Judi Meredith: “I Live With My Boyfriend’s Family!”
Love produces some strange situations. But the position in which Judi Meredith finds herself tops them all.
What’s the situation?
Judi’s living with her boyfriend’s family—and boyfriend Wendell Niles, Jr. is three thousand miles away . . . and will be for the next year or so!
How’d that happen? Well, it all started one hot July afternoon when Judi had a date with Troy Donahue and— “Whoa!” says Judi, “it started before then—or I’d never have got to Hollywood to meet Wendell in the first place!”
Well, then, it all started with Britain’s famed Queen Victoria—because that was the role Judi was playing on TV when Universal-International Studios signed her up to co-star with Johnny Saxon in Summer Love. And by that time Judi was seen on TV—she’d already been a top professional figure skater with the Ice Follies!
“Figure skating went when I leaned against a window,” says this kid with the crazy mixed-up problem. Seems she fell through the window she was leaning against . . . and broke her back. That ended ice skating as a career, and started her at the Pasadena Playhouse . . . and that got her TV, a movie contract—and her strange situation. . . .
It all started one hot July afternoon when Judi had a date with Troy Donahue, a six-foot-three giant whom she’d met on the set.
While eating dinner, Troy—whose interest in Judi showed—suggested they pay a visit to a friend of his, who had just come back from the hospital after an operation.
Troy is still regretting that suggestion!
The convalescing patient was Wendell Niles, Jr., son of the well-known radio announcer.
Judi and Wendell took one look at each other, and they liked what they saw. However, Troy being a friend of Niles’ rather complicated matters.
But not for long.
The next night they made a double date, with Gretchen Foster coming along with Niles. Sensing what was happening between Judi and Wendell, Troy gave them little chance to be alone together. But Wendell did manage to whisper into Judi’s ear a plea about seeing him later that evening, alone.
Taking her home after the date was no problem for Troy who lived in the same apartment house, a floor beneath Judi. Since the apartment walls are quite thin, she wanted to make sure he “knew” she was asleep by clumping up to her room, loudly dropping her shoes on the floor, and turning out the lights—just in case he was watching the reflection on the building opposite them.
Twenty minutes later she sneaked out of the house barefoot, and tiptoed downstairs. Her car was parked right in front of the entrance. Fearing Troy would recognize the sound of her engine, she got behind the car and pushed it down the driveway, which wasn’t too tough since the driveway was a sharp down-hill. But a few seconds later she found herself stuck when she hit a bump in the road. As she leaned against the trunk with all her strength, she suddenly noticed another pair of shoulders straining to help her. When she turned her head—she saw Troy.
“You didn’t have to do that,” he said quietly.
“I’m sorry,” Judi replied. She wanted to explain, but the words wouldn’t come. And so she simply got into the car and took off.
Wendell had been waiting for her in front of his parents’ house. He took her into the living room and poured her a cup of coffee. Then they sat on the couch and talked till four in the morning. They had found in each other the kind of person to whom they could pour out their
hearts, to whom they could talk easily, about anything. Wendell never tried to kiss her, even hold hands.
Starting the following day, they became a steady two-some. And last Christmas, Wendell gave her the ring.
Because in his own mind Wendell was not certain what he was going to do—he was with the William Morris Agency when they met, but quit his job shortly afterwards—and because Judi’s career was at the point where it required all her concentration, they decided not to get formally engaged. They simply had an understanding that if they felt about one another in a year as they did then—and do now—they would get married. In the meantime Wendell would go to New York where he had several offers in advertising.
And then came the crisis.
Wendell didn’t want Judi to stay at her apartment, by herself. And that feeling didn’t spell out Troy Donahue either.
He just had no intention of leaving “the little urchin” or “his poor little thing”—those’re his nicknames for her—by herself without anyone to look after her.
Judi didn’t go along with his line of reasoning.
“Move in with your parents?” she had cried out the night he first suggested it, “that’s ridiculous!”
Wendell looked hurt. “Don’t you like hem?”
“I love them,” Judi insisted, seriously. “And that’s all the more reason why I wouldn’t want to move in. I couldn’t accept their kindness because I’d have no way to repay them.
He looked at her speculatively. “Besides—what?”
“A girl just doesn’t move in with the parents of the boy she hopes to marry some day. It just isn’t done.”
Judi’s decision was final—she thought.
Wendell was just as determined to have his way. And if he couldn’t be persuasive, he could be persistent. He had two weeks before he left for New York. He used almost every hour of it trying to wear her down. And Judi did change her mind, but not just because she got tired of saying no. Wendell’s parents, particularly his mother, proved a strong ally in changing her mind. She had grown fond of Judi in the previous months. In addition to looking forward to the day Judi would be her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Niles welcomed the opportunity of having someone else around the house, now that her son would be gone for a whole year.
