Rock Hudson: “Has Anybody Seen My Girl?”
THE NEXT FEMALE REPORTER who asks me when I’m going to get married is going to be dragged to the nearest Doctor of Divinity and get hitched to me. And what happens to her in the next fifty years will serve her right.
At least, that’s what I keep telling myself I’m going to do. Twenty-seven isn’t exactly juvenile, but there are a lot of guys who don’t get married until they’re over thirty. Nobody pesters them. They just slide through life the way they want to. But somehow people expect an actor, the minute his voice changes, to go out and get himself a bride.
Sure, I want to be married some day. But a guy doesn’t pick a wife the way he does an avocado. There’s more to it than that. With me, it’s a question of finding a girl I like who likes me, and the second part is harder to achieve than the first.
A girl can tell right away about a lot of my faults. I take my shoes off all the time, for instance. And there are few women who can love a guy enough to look at his bare feet all evening. There are other things about me that only my mother knows, and a girl would have to be married to me for a while before she’d find out about them.
Take Hudson in the morning, as a case in point. Once I wake up I’m a bear before coffee, but it’s going to take a bit of doing on the part of my bride before she can discover that awful truth. This is because I don’t wake up unless and until I’ve been hit in the head with a pile driver. Noise won’t do it. Soft little noises like alarm clocks or kettledrums sail over my head like a morning breeze.
Under these circumstances I have no right to pick and choose about the method used for hauling me out of bed, but I’m fussy about it. I can’t help it. Mom used to call me and call me and call me, and on the seventeenth try her exasperation had made her voice sound like chalk screeching across a blackboard. This brought me to my feet half awake and furious as a bull full of banderillas. In the event that my wife’s voice has such an exasperating quality, I’m just as likely as not to leap out of bed sound asleep and land a right jab to her flower-like facade.
You know what I want my wife to do? I want her to lift me into an upright position, make sure my head is resting on some sharp object, and then tiptoe out of the room. Inasmuch as I weigh in at 200 pounds, it’ll require a wife with the strength of Samson and/or nurse’s training. To say nothing of tolerance.
This means I’ll probably marry a fairly large female. Except for the necessity of strength, I don’t care whether my bride is tall or short. Like it says in the old song, “Bless ’em all, bless ’em all, the long and the short and the tall.”
I seem always to wind up with short blondes, but it isn’t a matter of preference. A tall brunette is a lovely sight in any man’s language. Neither am I fussy about a girl’s figure. Why should I be, when no matter which way you look at me I look like a retreating hippopotamus? The truth is that having given myself more than ten years of dating, I’ve discovered that the manner in which a woman is slung together would have very little to do with true happiness in a marriage.
What I want, I think, is somebody I can love and have fun living with and, although I don’t know exactly how this could be accomplished, somebody who could like me the way I am.
I don’t care what she looks like, although I sometimes dream about a girl who is blessed with Gene Tierney’s hair, Vera-Ellen’s legs, Susan Cabot’s nose, Piper Laurie’s mouth, and the deep blue eyes of Jill Clifford, the actress I met in England. There would be a dish fit to set before a king! But even if I did manage to interest such a mythical creature, other things would be more important.
If I suggested that she go deep-sea fishing with me and she closed those Clifford eyes and wrinkled that Cabot nose in disgust at the idea, I’d lose a lot of interest in a hurry. Looks may be the first thing that attract a man but if there isn’t anything to go along with them, the girl becomes like a painting that you don’t want to own because you’d tire of it.
I like girls who can whack a tennis ball or handle a gun, or at least girls who will try. I think if I ever got married and found that my wife liked to spend evenings whipping up needlepoint bath mats, I’d feel a little lost. Sure, it’d be nice to have her home tatting while I’m earning the bread, but when I’m with her I want companionship. I want my wife to be feminine but not to get so carried away with the idea that she can’t share her leisure time with me.
It’s anybody’s guess whether I’ll eventually marry an actress, but I’d prefer my wife not to work. I don’t have any dominant male ideas about her having certain domestic duties, like darning my socks or making soup every day. I hope some day to have enough money to employ servants to take care of those things, and I don’t care who does them as long as they’re done. All I want is to find my wife there when I come home. She’ll have to put up with a lot of beefing about my work, and if she isn’t an actress she might not understand the demands of the movie industry. But even at that, I’d rather try to teach her than come home to an empty house while she’s off pretending she’s Gisela Stump, girl piano tuner.
