Claudette Colbert Answers The Letters
BEAR MISS COLBERT:
I am twenty-one and very much in love with a sailor. I knew him about six months before he went overseas. We were going to be married before he left, but decided it would be wiser to wait until he returned.
He came back about two months ago and though he had written that he would call or wire the instant he hit the States, he went direct to his home town where he renewed acquaintance with a high-school friend and got her into trouble. So he married the girl.
He wrote me saying he was heartsick that all this happened and he asked me to come up to see him. I went because I am so crazy about him. While I was there he tried to get a divorce but this girl refused, at least until she has her baby.
The other day I got another letter from him saying that he was out of his mind with worry. He and this girl can’t get along at all. He is going to ship out again soon, and he said he wanted me to write to him as often as possible, and when the war is over he will get a divorce and we will get married.
Now, Miss Colbert, I really love him, but I have a funny feeling that it isn’t fair to his wife or to me for him to want me to write to him while he is married. Am I being old-fashioned or do you agree with me?
Dear Miss K:
Your friend is really in difficulties—and all of his own creating, Although he now says he is “out of his mind with worry” and that he is sorry for what happened, the fact remains that he broke a stated promise to you when he failed either to call or wire you the instant he returned, and he broke an implied promise of fidelity to you when, even though he mas engaged, he made love to another girl.
He would seem to me to be most undependable. Suppose that he were able to secure his divorce and marry you when the war is over—think into what an embroiled situation you would be entering as a bride. In time to come he may want to see this child, may want to have it with him. That would pose a problem for you.
It seems to me that you would be far better off to discontinue your correspondence with him. You are quite right; it isn’t fair for you to write to him under the circumstance. Wot fair to him, nor to his wife, nor certainly to you.
You are young. You will meet someone else, one who can bring you an uncompromised future.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am a girl of sixteen and I have a sister, twenty. Her husband is in the Army in France. They have been married three years and have a lovely baby.
Some time ago my sister met a civilian, who is also married and has a fourteen-year-old son. She has seen this man on the average of four nights a week and she also sees him every day at work.
My mother told him not to come to our house again so my sister now meets him secretly. She told me flippantly one day that, if her husband doesn’t come back, she is going to marry this man.
My mother and I are doing everything possible to break this up as we love my brother-in-law as much as we do my sister. He is really a wonderful man.
Can you give us some tips on how we can go on breaking up this episode? We’ve done everything we can think of and now we need some smart help.
Dear Miss L:
I am sorry ta say this, but it’s true: l am completely losing patience with wives who cannot remain true to husbands who happen ta be away at camp, or on the battle fronts. I, too, am the wife of a man in uniform. I get lonely. I get heartsick. But I have women friends who are in the same predicament, so we console one another. I am invited to parties where there are other husbands and wives and, frankly, I sometimes look at the women whose husbands are with them in the sharpest envy.
But, if a woman really loves her husband, no other man quite measures up to him. Absent, he still seems to be the most wonderful person in the world.
True, some of the men forget their obligations, but the majority are just as heart-hungry and lonely as their wives. Even though many of these men are not in actual danger, they are sick of war and yearning for home.
I’m afraid, Evelinn, that there is no “smart” way in which to bring your sister to her senses. Nor do I think nagging will accomplish anything. You might have one final family council. Your sister’s obligation to her husband should be mentioned once again, as well as the fact that she is breaking up another woman’s home. Your mother should express her disappointment in her daughter. Then you might as well ignore anything your sister does in the future. It is unfortunately true that, if a girl wants to destroy her reputation and her hope for a decent future, no one can stop her.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am twenty-one years old and, in spite of the question I am going to ask you, I am not a jerk. I am just methodical. When I was a kid, I had my dad teach me to drive a car; I had my older brother teach me to swim. I am the kind of a person who likes to get the right steer, then do a thing—maybe not in expert manner—but as a reasonably good amateur.
I am very much in love with a girl. She is sweet, a church-going girl which is rare these days, and in general is going to make a fine wife for some lucky guy. I would like to be that guy. I am deferred, as I help my father run a farm. I am sure that I am doing a lot more good in my present spot than I would be toting a gun.
I want to propose and I want to do it so well that I run no risk of getting “no” for an answer. Because you are a girl, and such a nice one, too, would you mind telling me what kind of an approach a girl really likes? How can I prepare the ground so that I’ll get the harvest I want?
Dear Mr. B:
I thought your letter quite charming, and I’m sure you will have no difficulty in getting the “yes” answer. The first thing to remember, when seriously courting a girl, is that there is nothing that begets love quite so much as love. Tell a girl you love her, say it with quiet sincerity, and the average girl melts.
Always tell a girl what you like about her, but don’t make it fancy. Keep to simple, genuine statements. Don’t flatter—that is, don’t tell a girl an obvious untruth. But do take infinite pains to notice every good quality she has—her laugh, the way she walks, her voice, the way she combs her hair, her courtesy to older people, her love for her family. And how about a campaign of modest, uncompromising presents—a book, candy or a nice compact? A girl enjoys not only the gift but the thoughtfulness it implies, plus the assurance that if she married you, you wouldn’t be averse to spending a little money on her.
