So said Phil Robertson — back in the news, not because he said something edgy again, but because his antagonists dug up a 5-year old video. It took me a while to grasp that "pick your ducks" means pluck the ducks that you bring home (and not choosing which ducks to shoot). Robertson, we're told in the linked article, married his wife in 1966 when she was 16 (and he was 20). They'd been dating since she was 14 (and he was 18).
This material is right there in Phil Robertson's autobiography, "Happy, Happy, Happy," which has been out since last May. I have it in my Kindle. At page 52:
Miss Kay was the perfect woman for me. I was sixteen and she was fifteen when we were married. Nowadays some people might frown on people getting married that young, but I knew that if you married a woman when she was fifteen, she would pluck your ducks. If you waited until she was twenty, she would only pick your pockets. Now, that’s a joke, and a lot of people seem to laugh at it, but there is a certain amount of truth in it. If you can find a nice, pretty country girl who can cook and carries her Bible, now, there’s a woman. She might even be ugly, but if she cooks squirrels and dumplings, then that’s the woman you go after.Seems like he's been telling that pluck-a-duck joke for a long time. Anyway, how old was Phil when he married Kay and how old was she? The stories in the news and in the autobiography don't match. And what was the law in Louisiana at the time? I think (looking casually on line at what the law is today) that if you're under 18, you need both parents' consent, and if you're under 16, you need a court order.
A page later in the autobiography, Robertson quotes the New Testament (1 Peter 3: 1–6): "Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands...."
You have to go to the Bible yourself if you want to get the significance of "in the same way." The antecedent is not about husbands submitting to their wives but servants submitting to their masters ("not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing"). But the text goes on to tell husbands what to do: "live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex." But that's not quoted in Robertson's book. His Biblical snippet goes on to counsel against "outward adornment" and in favor of the beauty of a woman's "inner self," manifested as "a gentle and quiet spirit." And Robertson tells us that's exactly what Miss Kay is. She doesn't wear much makeup, and she's beautiful "on the inside and the outside."
Kay and I always were the perfect match. I was our high school quarterback, and she was a cheerleader.Speaking of gentle, quiet beauty on the inside, the quarterback goes for the cheerleader. We're told that she sought him out, and they dated until duck season, when he decided that he was going to spend all his free time hunting and that Kay couldn't go along, because "Women are a lot like ducks— they don’t like mud on their butts. I figured she would just get in the way." But then Kay's father died suddenly, when she was only 14, so he "went to her daddy’s funeral, and we made eye contact," and he "asked her out a few weeks later, and we’ve been together ever since." And:
My qualms about taking Kay into the woods were quickly relieved. And Kay wasn’t only a spectator. She helped catch baitfish, gather worms, hook them onto trotlines, and of course, pick ducks by plucking their feathers to prepare them for cooking. You know you have a good woman when you return home from a hunt and she’s standing on the front porch, yelling, “Did y’all get anything?” Before I repented, Kay also drove my getaway car when I was hunting out of season. I always knew my woman was waiting for me on the other side of the woods if I got into trouble.The last page of the book is "A Note From Kay," in which she describes her childhood dreams of the man she would marry.
What I didn’t know when I found the man who filled my dreams was that I had found a diamond in the rough.Which is a way to say, he did not fit those dreams, not for a long time.
One of the great tragedies I see is people not putting every effort into the foundation of their marriage. My grandmother told me that it’s one man and one woman for life and that your marriage is worth fighting for. We had a few hard and bumpy years, but prayer, patience, and some suffering and hope — plus remembering an old lady’s words — were what got me through the difficult times. We have given it our all for our marriage and family, and my dreams did come true.What do we want to say about high school sweethearts marrying (in a world where most of us seem to accept them having sexual intercourse)? She loses her father and her boyfriend closes in on her, limiting her life choices and not really ready to be a man and treat her right. But she sticks to the path she chose, and she makes good, the way wives have traditionally done, and few young women are inclined to do these days.
Here's how Slate's Amanda Marcotte presents the story: "Phil Robertson Says Girls Should Be Married Off at '15 or 16.'" The headline is bad, because "married off" expresses the point of view of the parents of a young woman. Robertson spoke from the perspective of a man looking for a wife who will treat him well. Marcotte goes on to speak from this perspective, but she gets that wrong by assuming he was addressing older men: "His advice for a happy marriage is to make like R. Kelly and hang out in high-school parking lots."
Should 2 teenagers — close in age — marry? We've drifted toward no, I think, mostly because we accept sex outside of marriage, which we do in large part because of birth control (and abortion) and the various sexual practices that don't lead to pregnancy, including the anal sex that we know Phil Robertson can't get his mind around. Before we sneer at the idea that teenagers should marry, we need to be honest about what we are accepting.