You may have missed it, what with Boris and his crackpot cabinet dominating the headlines recently, but over here Stormont may be contemplating doing something decent for a change. I know it’s quite unlike them to bring in sensible legislation, but they want to increase the legal age for getting married to eighteen, in line with the rest of the UK. By some quirk, as is often the way here in NI, sixteen and seventeen year olds are legally allowed get married, provided they have parental consent. I was incredulous to read that about eighty couples did tie the knot in 2019, with one or either parties under the age of eighteen. I’m a teacher for flip’s sake. I hear teens talking pure mince day in day out, and to think that the same youngsters might be considering marriage, makes me feel a wee bit ill. I was trying to imagine how I’d react if this scenario were to unfold with some of the kids I’ve taught. I’d be all, ‘Well Michael, have you any nice plans for the summer? and he’d be like, ‘Yeah Miss, I’m taking Lucy to see Tiësto at Belsonic, then we’re down the City Hall on Tuesday to get hitched.’ I’d be like, ‘hold on a minute til you tell me that again.’ “Tiësto?”
Anyway, I was on U105 taking about this very issue with John Daly on Wednesday morning, and I fear I may have come across as a curmudgeonry old git about marriage as a whole. ‘Why would anyone want to shackle themselves to another person so young?’ I fumed. When Daly asked what I might do if a teenage daughter of mine came home and announced their intention to wed, I went full-on Dickensian and said I’d lock her in the house until she talked sense. Seriously though, what possible life experience can a young person have to make them contemplate that level of commitment?
So I was all doom and gloom, citing divorce statistics and saying how marriage is tough, yadi-yadi-ya, but then listener Yvonne rang in, saying she’d met her husband at the local youth club when she was seventeen and they got married the following year. They’ve just celebrated their forty-second anniversary, which makes me look like I’m talking out of my backside. She sounded well pleased with her lot and said he’s a great fella who gives her no bother at all and even gets the hoover out sometimes. (Sounds like a keeper to me Yvonne. LSB took the hoover last week to suck the ash out of the wood burner and I had to hose the flipping thing down out the back and the house still smells all ashy and sooty and horrible. When it comes to housework, LSB should leave well alone.) They seemed like a really happy couple, which goes to show that you never know how things are going to work out, and who on earth am I to pass judgement on anyone else?
I do maintain though, that if you fall hard enough for someone when you’re only eighteen, then why rush into marriage? If you’re so very taken with them, then the chances are you’ll still be together when you’re twenty-one, at which stage the marriage won’t seem quite so Old Testament.
Happily, this issue never arose for LSB and myself. If I’d been sixteen when we first met then he’d have been twelve, which would have been a different sort of a business altogether. On our first date he told me he was twenty three when actually he was twenty two and when I found out and realised he was almost four years younger than me it was quite a shock. ‘You’re an embryo!’ I recall telling him, with some vehemence. When we did take the plunge I was thirty-one and he was twenty-seven, which was still younger than the average age to get married in Ireland, which is between thirty three and thirty five.
That’s enough of the statistics for now. What I want to get across, is that at heart, I’m a huge romantic. I love hearing about how couples met and when and where and all the pitfalls which befell them before they hoofed it up the aisle (or indeed if they did at all). Do you want to know my favourite bit of the movie ‘When Harry Met Sally?’ It’s when they show the interviews with all the elderly couples who share their stories. Sometimes they’d been together forever, or maybe they’d fallen in love as teenagers and been reunited in later life. Each one is priceless, and all of them make me a bit teary.
What I’m trying to articulate, is that everyone’s story is different, and they’re completely entitled to it. And if you met your partner when you were both very young then I’d love to hear it. You know where to find me!