Dear Miss Colbert:
Two years ago I met a boy who was nineteen when I was sixteen. I went with him for three weeks before he entered the service. Then we became engaged.
For quite a while he was stationed nearby and we had many dates. One night he got a pass and came home, but I had gone to the movies with my mother, so he took my girl friend out. When I heard of this I was angry, so I went out with his boy friend. That made my boy friend mad.
Last fail I went down to take care of my grandfather and met a boy who was in the Navy. I was intimate with him and the doctor told me last month that I am going to have this sailor’s child.
The sailor is now overseas. I wrote telling him, but he has never answered. I was advised to write to his Commanding Officer and get a statement from this sailor admitting the paternity of my child.
I’m writing to my first boy friend again. He says he loves me and I know I love him. I want to marry him when he comes home but I’m afraid when he finds I have a child, he won’t want to marry me.
My doctor tells me I should give my child up for adoption. If I do that, I will be able to marry my boy friend without him knowing, but I’m afraid I’ll be sorry all the days of my life.
Dear Miss. W:
Your headlong romance is going to alter your entire future, so you must prepare yourself spiritually for that fact. If it is at all possible, you should keep your baby. If, for financial reasons, this is not feasible, you should give it up without even seeing it. All your life you will wonder where your youngster is.
Furthermore I think you should write o your boy friend and tell him the truth. Don’t simply tell him you are to have mother’s child. The bald fact alone would be revelation in a needlessly cruel manner. Start at the beginning. Remind him of the quarrel. Tell him something of your responsibility of taking care of your grandfather. Describe the way you lived, tell him how you met this boy and what led to your tragic surrender. Tell him that you love him and that you think you have grown up enough to be a more worth-while person in the future.
But be prepared to take it like a woman if he writes you a scathing letter, or if you never hear from him again.
Dear Miss Colbert:
The turning point of my life is about to occur. My parents are separating, and my mother is moving into an apartment. There are five of us children; my two older brothers are in the service, so my mother will have three of us with her.
Until now I have been attending a fine private school for girls that I really love, but Mother says that—under the new setup—she won’t be able to continue my education, I am seventeen and should graduate in a year. I have been planning to finish school, then to attend some nice art school, after that a school of designing.
In short, I have to go to work. It all seems so unjust and awful that I simply can’t face it. Can you suggest anything?
Dear Miss B:
I agree that you are facing a very real tragedy, but it lies not so much in the necessity for you to give up school, but in the fact of your broken home.
You have been, apparently, so taken up with your own disappointment that you haven’t stopped to think what this must mean to your mother. If your life seems to have grown confused, what of hers? From your letter I am led to believe that you may have added to your mother’s already heavy burden by wailing to high heaven.
At seventeen you must grow up. You must begin to think of the welfare and happiness of others—which is the first sign of emotional maturity. Why don’t you put your arm around your mother’s shoulders some night soon and say something like, “I’m afraid that I’ve been selfish and not very understanding, but that’s all over. Don’t you worry about me. I’m going to be all right and help you to be all right, too.”
Since you want to study art and design, find a job in an advertising agency, or on a magazine staff. You will be surprised to discover how priceless this actual experience will prove to be. Then, enroll in some good night school.
I truly believe that determination and enterprise will win for an ambitious girl everything her heart desires if she has a modicum of ability and a fighting heart.
Dear Miss Colbert:
Here I am in the South Pacific, sick with worry, but unable to talk it over with my buddies for fear of ridicule. So I decided to unburden myself to you.
I have been married three years to a beautiful girl whom I adore. We have a lovely little girl two years old. We were happily married, I thought. I wasn’t making much money and every once in awhile I felt so downhearted I would go down to a little bar and get plastered, then go home and beat up my wife.
I wouldn’t know anything about it until the next morning and then I could shoot myself with disgust. I joined the Army, figuring they would make a man of me and I think I have made progress.
While I was taking my basic training, I wrote regularly. still, I noticed that my wife’s letters cooled off after I had been away awhile. So when I got a furlough, I went home in a hurry. She was sweet, but kind of strange. She was sort of complimentary about my progress, but in a sad sort of way.
When I went back to camp I wrote every day but got no reply. Finally I saved a little extra money and called long distance and she was fine, but said she hadn’t been feeling very well.
Then I was shipped out without getting to see her. Finally I received a letter saying she was going to have a baby. I’m not one to be skeptical, but the amount of time since I have seen her just isn’t right. Shall I forgive my wife and skip it, or divorce her? Should I demand custody of my little girl and this other baby?
Corp. Amos S.
Dear Mr. S:
One of the most interesting sentences in your letter was this: “Shall I forgive my wife and skip it, or divorce her?”
