I met Holly Goddard Jones when she came to speak at an Atlanta Writers Club meeting. After her talk, about a dozen of us went out with her to an Italian restaurant where we dined late into the night, our conversations about writing, publication, and craft leading out into the parking lot where we wrapped things up at around midnight. Holly’s book, Girl Trouble, is one of my favorite short story collections of all time.
Recently, Holly published a new essay about her teenage marriage, which I read first on her blog and re-read this morning on Salon. It’s a beautiful narrative of how a young union can evolve into an incredibly special relationship. (Soniah Kamal wrote a lovely post comparing Goddard Jones’ young marriage to arranged marriages here.) I found this passage particularly moving:
There are days when we look at each other with stunned expressions, and one of us says, “I could not have done this without you.” And it is true. Somehow — and it should not have been this way — getting married at 19 was the best bad decision I’ve ever made.
Though I did not have a “teenage marriage” (we were engaged at 22 and married on my 24th birthday) my husband and I have been inseparable since age 19– our marriage delay a function of money and graduate school/jobs temporarily located in two different states. I largely ignore my wedding anniversary (15 years earlier this month), because the date I cherish more occurs in a different month, in March, when we began dating. (This upcoming March will be twenty years.)
Having said that, I still occasionally get comments from people hinting that our young union will lead to an any-day-now marriage meltdown. I never know how to respond to these reactions. But after reading Holly’s essay, I suppose my answer is that some couples are able to change together, while others are not. Sometimes naivete and immaturity are the perfect ingredients for a long-lasting relationship, and not fully understanding what you’re getting yourselves into is the best way to jump in with both feet.