Madame Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Own Story
Budapest was a wonderful place for a beautiful girl to grow up, and I couldn’t wait until I stopped being ugly—which was when I was seven months old. I was thinking ahead, of course. I had the right instinct when I was fifteen, but I was confused, I couldn’t tell a handsome cavalry officer from a plain one, once he was on his horse. A lot of the girls I heard about were marrying cavalry officers. (They all complained about them later; but that was later.) It’s remarkable what sitting on a horse does for a man. I knew girls who would be mad at their boy friends and then fall in love with them all over again when the boys got back on their horses. This must be the secret attraction of TV Westerns. Once I thought I was in love with a boy who had a string of polo ponies. My father didn’t waste any time talking to him—he just inspected the boy’s horses. Then he turned him down. “If he can’t take care of his horses,” my father told me, “how is he going to take care of you?”
In Hungary we had a saying: “In true love neither can cry without the other tasting the salt in the tears.” This is the main trouble with love—you must both be happy or neither can be. Everything is double or nothing. And you have to be a close double . . . there is no half-way. Are not the deadliest words you can hear from someone you love, “Let’s just be good friends?” I’d rather have him leave without a word than say a thing like that.
Oh, I admit that I am very proud that I’m good friends now with each of my three exhusbands. Time is a wonderful doctor. But what do you do until the doctor comes? As a matter of fact, if you look at the problem of love honestly, the real trouble with love is easy to put your finger on. The trouble with love is men. Nobody makes worse husbands.
Men make things difficult. They look at love the wrong way. For instance, a man likes to think that by marrying he has enlarged his life. Then, sooner or later, he starts acting as if his wife has narrowed it. She has, of course. Narrowed it down to her. What did he expect?
Some one once said that a man falls in love with his eyes and a woman with her ears. He marries what he sees, she what she hears (the promises). Sometimes, if they mix in a little bit of thinking, everything goes better.
One thing I have learned—if I haven’t learned any other—is that it is impossible to be happily in love with any man who thinks he is important. A really big man is always a simple man. The other kind? Well, they forget that it is impossible to be really important except to someone. And there isn’t anyone a man can be as important to as a woman . . . if he’d just stop being important to himself!
A man should never ask his wife, or the girl he loves, if she is really happy. (“Important” men make that mistake all the time.) If my husband ever asked me a question like that I would kill him. He knows how much money he has, he knows all the details of his business and exactly where he stands in the world professionally and how he stands with his friends and associates. All this he has room for in his head. But he hasn’t yet learned that when a wife is happy she has a million ways of showing it—and if he isn’t paying any attention to her they are all going to waste! Such a question is an insult. If she’s happy he’ll know it! If he has to ask . . . it’s already later than he thinks!
This business of waiting for love—I mean waiting for the one you love to fall in love with you—is generally a bad thing, I think. I don’t know why I am against it, but I am. Maybe it’s because it never turns out well.
I know a girl who waited eleven years for the man she loved, dressing only in simple clothes because that is what he said he liked, the hausfrau type. So at the end of the eleven years he married her best girl friend who was a real flashy girl-around-town and had denied herself nothing all these years.
“Oh, how could he do this to me?” she cried, throwing herself into my arms after she heard about the marriage.
“But, Darling, he didn’t do this to you,” I told her. “You did this to you!”
You should never bargain for love. And too many people bargain for it in too many ways. Take the girl who doesn’t notice the boy who likes her until years pass and she finds she isn’t doing very well otherwise. Then she thinks about him and he starts to grow on her. Hoopla! They rush off to the minister, each thinking the other is a kind of prize. What they really are to each other, of course, is some kind of compromise.
Will these two be able to get along? I don’t think so. Neither got proper value from the marriage. She had to give up what she really wanted for what she could get. He had to trade in his self-respect for her.
Back home my parents used to talk about a girl who married a boy after five years of trying to marry anyone else. Since he waited so long he must have had great expectations about her. This is the only reason my folks could give for the look of terrible disappointment on his face after he finally got her. And as for her, it seemed she had spent such a long time not wanting him that she couldn’t stop not wanting him!
There are all kinds of truths about a happy life. For one thing, a girl should look for intelligence in the man she marries. Intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean possession of a college degree; it means someone who uses his brains and tries to know about people and the world. If your husband thinks, there is a much better chance that, in the long run, he will think his way into a better life for the both of you. It’s all right, or at least natural, perhaps, for teenagers to fall for the physical figure, the crooner, the dancer, the guitar twanger. But the real woman knows it is just as easy and far better if he has brains. All my husbands were more intelligent than I, and my life is enriched because of it.
Now, finally, there are too many women who think that if they don’t find a great love their life amounts to nothing. Now really! Let’s get to that truth! How many women ever find a great and lasting love? Think a minute. You don’t have to admit anything and I don’t have to admit anything. But really!
There is more to a woman’s life than this one big risk. There’d better be. To discover that you can become someone in your own right and live as an independent person may not seem to be a thrill, but it can be satisfying and very exciting after a while.
Take an example. Take me. Why do I work so hard as an actress? Just to earn money and to be seen? Yes, that too, of course. But this is not the only reason. To be Zsa Zsa, a person in my own right, is more gratifying in the long run than to be Zsa Zsa who is some man’s darling, when he happens to be darling-minded!
Writers always ask the same question of me in interviews. “Zsa Zsa, would you give up your career as an actress for the right man?”
And I always give the same answer. “But, Darling, a man who would be right for me would immediately appreciate an actress!”
Like an uncle of mine used to say back in Budapest, “Think your way to happiness. Never fall in love on an empty head!”
—BY ZSA ZSA GABOR
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1962