In Which Shotgun Marriages are Commendable and Encouraged
Because Train Wrecks are Better than Absentee Fathers
And People are Virtuous Regardless of the Motivations Behind Their Actions
In response to my link to Maureen Johnson’s post on teenage pregnancy:
Mistakes are made. It’s part of the human tapestry. Its how you respond to the mistakes you make that define character. Sure, Bristol Palin made a mistake by having sex too early. But the fact that she kept the kid, and is apparently willing to marry the father, tells me that she has some virtue in her yet. I don’t believe the notion that she “had no choice”. And I don’t buy the victim rhetoric. This teenage girl has shown more guts than many grown women would have, shunting the death and sterility option. Far more, even, than “Babies are Punishment” Barry and his coterie, who can’t seem to understand why evangelicals are rallying around her and her family.
I believe people should accept the consequences of their actions. I’m big on responsibility. I believe people shouldn’t do things if they can’t deal with all the possible outcomes. And I believe that people need to live with and learn from their mistakes instead of taking the easy way out.
Bristol Palin is commendable IF she actually chose to keep the baby out of a sense of morality/virtue/responsibility and wasn’t just pressured into it by her family and her mothers’ party. We don’t know the real reasons/motivations behind her choice, or if in fact it was a choice at all. Regardless of what kind of person she is, it’s horrible to be seventeen and going through a difficult time in your life with the media having a field day with your personal crisis.
I don’t think she’s commendable for marrying the father though. Why is that a good thing? What do you really know at seventeen? If I’d married my high school sweetheart when I was seventeen I’d be kicking myself for it now ten years later. Why compound one mistake with another one? My mother is quite conservative (Opus Dei, Katoliko Sarado Kandado) but she always told me if I ever got knocked up I shouldn’t feel obliged to marry the father, because that could potentially be opening a whole new can of worms. Pregnancy is NOT a good reason to get married. I’ve seen too many people forced into shotgun marriages who are now absolutely miserable. Marriage should be entered into because two people love each other and are committed to each other and are prepared to take on the responsibilities marriage entails together. Not because they made a mistake.
Well, I’m sure there are complexities involved in the decision, and the upbringing and the pressure on her own mom may have mitigated her decision, but you know what? In the end, she made a choice, and might I say, the virtous choice. With that kind of spotlight, Oprah, Steinem and the feminist parade would have probably congratulated her on getting rid of her own personal “parasite”. Sure, its horrible to be 17 and going through an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. But, people go through horrible shit everyday. What we go through doesn’t define us. How we go through with it does. [In another note, the person you quoted seem to be decrying Bristol’s lack of Sex Ed, or at least, her having abstinence only sex ed. For what its worth, the best studies conducted by the US DHHS comparing abstinence only and contraceptive sex ed programs show that both yield around the same rates of failure. So, yeah, being a stupid teenager is universal whichever way you cut it.]
Why is it commendable that they marry each other? For one thing, as a social decision, you do not want to keep isolating the sex act from the attendant responsibilities attached. A child is always better off with both mother and father around, and that must come into the equation. As a personal decision, getting married is a gut check. Admittedly, I am speaking as a guy, but the most adult way to respond to getting a girl pregnant is to man up and assume responsibility, for the rest of your life. Will you be miserable? Probably. But you don’t have to be. As Clem noted during one of our Kapihans, arranged marriages actually have lower divorce rates than regular ones. So, growing a spine and a sense of responsiblity is a good thing. Learning to love somebody at her worst (an adult thing too many adults never grow into) is a good thing. If I got some girl pregnant at 17, I probably would be married for 8 years now. I’d probably be a train wreck. But a train wreck is better than an absentee dad. (Its an honor thing.) And besides, I’d probably end up less of a wuss than I am nowadays. I’d probably even be more likeable. Being a father can change things. As I said, its not the mistake that defines a person. Its how he or she responds to it that does. For manning up and choosing to marry the mother of his child, I’d commend the guy who got Bristol pregnant. As for the matter of being ready…if you’re willing to be all that you have to be for the sake of your child and each other, then I would think you’re better prepared than most couples who actually do get married “prepared”.
Do a person’s motivations factor in at all with you when you decide whether or not they are virtuous people? Or are you content to extol them as saints based on the outward expressions/end results, regardless of the reasons that may have been behind their actions?
Have you ever been forced to do something you were vehemently opposed to by your mother or father? I have, and I’m guessing that majority of young people have at some point in their lives.
There was this one time I got into a fight. I felt my actions were fully justified and I refused to acknowledge that I did anything wrong. It was the other person’s fault, I argued. I am absolved of all guilt. But my mother wasn’t buying it. She made me write an apology letter. I resisted at first, but really, when you’re a kid how long can you resist your mother? You’re not very bright and still wholly dependent on her. So eventually I gave in, and I wrote an apology that she mostly dictated to me. The letter was very well received. I was praised as having shown a lot of humility and maturity. Never mind that I was snorting and rolling my eyes as I was writing a letter that contained sentiments that weren’t even mine. Never mind that in my heart I was unapologetic and unrepentant. Apologizing may have been the right thing to do but was I a virtuous person for doing it given that my apology was fake and extorted out of me? Hardly. I was just a kid who couldn’t stand up to my mom.
