DEAR SEAN:

My 21-year-old daughter just married her 22-year-old sweetheart. What advice would you give them being so young and getting married? The naysayers claim they are too young for marriage.

Thanks,
INSTANT-MOTHER-IN-LAW

DEAR INSTANT MIL:

I turned 21 on my honeymoon. At the time, we were in Charleston, South Carolina. There are many taverns in Charleston.

On the evening of my birthday, my newlywed wife left me to my own devices so she could go birthday shopping. So there I was, age 21. Street legal. Wandering the streets of the Holy City alone. Looking for houses of worship.

I walked into a small joint downtown to buy my first legal glass of Ovaltine and pay my respects to federal law.

The saloon was sort of empty. Dim lights. Lots of sinners. The smell of antiques and tobacco. There was an old fashioned jukebox playing. It was perfect.

There was a man at the bar. He was old and bent. Heavy equipment logo on his hat. He was leaning over a longneck.

I told him I was 21 tonight.

His eyes became bright. He told the bartender to bring me a tall glass of something cold—on him. The bartender, a gal comfortably in her 60s, checked my ID with a careful eye.

“What’s your address, sweetheart?” she asked, staring at my license.

“Sesame Street,” I said.

She smiled.

She put the glass before me. The old guy and I toasted to the American Minimum Legal Drinking Age. I told my new friends I had just gotten married.

I got about five or six handshakes and shoulder slaps. I went on to tell how everyone in my life said I was making a mistake. About how the preacher refused to marry us.

About the big stink my wedding created. About how people—even strangers at the tux-rental shop—tried to talk me out of it. Some of my own family even boycotted my wedding. They said I was too young.

The old man just chuckled. “My mom got married when she was fourteen. How’s that for too young? I was seventeen when I got married, and we’re still going strong.”

The bartender joined the conversation. She said, “I was eighteen when I married Husband Number One. It was also the first year I ever voted.”

“Who’d you vote for?” the man asked.

“Adlai Stevenson.”

“Who?” I said.

She tapped her cigarette ash. “He looked like a vacuum salesman.”

There was another guy at the bar, about the same age as my new friends. “I got married when I was nineteen,” he said. “I learned that marriage is a walk in the park.”

“Yeah,” said another. “Jurassic Park.”

Another old guy said, “Hey, I got married young. During the war. We all got married young back then. Know what I learned? I learned that the secret to marriage is still a secret.”

“Didn’t anyone say you were too young?” I asked.

“Too young?” The group of old sponges just laughed.

“Sweetie,” the bartender said, “We WERE too young. And so are you. Twenty is WAY too young to get married. But you know what? So is thirty, forty, fifty, and sixty.”

One guy said, “You don’t get married, because it’s the smart thing. You get married because a man is incomplete until he’s married.”

“That’s right,” another said. “After that, he’s finished.”

Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.