When I was preparing for my final demonstration teaching in college, I remembered a literary piece told to us by our teacher. It was letter of a father to his daughter who is planning to get married.
I decided to look for it over the internet but in vain. So I grabbed the book from our library and made the copy available online for future students’ benefit. I hope this copy gives you more convenience and a lot of comfort – so that my manual re-typing of the text from the book would be worth it.
The relationship the father and daughter was evident in the text as well as the father’s unprejudiced response. So here it is, “Letter to a Daughter” written by Arthur Gordon.
Letter To A Daughter
By Arthur Gordon
Your letter arrived this morning, and I wasn’t too surprised by it. Ever since you went back to boarding school I’ve had the feeling that you might tell your mother and me that you and Bob want to be married this summer, after graduation. And now you’ve said it.
You ask how I feel about it. Well, not as instantly and automatically negative as you probably expect. I’m pleased that you want my approval, or at least my opinion. Let’s take a long cool look at the pluses and minuses of teen-age marriages.
The biggest plus is that marriage is the best solution to that most ancient and urgent of problems: sex. Nobody should underestimate this, because sex without fear or guilt is about 10,000 times better than sex that is hung up on broken taboos and lacerated consciences. In our society marriage tends to be postponed, for economic or educational reasons, far beyond the time when it makes good biological sense.
A second great advantage in young marriages is flexibility. Your personalities are lithe. You and Bob can adapt to each other, to new environments, new problems. Your ideas aren’t fixed, your attitudes aren’t rigid. Also, you have optimism that assumes things are going to work out, or that even if they don’t, errors can be corrected, losses regained. This kind of exuberance often disappears as people grow up.
Another cheerful fact is that when you marry young, you are more likely to develop similar tastes – in friends, in entertainment, in political candidates. These similarities are the ball bearings in the mechanism of any marriage: the more of them, the better. As one grows older and more fixed in his ways, it is harder to find people whose tastes are similar. Another plus is that being young, you have tremendous physical energy, great vitality and good health.
Finally, you have a superabundance of romantic love. Cynics are always pointing out that isn’t enough, in the long run, to make a marriage go. Maybe they are right. But certainly nothing on earth is so exciting and mysterious and rewarding as this first almost unbearable sweet desire to escape from the prison of self and become part of another person. Whether the glow lasts or not, having it is something to be proud of and grateful for always.
When young lovers look up at the full moon in the night sky they don’t stop to think that it has a dark side. But it has. The presiding judge of a domestic-relations court in California listed five factors most likely to bring such marriages crashing down: 1. Money troubles; 2. immaturity; 3. cultural gap; 4. interfering in-laws; 5. pre-marital pregnancy.
Money troubles, the judge said, are the most frequent single cause of teen-age marriage failure. Often, teen-age husbands are jobless; those who work earn so little; this leaves no margin for error; no money for fun, for illness, or for a baby. Usually it means living with in-laws. It all adds up to trouble. Even if Bob gets a subsidy from his parents, it will mean that he is not really the head of the household – he will still be dependent. He might try borrowing from his Dad but debt is not a good springboard for marriage.
The second great hazard according to this judge is immaturity. This means self-centeredness, inability to compromise or see other points of view, or to rise above hurt feelings or postpone immediate pleasures in favor of future benefits, or to do unpleasant chores when they need to be done instead of putting them off. Trying to be mature is of course a lifetime job. “Love” someone said, “is the accurate estimate and fulfillment of another’s needs.”
The judge mentioned the “cultural gap” in our socially stratified society as another hazard. This means differences in food, in speech, in pastimes, in grooming, in dress, in the kind of people you are comfortable with. When teens with such different cultural backgrounds marry, he said, it is usually because the biological attraction is so strong that it blots all other considerations. He advises young people to try a 48-hour experiment: spend 24 hours in each other’s homes with no love-making at all. If boy and girl remain pleased with each other’s family and way of life, and if without any physical contact they are not bored with each other, then, there is hope for the future.
The fourth deadly factor is interfering in-laws. Where young marriages are concerned, the judge said, in-laws too, often become outlaws. They criticize, they meddle, they make demands. However, I don’t think your parents are much like that, or Bob’s parents either.
All this discussion brings me to a question that you will not like, but that needs to be asked: Why don’t you wait a while? Neither of you has had much exposure, romantically speaking, to other people. Neither of you has been in love before. Neither of you knows what the great big supermarket of the world has to offer because, to put it bluntly, you haven’t shopped around. A year from now, one of you might have a change of heart. In that interval, somebody else might come along who would make an even better life partner. Such waiting period would be a pretty solid test of the durability of your affection. Maybe you don’t owe any such test to your parents, but you owe it to each other.
Whether you take this advice or reject it, you may be sure of one thing: nothing is going to change the way I feel about you. People say that the generation gap is unbridgeable but I don’t believe it. Do you really think that parents forget how lonely and vulnerable being a teenager can be, how desperately you need someone to lean on sometimes?
I remember the stormy night you were born, almost 18 years ago. I was waiting by myself in the hospital room assigned to your mother. The hospital was very quiet. Then I heard a baby’s cry – the delivery room was far down the corridor, through two or three sets of doors. I should not have been able to hear anything at all. But I did hear that one sharp, poignant, far-off sound. Something in me knew it was you. Later I found out from the doctor that it was you.
I have always liked to think that no matter what happened or how many doors came between us, we would always be able to hear from each other.