Some Wives Have Secrets
Janet Leigh says, “Though I risk the wrath of that body corporate known as husbands, I say wives should have secrets, but they should never be the kind that are in any way vital.
“By anything vital, I mean secrets concerning your past (assuming you have one), or money you’ve spent and perhaps shouldn’t have, work problems that come up, family problems, or anything concerning your health. These are the secrets you should not have. These are the vital ones and you cannot build a good, enduring relationship if you are secretive with your husband about such important matters as these.
“In the less important, trivial things, a wife should have her secrets. Why not? I have mine,” Janet confessed.
“One of them, a silly one, is that unknown to Tony I use a special bath oil. ‘Gee,’ he’ll say, ‘you smell good.’ So I just let him think,” Janet smiled mischievously, “that it’s my own sweet-smelling self he likes so well.
“Glamour secrets, the things a girl does to make herself pretty in her husband’s eyes, should certainly be as secret as she wants—or is able—to keep them. You can’t help your husband seeing you with your hair up. If you live under one roof and share a bedroom this is impossible! I’d like it fine if Tony could always see me with my hair brushed out, lustrous and waving, but since this can’t be managed I don’t worry about it, for if your husband’s love for you depends on a pincurl it isn’t going to last much longer than a pin-curl is likely to last!
“A lot of married girls are more concerned with trying to make their husbands believe their curly hair and flawless make-up is the way nature made them than they are about the real fundamental factors in their marriages—like companionship and keeping the budget balanced and running the house well. I’d just as soon Tony wouldn’t see me shampooing my hair or plucking my eyebrows, not because he doesn’t know I do it, but because one doesn’t look especially attractive doing them. When I’m curling my eyelashes (I have very long eyelashes but straight as strings and I like to curl them so they frame better) I’d just as soon he wouldn’t be around. I don’t like him to see me in the in-between stages. But if he sees me without make-up (and he often does) that’s okay with me. In fact Tony thinks it is appealing at times.
“The way I feel, it’s not what you do in the glamour department that should be kept secret from your husband, it’s how you do it—and this is a matter of fastidiousness, of privacy. And a certain amount of privacy is important in marriage. It adds dignity and a little magic.
“But if I don’t have many secrets from Tony regarding my make-up tricks, I do have others which are equally feminine, such as the way I get my own way. Every woman has a special way of getting her way, and it’s always her top secret. too! Take the problem of going to parties. In the Curtis household this is a problem on account of I’m a girl who likes to go to parties and Tony is a boy who likes to be at parties. He always says he doesn’t want to go but, once he gets there he stays!
“I’m on to this quirk in Tony and the method I use when there’s a party coming up is this:
“On the day the invitation arrives: ‘Darling,’ I say, casually, ‘we’re invited to a party this Saturday night.’
“Tony: ‘I don’t want to go.’
“Me: ‘You’re perfectly right—let’s not.’
“Come Saturday p.m. and we’re all settled in for a cozy evening at home, me stretched out on the davenport, Tony playing records or reading. Along around 8:30, ‘What’s we do?’ Tony asks, restless.
“Me: ‘Let’s call Marge and Gower Champion, ask them over. Oh, shucks, I forgot—they’re going to the party!’
“Tony: ‘How about Patti and Jerry Lewis —might drop in on them, huh?’
“Me: ‘Good idea—oh, heck, they’re going to the party, too. Patti mentioned it on the phone this morning.’
“Tony: ‘Well, why don’t we go?’
“Me: (yawning, stretching, getting slowly to my feet, a life-size portrait of the glad-to-oblige little woman) ‘Well, all right dear, if you really want to.’
“We go to the party and, since it was ‘his idea’ we have a wonderful time. The wife who makes her husband believe that every place they go, everything they have, everything they do is his idea makes of her marriage (this is my secret) a perpetual bed of roses!
“It takes a bit of doing, but take it from me,” Janet grinned, “it can be done!
“I don’t know whether this belongs in the category of keeping a secret but often, for Tony’s own sake, I postpone telling him something. For example, when I was assigned to “Rogue Cop,” at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Tony was making a musical at U-I. He’d never made a musical before and was edgy about it. Every night he’d come home exhausted. So rather than distract him with my problems, I didn’t mention my new film until he was just about out of production. When a man is tired and preoccupied with his own affairs, to keep your affairs a temporary secret is, in my opinion, the kind of secret a wife should keep.
“In other words, a wife, the way I see it, should keep secret anything that might annoy or worry her husband—always providing it isn’t something about which he has reason to worry.
“If someone says to me, in passing, ‘Gee, you look pretty today!’ I don’t make a point of repeating the compliment to Tony. If he didn’t think I’m pretty, I might,” Janet laughed, “just to boost my stock!
“If someone makes a pass at me, I never tell Tony. He’d only get furious and go out and bop the guy. Since it’s nothing I’ve done and since there is nothing to be gained .by telling Tony other than to make him jealous. Any wife who deliberately tries to make her husband jealous must be very insecure within herself or in her marriage—or both.
