As David watches dubiously, Marjorie gives Juliet a glass of grapefruit juice and gets a predictable response. Juliet had her first birthday last week.
When David Estridge, 31, was a campus athlete at the University of Connecticut ten years ago, the idea of living with a girl and having a baby without ever getting married was "something a Greenwich Village freak would do." For Marjorie McCann, 28, a U.Conn. homecoming queen who was raised a Catholic and who was taught that marriage was a sacrament, "living together without being married was a sacrilege." But seven years later the two of them had indeed started living together, in Winchester, Mass., a suburb of Boston, and a year ago Marjorie gave birth to their daughter Juliet. Although their status as unmarried parents is a complete ideological about-face from their earlier outlook, they don't see themselves as crusaders or revolutionaries. "Our decision not to get married legally was an evolutionary process," says Marjorie. "After we had lived together for a while we realized there was no need to get married. Neither of us wanted marriage for security reasons, so it never really came up."
David and Marjorie realize that plenty of people find their situation strange, even unacceptable. But "our married friends see that we live exactly as they do. The only difference is that piece of paper." Their rejection of the concept of marriage is based mainly on a conviction that the bond of love and trust which holds the two of them together is much stronger than the legal bond authorized by church or state. "People remark that it would have been a lot easier for us to get married," says David. "And at times, I admit, it's been a lot of effort. But not being married keeps a little excitement in the relationship. It's like you have something going that you don't have to have."
Since David quit his job for a freelance sportswriter career, there's more time for family outings like a pretend-perilous walk on Boston's waterfront.
At right, David runs for exercise as Marjorie, with Juliet riding papoose-style on her back, pedals leisurely alongside.
JULIET IS ILLEGITIMATE BY LAW NOT BY LOVE
David looks on as Juliet takes her midday snack. 'Having the baby was a natural high," says Marjorie, like being a part of nature."
At right, David totes Juliet as his mother watches. Mrs. Estridge, a divorcée, often visits from Connecticut for the day.
Marjorie and David's decision to have a child was the result of much thought and discussion. They vowed that the baby would not change their lives, and for the first few months of her life, Juliet Valentine Estridge went everywhere with them, even on a cross-country trip. “But it really did change things," says Marjorie. "It seemed as though there was going to be this never-ending drudge." In time, David, a free-lance writer, and Marjorie, a free-lance photographer, learned to divide the work of caring for the baby (helped by the fact that neither holds down a regular job). From the start, the couple has faced an array of practical problems. When they bought their house, they signed the mortgage as husband and wife, because it was far less complicated that way. And when Juliet was born, they sent out two kinds of birth announcements, one set for acquaintances who believed they were married, a second set for close friends who knew they were not.
Because she is the offspring of unwed parents, under Massachusetts law Juliet is an illegitimate child who should have her mother's surname. But for practical reasons like school registration, David and Marjorie sidestepped the law to give her David's surname. "It's ridiculous for a child to have the stigma of illegitimacy when there are two people who love her but who just don't believe in marriage," says Marjorie. Now, even David's and Marjorie's parents accept and approve of their relationship. “At first," recalls Marjorie, "my father felt David was getting away with something. And I was glad. That's what I'd like a father to think." For David, the most satisfying confirmation of their decision would be for Juliet to follow in their footsteps. "I hope that she will see that it is a good thing, a better thing, not to get married."
David and Marjorie visit her mother and two of her three sisters (left) before going to see her father who was in a hospital recuperating from an operation. The families live fairly close to each other and visit back and forth.
Their bemused tax lawyer (right) told Marjorie and David that they had to file separate returns. They wound up paying less than if they had been able to file a joint return.