Let’s just say FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT that Bristol desperately wants an abortion but can’t get one because she’s afraid of her mom and the Republican party and she feels like she’s been backed into a corner. Is she a virtuous person for having this baby if in her heart she really doesn’t want it and would get an abortion if she thought she could?
Let’s just say FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT that Bristol’s boyfriend doesn’t really want to marry her or fulfill his fatherly responsibilities. Let’s say he just wants to marry her because there are a lot of perks that come with marrying into a political family. Would he be a virtuous person then?
I have no idea what’s going on in Bristol’s head (or her boyfriend’s) and I REFUSE TO ASSUME things one way or the other. Because that’s just STUPID. I’m not going to condemn nor praise her (or him), because I have NO BASIS for doing so. All I feel I’m qualified to say BASED ON WHAT IS PUBLICLY KNOWN is that they’re young and they exercised poor judgment. And that I’m glad the baby didn’t have to die, because I believe abortion is murder. But I will end there.
ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY FOR AN UNPLANNED PREGNANCY DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN YOU HAVE TO GET MARRIED. YOU ARE NOT LESS MATURE OR LESS ADULT IF YOU DECIDE NOT TO GET MARRIED. Fathers can provide financial support and they can still fulfill fatherly responsibilities and be fully involved in raising the child without being married to the mother. THEY DON’T HAVE TO GET MARRIED IF THEY DON’T WANT TO. MARRIAGE HAS NO BEARING ON THEIR ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR MISTAKE
The Catholic Church doesn’t require you to wed just because there’s a pregnancy. The Catholic Church doesn’t allow divorce, but it does allow annulments in certain cases and it doesn’t have a problem with legal separation because the spouses can’t remarry. This shows that the Catholic Church recognizes that IN SOME CASES, MARRIAGES JUST DON’T WORK. IN SOME CASES, MARRIAGE IS A VERY BAD IDEA AND SHOULDN’T BE ENTERED INTO IN THE FIRST PLACE.
As I said in an earlier comment, people shouldn’t get married UNLESS they love each other and are committed to each other and are prepared to take on the responsibilities marriage entails together. You can even take love out of that equation, because you can learn to love someone, and love as a factor for success is overrated anyway. As Patti Smith said, baby sometimes love just ain’t enough. And speaking from empirical evidence and personal experience, it really ain’t. The critical factors there are commitment and responsibility. The reason why arranged marriages have a high rate of success because the commitment and responsibility are there. Are marriages that DON’T have that level of commitment and responsibility a good idea? No, they are not. They are disasters waiting to happen. They will just mess up the mother, the father and most particularly the child and I don’t see how creating another dysfunctional family is good for anybody.
Say, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, you had a teenage daughter who got knocked up. Say the father was deadbeat lowlife scum. Dropped out of school, no job, no ambition, drunkard, drug addict, has a history of violence and crime. And say he wants to marry your daughter. Say he tells you he wants to marry her because he thinks it’s the honorable thing to do. That he’s “manning up.” Never mind that he’s probably a gold digger who just wants to marry her for her/your money, because we’ve previously established that people’s real motivations for doing things don’t really matter to you. What matters is the end result, which in this case is a marriage. Would you give him your daughter’s hand thinking, Oh, how wonderful! My little girl is going to have a happy nuclear family like I’ve always dreamed! If so, I sincerely hope you never have children.
My point is simple and it’s this: MARRIAGE ISN’T ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA. It’s great if a couple wants to get married and they have the proper attitudes (commitment, responsibility) towards marriage. If they can make it work and they’re able to raise the child they didn’t plan on conceiving in a healthy, loving environment, wonderful. I wish that could be the case for all unplanned pregnancies. But let’s be realistic. Sometimes (and I’ll wager often times) it’s not. SOMETIMES MARRIAGE JUST MAKES THINGS SO MUCH WORSE.
I know loads of people who’ve gotten pregnant/gotten someone pregnant out of wedlock. Some of them are good friends, some are family. Some of them got married. Of those marriages, some were successful and some were not. The marriages that failed were the ones that were rushed into by people who weren’t ready for them.
I know this couple who had a baby when they were in their early twenties. Their relationship was terribly rocky, they were both terribly immature, they weren’t ready for a baby or marriage. There was great pressure on them to get married immediately, but they didn’t, and I think it’s one of the smartest things they’ve ever done. They got married only eleven years after. They’ve now got two kids and they’re one of the happiest families I’ve ever met. I doubt the outcome would’ve been the same if they’d gotten married at the time the girl got pregnant though, because they really needed those eleven years to grow up. But the guy was very supportive all throughout, he gave financial support and he performed all his fatherly duties. The couple just needed time to be ready for marriage. And when they were, it was great.
Don’t assume that all men are as mature and virtuous and idealistic as you like to think you are. Don’t assume that every guy who knocks up a girl is capable of “growing a spine and a sense of responsibility.” SOMETIMES GIRLS WHO GET PREGNANT ARE BETTER OFF AS UNWED MOTHERS. SOMETIMES GROWING UP WITHOUT A DAD IS BETTER THAN GROWING UP WITH A DAD WHO IS INCAPABLE OF BEING A GOOD ONE.