AND THEN AGAIN…….by Tamara Pettit

I’m torn between a yes or no vote on the bill making 18 the “marryin age” in West Virginia.  Every fiber of my being wants to say yes!   A high school kid should be worrying about final exams not wedding rings. As I write this column the bill is on second reading in the Senate so it’s alive, but I do not think it’s well and will meet it’s demise before the bell rings declaring the session over “sine die.”

Right now the age to marry without consent from your parents is 18 in West Virginia, but with consent from your parents you can marry at 16.   This bill said even if your parents give the go ahead you can’t marry at 16.

I am a product of my environment.  Our family married young and were just babies when we had our babies. I had just turned 19 when I married the kids’ dad. Alan was 20.  When we bought our first house I wasn’t old enough to have ,our name on the deed, my Dad’s name was on it.    My own mother was 15- years- old when she married my Dad.  He was 20, but had had a short-lived marriage at 17.  Both families disowned them.   She was Catholic and couldn’t marry a divorced man.  He was Presbyterian and not only was she Catholic she was illegitimate.

If my sister was alive she would smack me on the head for addressing the subject, but I always said she was from a different generation.  (And, oh how I’d give the world for her to be here to smack me on the head. But, I still wouldn’t listen to her.)

You can’t address the age to marry without addressing the cause of 16-year-olds marrying iback in the day:  Pregnancy.  Kids get married  to give their babies names which is a real issue in some religions.  .  Or, they get married because sex without marriage was forbidden by their religion and their societal norms.    Love at 17 is mostly lust and giving it legitimacy does not solve the problem.

But my own mother married at 15?. The young women of that generation had been through the depression and soon WW II. They learned the realities of life far earlier than today’s kids.  She “set” up housekeeping and worked to support my sister during world war II (by the way she was not pregnant when she got married)   she then supported my dad.  Their marriage had a pretty good run for 29 years.

I submit that no one, male or female knows who they are at 17.   They are still forming who they want to be and that evolves.   At 17, I wanted to be a wife of a football coach. I hadn’t thought about finances or ambitions.  My marriage had a twenty-year run and produced two wonderful kids.

In the fifties, girls were playing Russian Roulette when they had sex.  Birth control pills changed all that and reproduction is no longer the major issue that should drive a marriage bill. 

So am I for it or against it? I’m for it.  It is a different day and young love doesn’t need a ring and a piece of paper to set up housekeeping.   I’m a proponent of knowing who you are hooking up with before you tie the knot.   Yes, live together for a few years so that you know if it’s going to work.

Back in the thirties,, West Virginia Justices of the Peace could marry people and there was no three- day waiting period.    Wellsburg in fact had quite a bustling business going with marriages.   Once or twice a year, a young couple would knock on our door in the middle of the night to see if Dad could marry them.    Wrights Motel was just up the road on Route 30 and Dad would give them directions and say “Can’t marry you, but I can say a few words to get you through the night”

How many of those prospective bridegrooms and brides  woke up the next morning relieved .

I’m for the bill.  Kids need to know who they are and where they are going prior to picking a life partner.