If my bride is on the wide side I’d prefer she wouldn’t wear slacks or blue jeans, but I think slender girls look wonderful in them. I really don’t care what kind of clothes the future Mrs. Hudson wears, so long as she wears them well. If she likes suits and looks nice in them I won’t mention that I like dresses better. But there’s one point where I’ll draw the line. I will not go shopping with her.
Women’s Stores make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. There’s something awful about them I can’t describe. once I went and got my mother a formal dress and it was the worst day of my life. I went from shop to shop, and although everything looked all right on the hangers, I couldn’t picture what Mom would look like in them. I finally got something that was made out of that material—I don’t know what you call it but it’s soft and always looks as though it needs pressing. Anyway, Mom wore it, maybe out of courtesy—I don’t know.
Aside from that, the only clothes I ever bought were sweaters for Vera-Ellen. They’re easy, just like mine, only smaller. Other than sweaters, I draw the line. If my wife ever asks me to go shopping with her I’ll sit outside in the car and wait.
One thing I can’t stand in a girl is a sort of pseudo-elegance. The kind you see in the fashion models who are always leaning against the wind in a hat that would cover a circus and in a pose that would break anybody else’s back. The kind you see in girls who lead leopards on gold chains down Fifth Avenue (although this I’ve yet to see.) This scares me to death, the girls more so than the leopards. When a girl points her little finger away from a coffee cup I get suspicious that she might be the proper type, the kind who will dab at her food like Scarlett O’Hara and never admit that she’d like to tackle a three-inch steak. Me, I like women who love to eat, because I find invariably that that’s the way they go at life in general—with warmth and gusto—and that’s the way I’d want my wife to go at our marriage.
There’s a happy medium somewhere between the clinging-vine type of female and the fiery, self-assertive girl. The extreme types have their drawbacks, like the independent young lady who won’t let a guy open a door for her. There’s nothing that will quash the male ego faster than the girl who bowls a better game and then insists on opening her own coke, picking up her own handkerchief and getting into your car by herself. Guys want to wait on women—at least I do.
Just as bad is the helpless type who expects to be waited on hand and foot and all but carried across streets. I remember one small number I knew years ago. She looked perfect, so doll-like that just watching her walk down the Street made me feel I wanted to spend my life protecting her. But on our first date she was so destitute of strength that I had to do everything except put her wilted lettuce salad into her mouth.
I had a sudden revelation that night. I saw the cottage we might have in years to come. Our son came limping into the kitchen, a nail through his foot, and our daughter had just put her hand on the hot waffle iron and was howling in pain. Genevieve took one look at the situation, fluttered her eyelids and fainted dead away. The helpless type, I told myself, was not for me.
I don’t mean to sound choosy about all this. My wife is going to have to live with an Irish temper and German stubbornness, and on top of it all, I squeeze the toothpaste tube from the middle. Not only that, I sling wet bath towels over doorknobs or Chippendale chairs or whatever happens to be handy when I wander out of the shower. And the water from my showers, I might add, always ends up by the bucketful all over the floor.
I tease, too, and I suppose sometimes I go beyond the limits. If a girl can’t stand to hear knuckles crack, I’m just the kid who can do it for her. Betty Abbott, a script girl at the studio, gets duck bumps if anybody closes one eye and leaves the other wide open. So I spend five minutes on each of our dates like a one-eyed owl while she shrieks for help. I tease Betty about her walk, too, even though it makes her furious, and then I talk her out of it by teasing some more. I suppose I’m only letting off steam after going through boyhood as an only child and not having anybody around to plague.
There’s one thing about Betty, though, that I can’t resist—her sense of humor. Take the night I was driving her to some place in downtown Los Angeles.
“You’re sure you know how to get there?” she asked.
“Look,” I said. “I used to drive a truck around this town, remember?”
So we got in my car and every time I took a wrong turn Betty just sat there and said nothing. Pretty soon I wound up on the freeway leading to Pasadena and as soon as I realized it I made a quick turn out of there, hoping Abbott hadn’t noticed. Her face was buried in the collar of her coat and I was telling myself happily that she might be asleep when suddenly she threw back her head and went into hysterics. That’s all. She never once said, “I told you so.” She just laughed.
For me, this is great. I guess I’m typical of all men when I say I can’t stand having women tell me how to do something. If I’m driving the car I’m at the wheel and don’t take kindly to backseat driving. And when I get married, I’m afraid I’m going to be even less open to suggestions. If there’s a lamp in the house that needs fixing I’d like to find out about it myself, and when I do, I’ll fix it. But if the little woman brings up the subject every hour on the hour, we’re apt to sit around in the dark.
