more important things to do than this. Besides, isnt marriage the leading cause of divorce.

johnny said...

Moreover, the hot air blog repeatedly references both god and christianity. Does this person believe that only decent, god-fearing people should be allowed the benefits of marriage. What about atheists? Or Hindus? Their idea of god is no more wacky than any Christians. Should these folks be allowed to continue to marry because they dont share the same ideals as their christian peers. Sure, just get the government out of it because marriage as we know it is outmoded.

Jeremy R. Shown said...


I realize that the current popular discourse requires that someone mention homosexuals every time the topic of marriage comes up, like some sort of call and response (you say marriage! we say gay!); but in this case it is a non sequitor (see also, herring - red).

The Other McCain's post is a Christian critique of the Christian attitude toward marriage. It is not about government intrusion into personal lives or about who should or shouldn't marry, gay, straight, hindu, atheist or otherwise.

He worries (rightly, in my view) that Christians pay lip service to family values and simultaneously demean marriage. And the reason for this is a desire for material comfort (of all things).

My emphasis focused on this preference for materialism over maternity as well. I made no comment about gay marriage, nor did I intend to.

No doubt this subject touches me personally, so I don't pretend to be objective. The fact of the matter is that many people I meet see me in terms of how many children I have. This means that I am often told I am crazy. (I think many people mean this quite literally.) Implicit (and sometimes explicit) in people's reaction to our family size is their preference to have things and free time over having children. Here, that often means a vacation to some place warm for one week every March, Packer tickets, and being able to get absolutely bombed on Saturday nights, but not having to get up early because in just a few short years two kids will be old enough to turn on the television themselves and pour their own bowl of Lucky Charms.

It's one thing to choose, personally, not to marry or have children, it is quite another to enforce a cultural norm diminishing marriage in pursuit of what has come to be known as a middle class lifstyle - especially if you are someone that purports to uphold or value the traditional family.

To me, simultaneously holding these two opposing views seems crazy. By contrast, I see myself as utterly sane.