“There are secrets about your health you should keep—to a point. Men hate complaining women—the chronically headachy type or the grown-up baby—‘Oh, my thumbnail, it hurts!’ About the little aches and pains a wife should, to put it bluntly, shut up! But any real health problem should never be kept secret from your husband as I learned to my discomfort—and Tony’s. Starting about three years ago I began to have recurrent headaches. They were quite bad and I didn’t say anything about them—partly because I was scared something serious might be causing them; partly because I will not be a ‘I’m having one of my headaches’ small-time hypochondriac. I got away with it because, by some fluke, the headaches never hit me when Tony was around. But one night at Patti’s and Jerry’s, I did have one and the pain was so intense I broke down and cried. Since Tony’d had no suspicion of the headaches and had never seen me in pain before, he was badly shocked. He steered me to the doctor, who sent me to an oculist and I learned my headaches were due to the simple fact that I need glasses when I read.
“ ‘Why didn’t you tell me sooner?’ Tony chastized me. ‘I’d have made you check with the doctor and could have saved you all the pain—and me, a nasty scare.’
“I realized then that a wife’s state of health does concern her husband, so this is not a secret she must keep from him. Nor any secretiveness about money matters. I used to be very extravagant—not now. One day, not long ago, I went into Rex’s shop here in Hollywood and fell in love with a mink-trimmed white sweater. But not until I checked with my business manager and made sure it wouldn’t affect my budget did I buy it. For unlike the bathroom towels marked His and Hers, the budget in any good marriage should be marked Ours. When a wife buys anything from a washing machine to a silly mink-trimmed sweater with the feeling that she’s putting one over on her husband, this is unfair and she’s only defeating herself in the long run.
“Work problems should never be kept secret from your husband since they may very well affect you both. I don’t run to Tony, nor he to me with the little frets that happen to everyone in the course of the day’s work, but if we’re having any real problem with a scene, or a script, or a contract, we hash it over together!
“The only truly important secret I keep from Tony,” Janet said, pausing to feel her way, “are those things that you can’t tell because you can’t really express them—nothing to bother your husband or shock him, just something that, deep down, is your own. And in each of us there is something personal that must be our very own.
“What everything I’ve said boils down to, I guess, is that a wife has a right to her secrets, providing they do not touch, even remotely, her husband or the life and love they share. Come to think of it,” Janet laughed aloud, “once these words appear in Photoplay I won’t have either any secrets from the readers of Photoplay magazine or any secrets from my husband!”
At lunch in The Green Room on the Warner Brothers lot where she’d just finished “Young at Heart,” Doris ordered a trencherman’s meal of hot soup, rare steak, vegetable, salad, milk, apple pie a la mode, remarking as she did so, “Marty says I’m happiest when I’m at dinner or right after it! ‘But beware the Day,’ Marty cautions the unwary, ‘when she’s hungry.’ ”
After her pangs of hunger had been assuaged, Doris answered the question put to her: Should a wife have secrets of any kind, or for any reason, from her husband?
“I’m not theorizing about this, mind you,” Doris admonished. “I’m not speaking objectively; I’m just speaking for myself and, what’s more, about myself. I haven’t got a secret of any sort or kind from Marty. I tell him everything. I make not the least attempt to hide from him anything I do, or think, or am. Concerning my person, I certainly have no secrets from him—he knows I lighten my hair. He knows very well what I look like without make-up—and he likes me best,” Doris said, happily, “in the early morning, hair tousled, no make-up. I don’t know that I’d get to the point,” she laughed, “of wearing a chin strap in front of him, but if ever I do, he’ll get hysterical! Marty and I can laugh at, as well as with each other, and speaking of secrets, this in my book is one of the secrets of a healthy marriage.
“Actually I don’t know what kind of beauty secrets you can keep from your husband unless you have (and we haven’t) separate quarters.
“Or what kind of secrets a wife can keep from her husband, if she shares, as I do with Marty, not only living quarters but living.
“The importance (and the comfort) of sharing everything with Marty began, I’d say,” Doris confided, “the night before we were married when Marty came around to take me out to dinner and found me jumping! An hour or so before, my young son, Terry, then eight, had got into a fist fight with another boy and I was shocked. I managed to pry them apart, went after the other boy, sent Terry to his room. When Marty arrived and I, all aquiver, told him what had happened, he just looked at me. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘you’re pretty calm!’
“ ‘Dear, you’re going to have to learn,’ said Marty, ‘that little boys are not little girls. You may not have had fist fights when you were young, but I had them!’
“Until I married Marty I used to be aghast at the things little boys do. I didn’t understand Terry at all—until I married Marty. Nor, for that matter, did I understand myself. I used to be so intense about everything. In a business conference, what I was going to do, or not do, about a certain picture used to tie me up in knots! I’ve never liked anything unsettled, hanging. The ‘Well, we’ll know next week, a week after’ routine practically unhinged me! Now, since I’ve had Marty to talk things over with, I am completely relaxed. Marty helped me learn patience. ‘If it is to be, it will be,’ Marty would say. ‘If it isn’t to be, so what?’ Now, negotiations for a picture or a contract can take six months and it doesn’t unnerve me.
