Seriously, it is not. Rather, this is about something I and many others have been thinking ever since the news broke about Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter Bristol’s pregnancy and pending nuptials. It’s the same thought I had when we read that Jamie-Lynn Spears is set to marry the father of her newborn daughter, and the same thought I’ve had while watching Engaged & Underaged, which is by turns hilarious, heartbreaking, and horrifying. It’s a terrifying thought – where would we all be now if we were forced to marry the person we were banging at age 17?
I’m not necessarily implying that these kids in particular are being forced into making a commitment they are too immature and ill-prepared to fully grasp (I’m thinking it, though). Even removing babies from the equation, how ready can these teenagers really be to undertake the monumental challenge of marriage? Almost ten years on, I consider age 17 to be a pivotal year in my personal development, and wouldn’t hesitate to say that I am a very different person than I was back then. As difficult and exhilirating as the ensuing years have been, I don’t believe that having a husband by my side would have made life easier. I think it would have been a drain, an albatross around my neck the size of Alaska. I have no doubt I would have enthusiastically committed adultery, and probably been divorced by the time I was 20 (and I’m being generous with myself). I would feel stifled, cheated, resentful, and I wouldn’t blame my child-husband for feeling the exact same way.
Now, I am not everyone, but it doesn’t seem unfair to propose that in the contemporary Western world, teenage marriage is not only unneccessary but a straight-up crap idea. The odds of the marriage surviving are not in your favor, and for good reason: People change, and they change a hell of a lot in adolescence and in the subsequent years before 30. There are so many firsts to experience in this amount of time… education, jobs, apartments, travel, romance, heartbreak, sex, love. Your childhood is only the first few stepping-stones in your development as an individual human bean, and why would you want to limit your experiences so drastically by saddling yourself with a commitment that impacts every facet of your life?
But onto my point. Some of us weren’t banging anybody at age 17, and others of us (like me) might have a few options to choose from, so here’s the game: Describe what you think your life would be like now, good or bad, if you had married your teenage lover. To kick off, here are my three possibilities:
1) The European Ph.D.
This is my favorite. I did meet the love of my young life at age 16. Six years older than me, he was gorgeous, brilliant, and spoke very good English. We carried on a passionate two-and-a-half-year, trans-Atlantic love affair, until he ultimately broke my heart when the distance became too much (status of heart: still broken, actually, but I probably only cry about it five times a year or so, which is a drastic improvement; although, I have only two pictures framed in my apartment, and one is of my mother and one is of Him&Me, so, that’s… embarrassing).
Verdict: We would be living in Scandanavia (assuming I did not hang myself in our first studio flat due to despondence and bad weather), probably still married, however we both would have cheated once or twice. We would have one child by now, and he/she would be gorgeous and brilliant as well. I would have nagged him for years to get a real job, as he is a perpetual student and lived for way too long on hand-outs from his parents, and this would be a cause of strife between us. I would have developed a hidden drinking problem, but kicked it for the kid. We would be extremely hip, urban parents, but spend long weekends in the countryside, participating in athletic activities like hiking and fishing. One of us would have a beard. I would harbor a constant blackness in my heart because he would refuse to move to the US and I would hardly ever see my family. Ultimately, maybe, we would be happy, but that is probably wishful thinking. Distinct possibility of separate beds later in life, like his parents, as we grow alienated and I turn back to drink as the kid leaves the nest, but we’ve been together so long we are like intertwined, dying tree roots underground. Or, better scenario, we are soulmates and we grow old and wizened together and live until our nineties, always in love, like his grandparents. Yes, let’s go with the latter, because he is the one guy for whom I am still a sap.
2) The Ivy-League Lawyer
Tumultuous. I would be a pedigree wife, because ILL husband would have the money and the will to ensure that I was constantly plucked, groomed, waxed, manicured, and gymnacized within an inch of my life. I would have a not-so-hidden prescription drug addiction. He would be sleeping with at least one other woman at his firm, and I would have a brief revenge affair with his brother; everyone would know about all these things, but they would only be acknowledged through extreme passive-aggressiveness. I would convert to Judaism and our two children, probably boys, would be taken to Temple. His mother would still hate me. We would live on the East Coast and go to punk shows. Lots of slamming doors and jewelry.
Verdict: Fantastically violent sex followed by periods of mutual frigidity, and an ultimate divorce in our fifties, after which he would take a trophy girlfriend who is the spitting image of myself at age 25. Extreme love/hate and possible murder/suicide, or at least a nasty, lucrative divorce. Smart, anguished, and over-achieving children who love me more but contantly seek Daddy’s approval. Potential for resigned reconciliation in our later years due to grudging affection and familiarity. Children still never recover and become nervous adults.
3) The Horrible Loser Rapey Druggie Loser
He would be in jail or dead and I would continue to hate him.