But after Wendell left, Judi became more and more worried that they were being kind and considerate only because she was going to marry their son. And as the days went by, the harder they tried to please her, the kinder, the more gracious they became, the more uneasy Judi felt.
They were always doing something for her—like Mrs. Niles having the bathtub full of water and ready for her to hop right into when she got home from work, or Mr. Niles putting a TV set in her own room or installing a remote control attachment into her car so she could open the door by just pushing a button.
She wanted to do something to repay them. Yet anything she thought of seemed inadequate.
From the very beginning she took care of her own room and helped with the dishes and much of the housework. But that, she felt, she would have done anyway, living in anyone’s house.
She knew the Niles were well enough off so that they didn’t need any financial help. But whether they needed it or not, Judi was determined to contribute to her upkeep anyway.
Every, one of her attempts failed miserably.
One evening as she dried the dishes for Mrs. Niles, she hesitantly brought it up. Mrs. Niles didn’t seem to understand what she was hinting about; Judi was convinced this was intentional. And she was too embarrassed to say it outright.
If she couldn’t pay a certain amount each week, she decided, there were other ways. One day when she came home from the studio, she stopped at a market and bought a beautiful roast. The moment she put it on the kitchen sink, Mrs. Niles rushed for her purse.
“Oh no, that’s on me!” Judi protested.
Mrs. Niles refused to discuss the matter, simply insisted Judi take the money—and that was that.
Not that Judi didn’t appreciate everything, even though—as she thought—they were doing it only for Wendell . . . not for her. She wanted to cry out, time and again, Thanks, I love you for it. I love you very much. But the more she thought of it, the more in the way she felt.
And it started to affect her whole relationship with them. When she had first moved in she could talk to them easily, kid about this or that or horse around. As the weeks went by she got quieter and quieter, trying to fade into the background as if she weren’t there. When the Niles had guests, Judi turned into a silent observer because she didn’t want to “intrude.” It’s their home, she kept telling herself, their friends, their guests. Their lives. I am not even officially engaged to their son, and here I am sleeping in their bed, eating their food, mingling with their friends. . . .
So when she and Mrs. Niles had coffee together in the morning and Judi wanted to say how at home it felt, how it reminded her of being with her own mother when she still lived at home—instead she’d make some meaningless remark about the weather. Or when Mrs. Niles went to the hospital for a couple of days and she wanted to ask Mr. Niles to let her take over the cooking—somehow this seemed presumptuous to her, and she said nothing.
Her situation became still tougher because Judi is the kind of girl who periodically has to let go of her emotions. When she had her own place, on the spur of a moment she would sometimes scream or holler—or laugh out loud when something struck her particularly funny. She had loved her privacy, because she could get up in the middle of the night as noisily as she wished, and head for the refrigerator for a midnight snack. Now, although she knew she was welcome to anything she wanted, she would sneak through the house and quietly open the refrigerator in search of a piece of cheese or an apple.
Yet her stay had many advantages too.
Plenty of advantages
Since Judi had left home at fifteen to join the Ice Follies, no one had ever cared if she got enough to eat, sufficient rest or ample exercise. When she was ill, it was her tough luck. No one else even knew.
Not any more. Mrs. Niles makes sure that she has enough to eat, sufficient rest, and worries about her like she would about her own daughter. What’s more, she is careful never to disturb her privacy—nor when it comes to dating, to impose on her social life or in any way criticize or play detective in behalf of her son.
Judi’s philosophy on the subject is typically female. Before Wendell left, she insisted that her profession required her to go to premieres, parties, and other official functions. Since he wasn’t there, she’d just have to go with someone else.
“That’s all right with me,” Wendell had promised, like he meant it.
“Aren’t you going to be jealous?” Judi asked in surprise.
“Should I be?”
“Of course not,” she insisted. “Just go on loving me. But,” she added, and she meant it, “I don’t want to hear about you going out with any girl in New York!”
A few privacies
While Judi’s life has become an open book for Wendell and his parents, she eagerly clings to a few specks of privacy. One of them is her own telephone, which she had installed in her room. While she had no secrets to keep from the Niles’, she looks at the phone with almost the same fond attachment that she feels toward Niles’ letters—which she carries in her purse and reads over and over and over again. Yet most of the local calls are short and to the point: from her studio, her answering service, her few friends, boys whose dates she accepts but not particularly enjoys because her heart belongs to Wendell. Mostly she waits for his calls, and her thoughts and her love for him, and to hear his assurance that he misses her, and loves her.
Wendell himself is most concerned about how she is getting along at his parents’ home.
“Fine, just wonderful,” Judy will tell him, because she knows how much it means to him.
Because, in spite of some awkward moments, of wondering at times how she ever got herself into such a fix, she has – convinced herself that under the circumstances she is a lot better off with them than on her own.
Besides—it won’t be forever. . . .
Judi is in SUMMER LOVE and will appear in WILD HERITAGE, both for U-I.
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE JUNE 1958