“I don’t think a wife should ever keep anything that troubles her—even things that embarrass her—from her husband. I never do. And self-revelation was something I had to learn. I’ve never had very much of what Marty calls ‘communication ability.’ I had a tendency, deep-seated, to keep me to myself. I don’t, or I didn’t, open up either my mouth or my heart easily. Now I talk over with Marty every single thing that concerns me. As the fiction writers put it,” Doris laughed, “I ‘bare my soul.’
“For instance,” Doris went on, “I don’t play theatres or clubs. I just can’t. For a long time this—which is almost a phobia—worried me. I thought I was cheating the fans. I also felt I was cheating myself for it helps tremendously to meet people face to face so that if you can, you should play to live audiences. I do get to Chicago and to New York to talk with the press and the disc jockeys, but although I used to work in front of audiences all the time and thought nothing of it, since I’ve been in pictures I’ve got away from live audiences. What I go away from is difficult for me to get back to. Until I married Marty, I brooded over what I felt was this lack in me as an entertainer. Once I shared the secret with Marty, it was no longer a fear.
“ ‘If you can’t,’ Marty said, ‘you can’t. You’ve got to know and accept what you can, and cannot do. You have to know yourself.’
“These were wise words—and revealing ones. I’m now free of the negative thinking about what I cannot do and this releases me for positive thinking about what I can do—and want to do. I just want to make two pictures a year. I want, of course, to keep on recording. I am in two fields and that, for the present, at any rate, is fields enough! The rest of the time I want to enjoy myself.
“When starting a picture I used to tense up. All during the making of the picture I was a bundle of nerves. If the picture didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, I ate my heart out, held private post-mortems. Now I never have a nervous moment (except during the hairdressing and make-up, which bore me so early in the morning). I still like perfection and am disappointed if the picture isn’t what I’d hoped for, but I’ve learned from Marty that if I do my best, it’s out of my hands. If I goofed, I couldn’t bear that. But I always try to do my very best.
“Before I married Marty I didn’t have any hobbies. I’d finish a picture and suddenly, I’d have nothing to do and at that high tension you can’t just sit and relax. When Marty’d call me from the office saying, ‘Well, what is your day?’ I’d say, sounding dull, ‘I have nothing planned to do.’ That really bothered him. Marty can’t bear idleness. Now, since Marty put his mind to it, I have hobbies. I’m taking tennis lessons, taking golf lessons and I’ve gone into gardening (this was my idea) in a big way! Now I even share my hobbies with Marty, or perhaps I should say, bully him into sharing them with me. Last summer, for instance, when the urge to garden overcame me I went out, one early morning, to Armstrong’s Nursery and bought enough seeds and slips to make a desert bloom! That evening when Marty came home I greeted him at the gate saying, breathlessly, ‘We have two dozen verbena and four dozen begonias to plant!’
“ ‘When?’ said Marty in a small voice.
“ ‘Now,’ I said, ‘where a garden’s concerned now’s the hour!’
“ ‘When Doris gardens, she reminds me,’ Marty has been heard to tell people, ‘of a surgeon. Someone hands her the rake, the hoe, the trowel, the weeder, the cultivator like a surgeon is handed forceps, swabs, scalpel, retractor!’
“ ‘Prayer helps plants,’ I tell Marty. ‘It helps them grow. Not having negative thinking about a garden helps it. So much love’ I say, ‘goes into each hole I dig for each plant. I go out and talk to them, too. I tell the flowers to lift their faces and grow. But oh,’ I said one day, ‘if I don’t get flowers out of all this digging and devotion, I don’t know what I’ll do!”
“ ‘Now, just a minute,’ Marty cautioned. ‘It’s nothing. If you don’t, we’ll go to the nursery and start all over again.’
“Marty has a terrific sense of humor—about everything. He doesn’t get excited—about anything. He has calmed our household down a lot. Whenever I’m disturbed, ‘Come on,’ he’ll say, ‘let’s sit down and talk about it.’ And we do. Five minutes later I wonder what I was tensed up about!
“I’m saying all this to make the point,” Doris said, “that for a wife’s own sake, even more than from a sense of duty, she should not have secrets of any sort or kind from her husband. Complete sharing of deed and thought, work and play is the only way to insure a complete marriage. And besides,” Doris sighed, “it’s so comfortable.
“I do refrain from complaining to Marty when I don’t feel up to par, but this is not qualifying what I’ve said for complaints are not secrets, they’re self-pity. It’s wise, I think, to distinguish between the two. Then there are always men who make an indirect pitch for every girl who hasn’t three heads—if such happens to me, and is amusing, I may tell Marty; if unpleasant, too unimportant to mention. My past, or before-Marty experiences were all so dull that who would want to review them? Not I. So I haven’t. Not Marty or he would have quizzed me. He hasn’t. Which is just as well since I’ve forgotten Yesterday, never give it a thought, nor take any thought of Tomorrow. I’m a Now girl. I live in, and for, Today.
“I think it’s marvellous—a gift from God—to have a companion to whom you can tell everything. I wouldn’t belittle this gift by keeping a secret from Marty,” Doris said, the color of her sky-blue eyes deepening, “not for anything in the world.”
—BY GLADYS HALL
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MAY 1955