Like I said, I’m stubborn. I know this is asking too much, but I think it would be delicate handling of the situation if instead of telling me about it she would put the book I am reading, plus a swiss cheese on rye, on the chair under that lamp. The bait would lead me to it and it would be fixed in no time.
I have an open admiration for women who can get a man to carry out their wishes by making him think this is what he wants. Not many of them can do it, but those who can have my blessing. Even when I know I’m being steered around corners so that they can reach their goal, I get a bang out of it. I’ve lived long enough to know that I’m not going to be the boss in marriage, but if the little woman wants to let me think I am, it’s fine with me.
I only hope she doesn’t use tears as a weapon. I’ve known enough girls to be aware that sometimes they cry just to get their own way, but even though I know it, a woman’s tears make me helpless as a man watching his home go up in flames. I want to help but I can’t, and it’s a terrible feeling. When a girl turns on the tears I just go away somewhere.
The tactic that makes me angry is the one where, when you’re discussing a point with a girl, she stops the argument unfairly. This is done by sticking to her guns until the guy says, “How do you know?” And then she gets a mysterious look on her face and says in a faraway voice, “Because I am a woman.” This is supposed to make me adore her no doubt, because she’s up on that well-worn pedestal, but its only result is to make me boil. Even though the man may be right, what can he say after that?
I like a girl who’ll discuss things with me on a level that is fair and square. According to cartoonists, people who have been married a few years haven’t anything left to talk about, but I hope my own marriage isn’t like that. To me, every day brings new food for thought and conversation, and, if my bride has the kind of personality I like in a girl, we’ll be nattering away into our old age.
It is my wholehearted wish, however, that she will not be an authority on anything. This is mostly because I’m not one myself. I’ll listen to anything once, understand, but I appreciate girls who don’t take malicious glee in driving home the point that I am an ignorant cipher.
There is just one more point concerning conversation that I’m fussy about. If she is a joke killer, she can go trundling on her wet-blanket way. It seems to me there are two types of women to come under this heading (and men, too, if I have to admit it). The first wife lets the old man get half way through his story and then informs the assembled listeners that he is a notably bad teller of jokes and that she will take over forthwith. The second is the type who, the minute her husband starts telling the story she’s heard six times, yawns loudly and says, “Oh, no! Not that one again!” Let my wife forget the punch line on her own jokes, but leave mine strictly to me.
I hope my wife is not a confirmed ashtray-emptier. I like clean people and clean houses, but there’s nothing so disconcerting as having your ashtray emptied while you’re still smoking, or what’s worse, having the vacuum cleaner run under your legs while you’re on the last few pages and just about to find out who killed Clyde in Macy’s basement.
As a matter of fact, other than these things, I’m extra fussy about cleanliness. I think the best-looking girl in the world is the one with the well-scrubbed look. I like it so well that make-up bothers me, particularly that powdered look some girls have. It reminds me of a death mask. Make-up’s all right as long as it isn’t overdone. I like a casual-looking girl, and am left cold by the one who’s always consulting her mirror to make sure she’s at her raving best, or the type who combs her hair in public.
On the subject of hair, I hope my wife’s hair will be its natural color. I’m told this is an irritating quality in all men—that we’ll whistle at anything in mascara and lipstick and bleached hair, but we want our own wives minus the accoutrements. If this is true, then I go right down the line with the rest of the guys.
There are other things I’m obstinate about. My suits must be pressed, my ties must be given away before they’re sent to a cleaner, I like to go to any movie starring Lana Turner, I won’t have in-laws living with us—mine or hers, I like music for listening played loud enough to be heard down at City Hall, and I don’t like to dance, although I suppose if my wife felt her happiness depended on it, I’d take her out shuffling once in a while.
Another thing. When I’m sick I’m an unadulterated mess. I like people around me even when I’m well, but when I’m sick I can’t be alone a minute. Mrs. Hudson will be trying to season the stew or change Junior’s diapers, and I’ll be roaring at the top of my lungs that I need her, now, this minute.
To tell the truth, I’ll be wanting to be with her all the time, for although she may not like it, I’m an extremely possessive guy. If I ever find a girl who’ll put up with me and who has even one-sixth of the attributes I have in mind for a wife, I’d be crazy if I wasn’t possessive with such a doll. Somewhere I’ll find her. And when I do, I’m warning her. My intentions are strictly matrimonial.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1953