The following text has been excerpted with permission from, "Married at Fourteen: A True Story," by Lucille Lang Day.
At thirteen, in juvie for running away, I concluded that marriage would be my ticket to adulthood.
At Al's Drive-in the following year, I met Mark, a 16-year-old high school dropout. "If you don't let me marry Mark, I'll run away again or get pregnant. I'm not bluffing," I told my parents so many times that it became a sort of mantra.
In September 1962, the week before I should have started ninth grade, Mark and I drove from Oakland, Calif., to Reno with my mother in the backseat. I didn't know why, but she was on my side now. I thought maybe she wanted to get rid of me. I couldn't stand to be around her very long, and I thought the feeling was mutual. Then again, maybe she knew how important this was to me and just wanted to make me happy. My dad didn't think my getting married was such a great idea, but it was two against one, and he was going along with the plan.
About 10 other couples were in line ahead of us to get their marriage licenses. When we reached the front, I said I was 16 and Mark said he was 18. Both of our mothers were present to confirm this, and our license was issued as quickly as everyone else's. I think now that Mark's mother lied because she thought my parents were more affluent than they were (we lived in Piedmont, Calif., a town known for its mansions).
I thought ours was a unique and wondrous passion. Antony and Cleopatra, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, step aside! Mark was the prince and I was his princess, and our wedding would fulfill the promise of our extraordinary love.
The sky was a luminous blue as we entered the First Methodist Church. Our mothers asked the organist to play "I Love You Truly." I'd have picked "Love Me Tender," but I wanted our mothers to be happy. Standing at the altar, I found it hard not to giggle. When I knelt, I thought my tight-fitting dress would rip, but it held. I stood again, and Mark put the ring on my finger.
We had a four-day honeymoon at Mark's dad and stepmother's house. For dinner the first night, I served leftover macaroni and cheese I found in a Corning Ware dish in the refrigerator. I left it in the oven too long and it burned. I didn't know how to get the black stuff off the dish, so I washed and dried it, then put it back in the cupboard with the last of the charred macaroni still stuck to the bottom.
I didn't want to be seen naked, and neither did Mark. I was embarrassed by my small breasts. I don't know what his problem was. If I wasn't wearing a nightgown or blouse when we made love, I put a pillow over my chest to cover my breasts. Mark always made me close my eyes while he pulled his pants up or down.
In the delivery room 10 months later, I cursed everyone I could possibly blame: Mark for getting me pregnant, my mother for failing to warn me about the pain, and Dr. Howard for postponing the anesthesia discussion.
With my first hard push my water bag splattered, and I let out a long, piercing shriek. The anesthesiologist, in his neat green smock, said, "Why don't you shut up?"
"F--- you!" I screamed.
"Breathe deep," he said, clamping a gas mask over my face.
Ten minutes later, when I woke up, Dr. Howard was stitching me up. "You have a little girl," he said, then told the nurse to show me the baby.
"She's lovely," I said, looking at my wrinkly pink daughter. "I'd like a cheeseburger and milkshake now." I had awakened ravenous into motherhood.
On a rainy March afternoon when Liana was seven months old, Mark and I had an argument in the kitchen, and he got a wild look in his eyes. Before I could figure out what that meant, he drew back his fist and slugged me in the face. I saw stars. Then everything went black and I fell on the floor in front of the refrigerator.
When I came to, the world was still black and I thought Mark had blinded me, but after a few minutes my vision returned. I said, "You had no right to hit me." He was no longer my husband, but an unfamiliar being with heavy breath and narrow eyes. "You got what you deserved," he said. Afraid he might do it again, I didn't argue. I went to the bathroom to examine my puffy red cheek and blackening eye, and I knew this was not the life I wanted.
Below, Lucille on her wedding day at age 14.
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