Regular readers of NLT know that one of my favorite questions to explore is the extent to which that which we call "common knowledge" is really just received opinion. While I often argue that people would do better to listen to the dictates of "common sense"--too often, what happens instead, is that people mistake "common knowledge" for "common sense." This slavish habit of mind is the result of societal intimidation and the fear we then develop to question widely held positions. It is a habit of mind in which this young gentleman
, to his credit (and probably to his lasting felicity) will take no part.
Is there is any more "common knowledge" or any opinion more universally subscribed to than the notion that it is best to delay marriage until later on in the 20s or, even, until the 30s? If there is, I don't know what it might be. It seems to be a point upon which there is broad bi-partisan and ideological agreement--though if there are dissenters, I suppose they are more likely to come from the conservative camp. Most every casual conversation upon the subject of love and marriage is sure to include the admonition from some would-be sage on the dangers of marrying too young.
I think the reason this argument has so prevailed has, in part, to do with what seems on the surface to be an appeal to common sense. There are many things that it is dangerous to do when when one is "too young." Clearly, no one should do anything that he is "too young" to do! But what does it mean to be "too young" to marry? "Too young" to love? Our culture and our habits--both of mind and of heart--have a lot to do with our thinking about these questions. And perhaps we've developed some pretty lousy habits, as a culture, in that line. But it is useful to recall that there was a time when marriage out of high school and during college was regarded as a pretty sound way to go. It was considered "common knowledge" then, that people should marry young and begin their lives together before they got too self-absorbed, too selfish, and too accustomed to thinking only of what would make themselves happy. Love, people used to understand, is as much a habit as it is a feeling. And young people tend to do better than older people at adopting new habits.
Today is Valentine's Day and Valentine's Day always reminds me of my parents who share their own wedding anniversary with the holiday. They were ages 19 and 20 when they were married . . . 40 years ago. I'm not saying--and would never say--that getting married young is a good idea for all people. No one should get married when he is "too young" to do it . . . but I will say that for some people, "too young" has nothing to do with the number of years that they have lived.