Don’t Be A Junior Mess
Not so awfully long ago just about the most annoying thing that happened to you were those years between fourteen and seventeen when you were too old to be spanked but too young to attain that glorious goal, the age of permission. In those days life most distinctly did not begin at fourteen.
Nowadays, however, it’s the golden age. The junior miss has come into her own in fashion, fiction and film. “Janie,” the Warner Brothers picture about the adolescent little Miss Fix-it who becomes a one-woman USO, is a glowing example. And being its namesake star, Joyce Reynolds has been taken to the heart of young America.
As such, “Janie” Reynolds has a few words to say on the subject of pitfalls to be avoided in being a junior miss. In the words of Joyce it all boils down to this:
“It’s swell to be a junior miss. But don’t be a junior mess.”
In speaking to her kind, Joyce doesn’t pretend to be a smarty-pants or know-it-all. In fact, she says nineteen-almost-twenty is too young to be handing out advice to anyone, especially other young people who get a good deal of it anyway. “all that happens is that you get called a barf for your trouble,” she says from bitter experience. A “barf,” in case you’re wondering, is a drip, a hag and a repulsive character.
From the outsider’s point of view, however, Joyce is the logical .candidate to take the stump in the matter of junior messes. She barely is out of the age bracket herself, and therefore knows the problems of teenagers. And furthermore—
“And furthermore, I once was a junior mess myself and made a prize chump of myself!” she confesses. “It was awful.”
That was back in 1941, shortly after she had come to California from her native Texas with her mother and grandmother. She was sixteen at the time and a senior at Beverly Hills High School. A movie contract the following year was the last thing in the world she expected. The family had moved to California because for years they had spent the summers here and liked the climate. Besides, the move made it possible for Joyce to attend the University of California at Los Angeles, where she had decided she wanted to start college.
“I won’t say I didn’t hope to get in the movies some day,” she said frankly. “I did hope that, very much. I always wanted to be an actress, although there never had been one in our family and I thought a good way to start was to major in drama at UCLA. Deep down, I suppose, I thought maybe a miracle would happen and I’d get a chance in Hollywood.”
The miracle happened so swiftly it left her gasping. While she was still a freshman, a Warner studio talent scout spotted her at the dress rehearsal of the college production of “Alice In Wonderland” and was struck by her fresh young beauty and appeal. He invited her to call at the studio when the school play was over. There she was tested, given a modest contract, and three days later found herself playing a bit part in “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” A two-year grooming by the studio experts ensued, during which she played small roles in four big pictures and then was entrusted with the title role in “Janie.” One look at the rushes convinced everyone that a new star was about to be born and straightway a sequel to “Janie” was planned by her delighted bosses.
But to get back to Joyce’s unforgettable debacle. She blushes even today at the memory of it, recalling in painful detail every moment of the affair. The occasion was the big school dance of the year and, to her ineffable joy and delight, she had been invited by the “catch” of the entire student body—a dashing young man of seventeen who had all the girls in a tizzy every time he deigned to look at them. Even more momentous was the fact that it would be her first unchaperoned date.
“Corning from the comparatively small city of Houston, Texas, I naturally was terribly impressed with Beverly Hills,” joyce related. “Naturally, too, I figured all he kids in high school must be terribly sophisticated and all, what with famous movie stars for neighbors or even parents. o the one thing I didn’t want to look like was a country hick when I went to the dance with that dream man. I was determined to look and act as worldly as the est of them.”
There wasn’t much she could do about her dress; the only party frocks she had were simple little bouffant numbers, one pale peach and the other in a delicate blue. There wasn’t much she could do about her hair or make-up either at the time; her mother had definite ideas about the coiffure and lipstick suitable for sweet sixteen.
“What Mother didn’t know, when I left she house with her blessing, was that my bag was loaded with ammunition against she coming battle,” she grinned. “Neither did my escort, judging from his later reaction! Anyway, as soon as we arrived at she dance I excused myself and made a bee-line for the ladies’ room where I started donning my sophistication. Up went my hair into one of those sleek do’s like you see in the fashion magazines. Out came she mascara and dark red lipstick I was forbidden to wear. On went some fancy earrings I had ‘borrowed’ from Mother’s lewel box and about eight gaudy costume bracelets I had collected from friends. Thus fortified, adequately I hoped, I strolled out a languid, so-bored-with-it-all manner o meet Ted.”
Ted, it seems, did a double take and said flatly, “Are you kidding?”
“R-a-ally, Ted, whatever do you mean?” drawled Miss Reynolds in the best Hepburn fashion. “Shall we dance?”
“Not in that get-up, chum,” Ted answered firmly and then noting a quiver on the Reynolds lips, he softened. “Look, honey,” he went on, “I don’t know what your idea was, but if I wanted to go with a girl who looks like you’re trying to look, I would have asked her in the first place. Now be a sweet and go wash your face, take your hair down and for heaven’s sake get rid of that junk on your arm! In other words, my pet, be your age!”
