Claudette Colbert Answers The Letters
DEAR MISS COLBERT:
I am twenty-one. During my four years of high school I went with a boy who is now in the Naval Air Corps. Before he went away he begged me to marry him, but I felt that we should wait until a little later.
For over two years he was in the South Pacific as radioman and gunner on a Navy dive bomber. During this time I wrote faithfully every three or four days and he was quite as faithful. We made plans for the future: Where we would live, what sort of a house we would have, how many children we wanted and things like that. I considered myself an engaged girl, and so did our families and all our friends. A few weeks ago I received a wire saying that he was on his way home. Well, you can imagine how thrilled I was.
When he arrived he was totally different from what I expected. He would just sit and look at me with an expression of amazement. I asked him if he thought I had changed and he said, “Well, you’re prettier than ever.” He would want to do some of the things we used to do—go dancing, or swimming, or just talking with some of our friends—but the moment we got settled, he seemed to want to move on. He made the remark once that he should have stayed in the Pacific.
Now he has returned to another base and I haven’t heard a word from him. Shall I just try to forget, or shall I try to get in touch with him and try to make him see that I can understand his problem if he will give me half a chance? I don’t want to hang on if he no longer cares.
Dear Miss M:
First, I think you should analyze your own behavior when your airman came home. Were you as easy and carefree with him as you used to be, or were you on guard, half-expecting a case of war nerves?
There is always a period of adjustment between two persons who have long been separated and who have tried to keep in touch with one another by letter. Satisfactory as the letters may be, there is an inescapable sense of strangeness at first.
In this case I think it will be perfectly proper for you to run after this boy in a nice way. Each war weary man is unique; he has a problem of his own that he must solve, sometimes alone and unaided. The only way in which you can help is by being natural,
making no demands, giving him every chance to adjust himself. Don’t make an issue of his apparent strangeness; don’t hound him with questions. Keep on writing to him, assure him of your unchanging devotion—but be light about this, and don’t be hurt if it takes him a long time to respond.
For some men, getting out of combat is exactly as great a strain as being in combat. Only the application of time and patient understanding will accomplish anything.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I have been married six years and have two children and a fine husband. We seem to be the happiest people on earth, except for the constant trouble brought to us by my two sisters. Both are younger than I, and they simply ignore me and my family unless they want something.
The three of us were orphans for years before any of us married, so I have always been more or less responsible for them. But now that they are married, I feel honestly that they should solve their own financial woes.
When my second youngster was born I had a very bad time and no one came to see me. Help was hard to get, so my husband stayed away from work to care for me and for our two children. Now, when my sister’s baby is sick, she expects to move in on us so that I can take care of him, and she expects my husband to buy the medicine.
I am fond of my sisters and I don’t want to hurt or anger them. How can I make them realize that I have my own family to care for, so can’t be always at their service?
Dear Mrs. S:
Week in and week out I receive letters from conscientious older members of a family, explaining a quandary similar to yours. It would seem that once an older brother or sister assumes the responsibility for the welfare of the family, that responsibility exists indefinitely.
You should have a frank talk with your sisters. Be as sweet as you can and choose your words carefully so as not to hurt their feelings, but be firm, too. Point out that your first obligation is to your family—that you want to help whenever it is possible, but emphasize the fact that you will offer that help at the time and in the degree you can arrenge.
Don’t let the family meeting degenerate into one of those bitter talks in which each of you brings up long dead moments of antagonism; don’t enumerate the kindnesses you have done each other in the past. Quietly make the statement that what has happened is a closed chapter, and a new story is beginning. In this volume you are to run your own life, and your sisters are to run theirs. No one is to expect anything of the other, but
each is to do what she can, when she can.
Having delivered your ultimatum, whatever you do, make it stick. Don’t relent even slightly, or you’ll be back in the same old State of martyrdom.
Dear Miss Colbert:
My appearance is forbiddingly intellectual and, despite the fact that I have a perfectly human sense of humor and love for dancing and fun, this reputation for bookish stuffiness has cost me desired popularity. While I have a certain number of friends, I can’t get across to the masses of people that I am a “reg’lar fellow.” I win contests and nominations, but never a popular election.
