An interesting statistical comparison was broadcast on the news the other day that in 1960, two-thirds of all people before the age of thirty were already in holy matrimony. In 2008, a similar survey was taken and the rate had gone down to twenty-six percent. That meant one of two things: either the latest version of the younger generation was not interested in getting hitched anymore or they were waiting longer before taking the plunge.
I’ve read many biographies over the past year or so, especially those written about stars from Hollywood. There are innuendos and guarantees that several famous actors and actresses lived alternative lifestyles while officially being married. This was done in order to keep the movie-going public willing to pay see them perform. The conventional thinking was that the average person would not condone such vulgarity.
There are no longer any movie studio systems to shield and protect actors from public scrutiny. Nowadays, though, actors and actresses live openly unconventional lifestyles and don’t think twice about public opinion. Marriage is no longer the litmus test for being a responsible and honest person. The movies themselves glorify the various types of human relationships quite openly.
In 1949 on a Sunday in July, Dad was twenty-six and Ma was a month shy of her eighteenth birthday when they got married. Her father had to sign a document to give her permission being less than legal age, I guess. They were very happy that day except that Dad noticed that his boss from the meatpacking business for which he worked didn’t come to the ceremony or reception. There was good reason- that weekend, his boss decided to close down the business as it wasn’t doing too good. He was too embarrassed to show up and ruin the festivities. Uncle Henry, Dad’s older brother by fourteen years, got him a job with his company driving a cab. That lasted for about six months until Ma put her foot down and demanded that he go out and get a real job.
My older sister married in 1972 when she was twenty-one and didn’t think twice about it because her husband was studying to be a doctor. Even if they would have to live on a tiny budget for a couple of years or so, the future looked mighty rosy. Of course, she wouldn’t know that there would eventually be heartbreak close to forty years later when her oldest son would die from long suffering health problems. Fate has a way of playing tricks that even a doctor cannot do much when his own child is terminally afflicted but can only enjoy as much out of being there for him until the inevitable takes place.
Another sister got married in her early thirties. She too experienced the loss of a child- a son at age fifteen from a disease that came upon him only twenty-four hours earlier. But having two other children and three grandchildren gives her continued strength to not regret any of the choices in life she has made until now.
I’ve seen people marry at all ages and stay together through thick and thin and I’ve also seen those who go through marriages like a pair of pants to be taken off one day and a different one put on the next day. Maybe it would be wiser to have analyzed how many of those sixty-seven percent who married relatively young fifty years ago stayed married together and what percentage divorced. I would be just as curious to know forty years from now what percentage of the twenty-six percent who did get married in their twenties is still married to the same partner. I can’t wait to find out even if you have to wake me up from my mid-morning nap at the nursing home.