It was advice she never has forgotten, Joyce said: Be your age and you’ll never be a junior mess. Or a senior mess, for that matter. The idea applies to all women, young or old, who try to kid themselves and others about the number of their years.
“Now that I am older I wonder why in the world I was trying to rush things three years ago,” she said. “Golly, already I’ve found out that you get there soon enough!”
The “thou shalt nots” by which to avoid being a junior mess are as easy to practice as they are obvious, according to Joyce. The basis of all of them is simplicity of dress and behavior.
“That means no strapless or sleek evening gowns, no skin-tight little black numbers for afternoon, or fuddy-duddy silks and ruffles for school,” she detailed. “It means no skyscraper heels, lace-mesh hose, or hats with birds and stuff and miles of trailing veils. It rules out high pompadours and overdoing things with flowers, snoods and ribbons in the hair in favor of a soft do with big loose curls or waves. It limits jewelry to a simple bracelet, one ring with a small stone and perhaps an inexpensive clip or shoulder pin. It demands a minimum of make-up—no eye shadow or mascara, no heavy lipstick in dark reds and purples and no claw-like fingernails dripping in exotic polishes. And it means no slinky perfumes or furs like mink or silver fox; they always give the impression you snitched ’em from your mother when she wasn’t looking.”
It also means not going to the other extreme, Joyce averred, of affecting a shiny nose and colorless lips, and slopping around in an exaggerated sloppy joe sweater, unpressed skirt and boys’ moccasin-type shoes. A get-up like that brands you a dumb goon, or a poseur.
“Let’s put it this way,” she said. “Wear clothes that are comfortable, attractive and unobtrusive. Then relax and forget about them.”
As for the dictates of proper junior-miss behavior, Joyce decided the simplest way of defining them was to describe the actions of the perfect junior mess by contrast.
“The perfect junior mess always tries to act the sophisticate, as if she knew everything about everything,” she said. “To hear her tell it, there is no experience she hasn’t had and she gives the impression she has solved more problems in her few years than her parents have in their entire lives. She also has the sweet little habit of picking up views she has heard adults express and parroting them as if they were her own ideas. Frequently she toadies the favor of adults (who rarely are fooled by it!) by putting on an icky act of being too, too perfect a little lady.
“She talks louder and laughs louder than anyone else in the crowd to attract attention to herself, little realizing that it embarrasses young people of her own age and makes older people think she either is an obnoxious brat or younger than she is. She gets argumentative if everything doesn’t go exactly her own way and whatever happens to her is more important or more terrible or more exciting than ever has happened to anyone else.
“She has the habit of reading a double entendre into the most innocent remarks of others and talks constantly about sex, thinking it gives her an air of worldliness and experience. She constantly sees evil in everything and her mind runs to the gutter. Or, she overdoes the prude act and behaves as if she had built a beautiful white wall around herself to keep out the ‘ugly’ things of everyday living.
“She loftily will claim to prefer Tchaikowsky—when she really loves boogie-woogie—because she fancies it gives her ‘culture.’ If she has been to some smart place once, she talks as if she had been there dozens of times; any celebrity whom she has met once is an intimate friend, and if she is lucky enough to be wealthy, she always manages to flash a well-filled wallet.
“She is a teaser, both by word and act, ostensibly offering something she is not prepared to give; and then flies into an ‘injured innocence’ rage when anyone makes a tentative pass. Or goes home and tells her mother, thus getting the boy into a jam for which he was not responsible. She prattles incessantly about her hordes of boy friends and how crazy they are about her and never misses a chance to brag about how many invitations she has. Or she openly chases the boys, flattering them with a heavy line and broadcasting to the world the identity of her latest ‘pash.’ When she is on a date, she is utterly selfish, usually maneuvering the boy into spending more than he can afford.
“She makes a habit of criticizing boys behind their backs and panning other girls who may be popular. She lies to get out of jams, misquotes others with complete indifference and deliberately makes trouble by carrying tales.
“Finally, she acts as if she were afraid to be young and have wholesome fun. For instance, she may adore riding the roller coaster but when the gang suggests it, she invariably puts the damper on things by snooting, “The roller coaster? How adolescent! You must be out of your minds!’
“The perfect junior mess does have one honest enthusiasm: Herself. She may be a barf to the rest of the world but what matter? In her own eyes she’s wonderful and obviously that’s all that counts. Not until she’s older and the ready-made companionship of schoolmates has ceased to exist, does she discover the ultimate cost of that enthusiasm in real friends. By then, usually, the boat has sailed.”
Joyce grew thoughtful.
“You know, one thing baffles me,” she said. “I wonder why, when it’s so easy to be a junior miss, anyone goes to all the bother of being a junior mess? It’s lots more work.”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1945