In Loco Parentis


I was married on my twentieth birthday. Back in the Mesozoic Era (1977). On that day my parents ceased to have any legal authority over me, they no longer had legal parental care responsibilities for me, and would not have been the first choice to make legal or medical decisions on my behalf if need be.  All those rights and responsibilities conveyed to my 24 year old husband. When my father walked me down the aisle and handed me over to the young man of my youthful choice, the symbolism was real.  For one year there were certain ways in which he was both by spouse and legal parent. I thought getting married would make me an adult - I wasn't prepared for the ways in it would continue my childhood.

We were students in New Mexico (where I once again live.) When the college had a river-rafting field trip - I could not sign my own liability waiver - he had to sign a permission slip for me. I thought that was kind of funny.

I was not old enough to buy alcohol, but in any restaurant in the state he could say "...and I would like to buy a margarita for my wife." and no questions were asked. I had a ring on my left hand. If we ever did get carded - they carded him - not me - because my age did not matter if he was buying for me. I could have been sixteen, and if legally married - which my father could have consented to - I could drink  - or not - as my husband wished. The legal doctrine for this is In Loco Parentis - he was legally acting in the place of a parent. In New Mexico at that time - a Pater Familias could put wine on the table and pour out to the children - he decided how much they could handle. I thought it was kind of cool to have what I thought were adult privileges early.

When I was a single girl, especially a white girl,  I could open a bank account  - I had one in Illinois when I was a child, and got checks made when I was 16.  At 18 they added a question - to all women opening accounts - "Are you married?" because if you were, you needed your husband's signature. Hmm.

Shortly after the wedding I went down to the women's clinic and had a check up and asked for birth control pills. "Are you married? oh, then we need your husband to fill out and sign this form saying he approves." This time it did not matter if I was was 20 or 21. I did not like this one bit - but I had him fill out the form.

Ten years, and two children later - Now in Oregon, I told my doctor that I was satisfied with two children and wanted to have my tubes tied. My doctor wanted assurances that my husband was also satisfied. Then or now, a man can walk into his doctor's office and ask for a vasectomy and no one else's opinion matters. 

In 2005 after my father's passing and receiving my inheritance, I asked my bank for a credit card in my own name. They wanted my husband to co-sign. But my rights had changed by this time and I made a stink, and quoted law, and got my own line of credit. What I did not know was that inheritance did not count as marital property - I could have put that money away in an account in my own name, but I did not. My inheritance got spent on marital expenses and was gone by the time of the divorce 2 years later.

Rights, as it turns out are temporal, and sometimes fragile. You can't buy booze for kids in a restaurant in New Mexico anymore. And as of this year, a women's fertility may not be in her own control.

There is a contingent of misogynistic, patriarchal people in this country (and they are not all men,) who want to turn back time. Make sure that women can only marry men. Make sure that men control women's finances and fertility. They would prefer that women don't vote. They would make women legally children if they could. Maybe even decide if they can get a drink.

We are not so far from having women who appear to be of child bearing age being denied alcohol, or plane tickets, because they 'might' be pregnant and the decision should not be theirs to make.

Ten years ago, deep in the Obama years, I would have laughed at this notion.

I am not laughing any more.

Because I remember being a married child.