A mere ten weeks or so after the birth of their baby, Bristol Palin and her co-parent, Levi Johnston, have split up. There will be no marriage. According to the AP, and Mr. Johnston, it was a mutual decision. The same article manages to note that Bristol is devastated. Mr. Johnston, who sees the baby frequently, will continue to be an involved father, the story reports. Or maybe he won’t. Or perhaps he will sometimes, when he isn’t busy, unless he gets involved with someone else who doesn’t want that. Ms. Palin will continue to be the mother full-time — because she doesn’t have a choice. Which is not to suggest that she would want to abandon the baby. Few women do.
Luckily the Palins appear to be a very strong family, with many hands willing to pitch in and care for all the children. That is more than most young women have, and it is a great blessing. But it won’t be enough. Being 18 and a single mother is only a little easier for a pretty, middle-class girl than it is for less well-protected girls from those parts of our society where marriage and involved fathers disappeared a couple of generations ago.
I certainly don’t know if they should have gotten married. You’d have thought so . . . even if it didn’t last forever. Better odds for the kid. If the parents didn’t like it, well, they should have thought about that when they were drinking and fooling around. But, as we all know, shotgun marriages lead to plenty of unhappiness, some of the time. And very young marriages have a lousy track record. So parents of the expecting teens are not willing to push. And maybe they are sometimes right. Still, the default position of the girl, left on her own with the baby, now in serious and immediate need of further education and a set of remunerative skills with which to support herself and Tripp, which will be harder to acquire with her maternal responsibilities, isn’t much of a happy picture either.
For all of the high-minded discussion of marriage policy on these pages and elsewhere, to me it looks very late. That train left a while ago. Even Corner readers, who will discuss choosing life vs. abortion, with endless passion, do not get so worked up about marriage. Which is why all I have to say is, “poor girl.”