When to Get Married, Revisited
The author, 2008, with daughters and dog, lost in the ICW
Last night I was at the year-end meeting of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, hosted by Gurney’s Inn. We reviewed last year’s budget, approved next year’s budget, got a presentation on what we, as business owners, can look forward to from Obama Care. After the meeting was adjourned there was a buffet and chit-chat at the bar. On my way out I ended up in a longish conversation with the couple who own and run Air and Speed surf shop here in town.
It started innocently enough with the (almost) always safe business-social question, “How’s your daughter?”
“Well I have two now, the eldest is 13 and almost as tall as I am now and the younger is 7.” and then sometime after that I said, reflecting on how much I enjoy being a father “I feel like I lost 5 years.” by which I meant I was as “ready” as I was ever going to be by about 25-27, and the years after that will simply be deducted off the back end. Fiver fewer years with my grandchildren.
This turned into a 45 minute gab-fest wherein I learned that Mr. and Mrs. Air and Speed were married young, over her father’s strenuous objection and had the first of their four children when they barely had a pot to piss in. Now their children are grown, and like so many other young adults there is some anxiety that their children are caught chasing what Eve Tushnet called “the endlessly retreating horizon of economic stability“. (I also learned that like myself and my wife, they had a sailboat they packed their young children onto and went adventuring, so of course I admire them all the more!)
Today twitter told me it’s PEG’s third wedding anniversary. I’ve made previous mention of my admiration for PEG’s determination to make a go and the marriage and kids thing early. Whatever the pitfalls might be, I think their are also benefits, now and in the future both, and I hope he, his wife, and their children reap them in abundance!
The tweet announcing PEG’s third linked to a post he made 2009, arguing in favor of early marriage, at least for himself. In the comments I found the below from Tony Comstock. In light of last night’s conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Air and Speed, and in celebration of PEG’s anniversary, I resurrect it here as a post by your truly:
My wife and I married at 29 and 31 respectively. We had our first child when I was 33, and our second when I was 39. Before meeting my wife I dated three other women whom I could have imagined myself married to: Laurie, my high school sweet heart; Sandra, a Dutch MBA student at the U of O I met on a rafting trip; and Laura, one of two pretty blonde girls who were at the take out of a kayaking trip, I did a mental coin flip and asked her instead of the other girl.
The reasons I did not marry any of these three women are manifold, including differing career paths with differing geographic requirements, differing sexual needs and expectations, luck, whimsy, and a host of other things big and small. Unless the decision is made in that first early rush of new love, there are always reasons not to get married, and my experience is that new levels of intimacy also reveal new facets of incompatibility.
Although I did not recognized it at the time the benefit of hindsight, I recognized that social pressure against early marriage, felt by one or both of us, was a non-trivial factor in my not marrying Laurie, Sandra, or Laura. Again, with the benefit of hindsight I believe that if I had married any one of these women that I would not have been more or less happily married; I believe I would have been differently happily and unhappily married.
Now a detour.
My films are self-distributed. No one ever said to me “Wow, these films are amazing, and we’d like to distribute them,” or at least no one ever said that until after we had already started doing it ourselves.
I’ve never been hired for a “real” job.
I didn’t get into a competitive graduate program, or go to a selective college.
In fact, as best as I can remember the only time I’ve ever been “tapped” was in the fourth grade when I was selected for a seventies-style experimental classroom sort of like the one that Bart Simpson got lost in when he switched tests with Millhouse. That didn’t work out well for Bart, and it didn’t work out well for me either.
From that perspective what I have noticed is that generally speaking people are more enthusiastic about undertakings that involve some sort of selection process; if you can simply decide to do this or that, other people will generally not be as impressed with this or that as they are with something you had to convince some sort of selection process to allow you to do.
For example, you will get a lot more approbation if you tell people that Tartan is distributing your films than if you tell people they are self-distributed; people will be more impressed if you blog at TheAtlantic.com than at TheAmericanScene.com; people will be more inclined to crack the spine of a novel publish by Random House than one that is self-published. And I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing either.
But what I remember from being in my teens and twenties is that I looked at marriage and having children though a similar lens. As a young man, marriage and having children looked like something that “anybody” could do, and because they were something that “anybody” could do, they also seemed like they were something that people who couldn’t do anything else would choose, like self-publishing a book because no “real” publisher is interested. I was head over heels in love with Laurie, and to this day I recall my mother saying to me “You two are so good to each other.” But it never would have occurred to me to ask her to marry me, because that would have seemed an expression of both very low and very mixed up priorities. And even if I had asked her, she never would have said “yes” for the very the same reasons.
A few months after the birth of our first child, after we had settled into being new parents, I was on the couch with my wife, cradling my daughter in my arms and I looked up at Peggy and said, “If I had known how much I was going to like this, I would have knocked up my high school girlfriend.” I know, that sounds glib, but I meant it and mean it with absolute sincerity. There’s no speculating on how my life might have been different, my life took so many twists and turns between 18 and 33 it’s impossible to imagine how that would have been changed if I had been a father and a husband, and I’m quite happy with how things turned out. But in my gut, I know that my life would not have been poorer. Undoubtably it would have been different, but I’m quite sure it would not have been poorer.
I don’t envy Pascal. I can fairly well hear the tone of voice and see the looks on the faces of people who think he and his bride-to-be are making a mistake, selling themselves short, doing what’s easy instead of what the are capable of. On another thread there was some discussion of how/if students can be taught to act in their own self-interest without being threatened with a penalty if they do not. No less valuable a skill, I think, is learning to act in one’s own self-interest, even if there is a penalty for doing so.
Also today, and sort of related to the “tapped” thing Tony Comstock had a Kickstarter proposal rejected. You all can imagine the reasons why. Damn those gatekeepers! Just as you find your way around one, another one pops up blocking your path!