Since I plan to attend college in this same town, my bookworm title goes with me. I am not the sort who is shocked at couples on park benches! I, rather wistfully, wish I were there myself.
How does an intellectual disguise her intellectuality? Or should she?
Dear Miss N:
Sometimes I wonder if the popularity ideas of the average high-school girl aren’t gathered from scenes in motion pictures. One scene that appears to be repeated regularly shows a girl descending the main building steps and bursting into song. The entire school surrounds her, joining in on the chorus. To the best of my knowledge, this tableau has never taken place in real life.
Popularity is always comparative. Each of us appeals to certain persons, while holding no attraction for others. Among your acquaintances, there must be many who admire your intellectuality and enjoy being with you because of it.
However, if you still wish to adopt a personality not entirely natural to you, why not become, consciously, an actress? Nearly everyone adapts himself more or less to the company in which he finds himself. If you are in a jive group, you are surely clever enough to know as many or more hep phrases than they do, and to use them to advantage.
However, I’m willing to make a small bet that, after experimenting, you will return to your original “intellectuality.” Only by embracing your own individuality will you make truly comfortable friends, or will your abilities flow into deeply successful channels.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I was roller-skating one night and I happened to meet a girl who was with a sailor friend of mine, but being she was so cute, I made a date to take her skating the next night. Then we had a date every night for three weeks. I met her father and mother who seemed to be very nice folks. They were swell to me, asked me to stay to dinner several times. You can imagine how surprised I was when, the night before I was inducted, I began to talk seriously and this girl told me she was already married to a soldier.
I went off to boot camp, feeling pretty sick about it. She didn’t write, but I had a letter from my brother who had met this girl on the Street. She told my brother that her husband was on embarkation leave and had treated her like a queen, so she was more in love with him than ever.
When I got my boot leave I went home, and by chance ran into her in a drugstore. She came over and invited me to her parent’s house for Christmas dinner, so, being as I loved her so much, I accepted the invitation. Later that evening I took her to a cafe and asked her if she had told her husband about us and she said no. But she said she thought a lot of me and wanted to be with me as much as possible while I was home.
I had been back at my station only a short time when she wrote to say she was going to have a baby. I wrote and asked her if she was going to divorce her husband, so I could marry her, but she answered that she had told her husband the baby was his.
I don’t want to cause her any trouble but I want the baby for my own. She says she doesn’t know whether she loves her husband or me. Well, however that is, I want that baby, as I know it is mine. A baby has a right to have its own father.
Dear Mr. R:
Will you forgive me if I tell you frankly that I think you should forget this girl? If I may judge from your letter, you are too fine a person to be distressed by this situation. It would be entirely different if you could be positive in your heart that this child is yours, and that this girl had been true to you.
Remember, you met her—when she was married—in company of another sailor. You and her husband may not be the only men in her life, and if she is capable of deceiving you repeatedly, as indicated by her letters and the conflicting stories she has told others, she is probably misleading you, too.
I cannot, of course, give you legal advice, but my understanding is that the law looks upon a child born in wedlock as the offspring of the husband.
The world is filled with sweet and honorable girls. You deserve one of the best, and if you will eliminate this girl from your list of correspondents and from your life, you will meet someone who can give you the clean happiness you deserve.
Dear Miss Colbert:
On my sixteenth birthday Mother and Dad gave me a car but the rule was that I wasn’t to take it out of town. While the folks were back east visiting my brother, I saw a way to go to football game that our school was playing. We stayed out of school for the day.
The boy I was with was home on leave from the Navy. once before I had asked my folks to let me marry him, but they said no—I was too young. Anyhow, this boy and I slipped over the State line and got married. We haven’t told Mother and Dad for fear they will have it annulled.
As a result of this fling I lost the use of my car. The school wasn’t long in informing the folks that I had played hooky. Dad says that when I learn a little sense he will let me have it back. I try to talk him out of it, but I get nowhere.