You freely admit that you spent badly needed earnings at bars because you were discouraged. What about your wife at home with a small baby? Don’t you imagine she was discouraged, too? You admit that you beat her. Did you imagine that she enjoyed such treatment?
Your wife may have made little outward fuss over your behavior, but it is likely that a tide of resentment arose in her soul and penetrated every cell of her being. She may well be the quiet type whose anger at last breaks open flood gates and devastates her entire life.
It would seem that the only way for you to reach some sort of an understanding would be for you to write and ask her to unburden herself to you. Ask whether there is another man and if there is, ask her to tell you as much as possible about the manner of her meeting him, and what happened thereafter.
It may be that your wife is still in love with you, but that—in a curious way that some women have—she has been seeking a way in which to get even with you. If you still love her as much as you say you do, and if you can look upon this child as your own—never distinguishing between it and the other child—it may be that the two of you can work out postwar plans that will be satisfactory.
Try to establish understanding between you. But don’t speak of forgiveness until you, yourself, have been forgiven.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am the wife of a service man who is now in action and I have a problem that is causing me much unhappiness. I have been going to movies once a week; and after the movie I’ve been stopping in at a night club for a sandwich and a beer.
My family say that I am very wrong in this. They accuse me of being unfair to my husband by talking to other men. I believe there is no harm in talking. I work all week, and one night out is all I want. I know a lot of service wives who do the same. We are young and we don’t want to get overgrown with moss.
I love music, soft lights, people laughing and having a good time, and where else can you find all those things put together except in a bar? I would appreciate it if you would express yourself so that I can show it to my critics.
Mrs. Luther C.
Dear Mrs. C:
I’m afraid that showing my answer to your friends won’t establish the principle you have in mind. Even if you weren’t married to a man overseas, it seems to m e that you would be doing yourself a vast disservice to go unescorted into night clubs. Your lone presence in such a place of amusement is a tacit invitation for every wolf there to try to pick you up.
Suppose your husband should arrive unexpectedly some night—how would you like to have him stroll into that bar and find you talking to some strange man whose name you don’t even know?
If there are other service wives who, as you say, are hungering for a certain amount of social life during the absence of their men overseas, why don’t you women form a club?
I think the only safe rule of conduct for a service wife is this: Do nothing that you wouldn’t want to tell fully and freely to your husband either in a letter or face-to-face when he returns.
Dear Miss Colbert:
Do you think it is a disgrace for me to write to a Japanese-American soldier?
I am a paper carrier and have been since all our carriers were called into service. Four of us girls handle the distribution now. This boy, Tom, worked at the grocery store, which was on my route.
During the hot afternoons I would stop there for a soda or ice cream and we go to be good friends. My bike was always springing a leak, so when that happened Tom would fix it. We got to know each other and were friends for three years.
This summer he was taken into the Army and we have been writing to each other. Right now he is in France, back in action although he was wounded a few months ago and got the Purple Heart.
He says my letters keep him from getting lonesome. Should I keep on writing him, or should I stop because some of the people here think it isn’t nice for me to keep up my correspondence with him?
Dear Miss A:
No matter what narrow-minded people say, keep on writing to your friend.
It is quite true that our enemy in the Pacific is the Japanese nation, but it is equally true that our enemy on the western front is the German Reich. If you had met a boy whose parents had been German, who had been born and educated here and had entered the American Army, it wouldn’t occur to you to discontinue your correspondence, would it?
Any man, regardless of the birthplace of his parents, who wears the Purple Heart is a fine person to have for a friend. Keep up that friendship.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am thirty-nine, brunette, weigh 175. Yes, I’m plump. I have four children—the older boy is in service, the others in a private school, much like an orphanage.
A year ago my hubby said he no longer loved me and put his divorce through. He pays me $50.00 per month and $25.00 for each child. I live in a two-room apartment and work in a dining room. I have become acquainted with a man sixty-two who wants to marry me. He is respectable and considerate, only I can’t bear to have him touch me.
I keep thinking of my hubby. He is married now and always wants the children with him for holidays. He sees me about once a month, takes me to dinner and pays me compliments. He says he just married this other lady for business reasons.
I get spells when I cry for hours. Would you advise me to marry my gentleman friend to get companionship? I keep thinking my hubby will come back to me.
Mrs. Elden M.
Dear Mrs. M:
In the first place, I think you should stop crying. I don’t mean to be callous but tears accomplish utterly nothing.
In the second place, never marry a man you find physically unattractive. No matter how respectable and considerate a man may be, he will be a cheated husband if you can’t bear his caresses.
Why don’t you have your children with you? Surely they would be better off in a real home. Why don’t you make a determined effort to devote yourself to their welfare? Even if you worked part time, you would be able to give them some taste of the home life to which they are entitled.
It would seem to me that you would be much happier if you would dismiss all thought of your former husband from your mind. Be sure that he didn’t marry his present wife for “business purposes.” He is saying that only to spare your feelings. However, you are young enough to find another husband and to create a new happiness for yourself if you will shake off the past and walk confidently into the future.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MAY 1945