I am sorry for everything but my marriage and nobody knows about that yet. If they had been reasonable they could have seen me married. But, gee, I want my car back so that’s why I’m writing to you. Can you give me any suggestion as to how to go about making my Dad see that I won’t make the same mistake again?
Dear Miss J:
I’m quite sure that, when your father deems the proper lime has come, you will get your car back.
The car situation seems to me to be a very minor problem. What appalls me is the fact that you apparently intend to keep the fact of your marriage secret.
If you really want my advice it is this: tell your father and mother at once that you are married. Honesty at this time will save you heartache later because a secret of this kind has a way of making itself known. I don’t want to seem stuffy to you, but the momentous truth is that marriage is not a funny school-girl prank; it’s a solemn social institution, involving serious responsibility.
Your parents have a right to know that you have taken this step.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am a kid of 18 in the Navy overseas. I am madly in love with a girl back home, but I am not sure she loves me. She says she does, but I have had letters from friends that lead me to believe otherwise.
The other day I wrote her a letter and asked her to marry me after the war. The answer was that she loved me and wanted to make me happy, but she said she couldn’t trust herself, since she had such a changeable mind. But if I would be willing to take the chance on marrying her after what I know about her, then she would be willing to take the chance, too.
She writes me constantly about the dances and parties that she is invited to, and about dancing with service men. still, she only loves me, she says.
Would it be better to forget about her? Or would it be all right to go ahead and plan what I have been looking forward to?
Sam de L.
Dear Mr. de L:
l think you are too young to be so serious, particularly since you are so far away. By all means continue to make plans—If they do work out, you will have perfected them in advance. İf they don’t work out, you will have had the fun of dreaming.
It’s only natural for a girl (who is probably acting as junior hostess in some canteen) to dance with service men. If you were here and she were serving overseas, I imagine that you’d do the same thing, yet it would be possible for you to dance with hundreds of girls and still be in love with your sweetheart.
My philosophy for such a situation is a large application of patience. When it is physically impossible for you to change a situation (you can’t resume normal life until the war is over) the only thing to do is to be philosophical. Keep an open mind. Don’t fret. Take this experience in stride. A little love-sickness is supposed to improve one’s character.
Dear Miss Colbert:
I am eighteen and considered attractive. Last year I started to date for the first time and I began to associate with the wrong bunch, who were older and had cars.
I was terribly thrilled when a certain boy started dating me although I should have known better because he had a reputation for being “very tough.” When I discovered that I was pregnant I was only a junior in high school. I wanted very much to finish that year, and our school principal said he would do all he could to keep me in school the rest of that term. I had been much respected and my misfortunte surprised and shocked everyone.
However, I had one faithful friend who helped me through that term. Last summer my baby was born but lived only two days. That fall the principal sent word that if I had enough courage to face my problem I could come back to school and graduate. Everyone has been tactful and has treated me as if nothing had happened.
I have a sweetheart whom I knew for a year before all this trouble arose. He is now in England in the Army. I have never told him anything about what happened. He says repeatedly in his letters that he loves me.
Should I write and tell him everything, or should I wait until he comes home? My best friend advises me to wait until he comes home and find out if he intends to marry me. In that case, she thinks I should tell, but not otherwise.
Dear Miss O:
First, I want to say that I admire, deeply and sincerely, the wisdom of your school teachers. İn the many months that I have been reading distressed letters from girls who have faced a problem like yours, I believe yours is the only case history indicating that real intelligence has been brought, by older persons, lo the problem. You have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by school authorities of such wisdom, and to have a girl friend like the one you mention.
I agree with her. There is no reason to reveal the story of your life to this boy until he returns and indicates that he wants to marry you. In the past of nearly everyone there is some secret—minor or great—that is guarded from the cold eyes of the casual acquaintance. There is no point in revealing that secret to anyone but the person with whom you intend to spend the rest of your life.
In closing, I want you to know that I think you have shown great courage in facing your problem. I hope that, in the future, you will attain great happiness, and that—when mature—you will make it a rule of your life to help other unfortunate girls.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1945