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Teen-age Marriage Is A Mistake

I often wonder how many of today’s teenagers will give themselves the chance to reach realistic and happy conclusions about the romances they have so early in life. I think about it most whenever I receive a letter from a fan asking for advice on an affair of the heart or perhaps hinting that I might airmail her at least a small amount of encouragement to defy her parents and marry against their will.

As for advice, I’m Terry Moore. I’m not the last word. Still, if I think that anything I might say would be of help, I’d gladly speak up. As for this business of defying parents, I’m pleased to say that I’ve personally never really had an occasion to stage a large-type rebellion. The Kofords are great believers in free speech and we usually talk things out until somebody sees the light. And often as not, that somebody is me.

Talking things out is the best method I can recommend for reaching an understanding with anybody’s parents. I definitely don’t believe in defiance. Along these lines, I keep recalling the old story about the son who, while in his teens, thought his father w as terribly stupid. At twenty-six, he was positively amazed to discover how much his old man had learned!

They say that the lessons that stay with you the longest are the ones that are learned the

hard way. When you’re young, you wonder if you’ll ever get all your problems solved. And what happens if you marry too early and find your problems doubled? That’s up to you.

I have a friend who, at nineteen, decided that he wouldn’t wait to marry. And, as the saying goes, so they were wed. Now he’s standing by and watching his buddies finish their college educations. You can’t blame him if he’s slightly envious at times. He had to get a job. He’s had to stick to it. He can’t shop around for something better because he has a wife and family to support. He hasn’t been able to take the chances on furthering his career that he might take if he were free. And this places a burden on both the young people.

You can’t dodge responsibilities. You have them all your life. But why get bogged down with them so soon? My friend loves his wife and I’ll bet my bottom dollar they’ll be together when their old-age pensions start rolling in. But a marriage like this one needs a lot of love and an extra-lot of courage on both sides to survive.

Perhaps I sound like a pessimist. It’s just that ever since I can remember, I’ve contended that teen-age marriage is a mistake. Of course, I’m happy to admit that there are some teenagers fortunate enough to have a wisdom beyond their years. But how many, in all sincerity, make the mistake of interpreting their youthful confidence as mental maturity?

When I was in my teens, caution was my first rule for romance. If I liked a boy well enough to think in terms of possible future matrimony, I went with him for well over a year. Marriage could wait, I vowed, until I was twenty-one—old enough to know my own mind and heart. It seemed like a wise theory. And true to my theory, I waited to marry Glenn Davis until I was in my early twenties. But now I realize that even at the magic age of twenty-one I hadn’t actually grown up. I’m afraid I was still emotionally immature. I’d played youngsters on the screen. The majority of my friends were a group of unsophisticated boys and girls with whom I’d gone to school. I was still a teenager in my views.

Our marriage had seemed so right to Glenn and me at the time. As if it were just meant to be. Everyone else thought so, too. We were, they said, like a storybook couple. And we might have been, if we hadn’t wanted such completely different things from life. But marriage is no fairy tale. There’s no guarantee of a happily-ever-after ending. Unfortunately, too many couples learn this through heartbreak.

Heartbreak is something that comes to everyone in one form or another. You can let it warp your outlook and ruin your life. You can let it make you cynical and afraid. Or, on the other hand, you can let it be an experience which will guide you into maturity . . . and you can profit by your mistakes through an understanding of how they happened.

When you’re a teenager I think you’re inclined to have the idea that life owes you something. But as you grow older, you learn that you owe something to life, as well. And it’s this realization that makes it easier to throw aside any ruinous resentment you might have, and do some straight thinking. I’m not certain that I could have done this when I was in my teens. How many teenagers can? That takes the perspective of time.

I saw this perspective in operation at a wedding a few weeks ago. It was the kind of wedding that every girl should have, complete with flowers and music, friends and relatives . . . and mother and father, smiling with tears in their eyes. It was the bride’s day. There would never be another quite like it. And Jane was as lovely as any bride who ever lived.

Later, at the reception, I caught her with a faraway look in her eyes.

“I was thinking . .” she grinned sheepishly. “. . . Remember Mike?”

Now this might seem like a strange thing for a girl to say when she’s just married a fine fellow named Robert. But although Mike had long since been out of our lives, he was an unforgettable part of the past, of our high-school days. Remember him? I used to think he was the only word in Jane’s vocabulary. And by the time graduation rolled around, she was convinced that life wouldn’t be worth living if she weren’t his wife.

But Jane’s folks kept making noises that sounded like awfully strong objections. The fact that their own happy marriage might qualify them to know a bit about love and matrimony never seemed to occur to their daughter. At any rate by some stroke of luck or common sense, Jane and Mike didn’t elope—though they had discussed the possibility at great length. She agreed to go on to college for at least a year. That’s where she met Bob.

And Mike? “How could I ever have thought that I loved him?” she asked me on her wedding day. She was really saying, “What if I hadn’t waited to grow up?”

That was almost a mistake, a drastic mistake avoided by a mixture of common sense, time and real love.

Speaking of marital mistakes, I’ve read a few thousand statements to the effect that Hollywood has a monopoly on them. But I believe that statistics prove otherwise. And I’m certain that the divorces that have shaken our city would have been just as shocking if they had happened to the citizens in any small town, U.S.A. But in Hollywood—or anywhere—I wonder why the surprise when certain marriages flop. The majority of cases involve girls who have become brides too soon. For instance, take a girl who has never done a great deal of dating. She’s eighteen or nineteen when she finds her man and marries him. A few years go by and she discovers someone new. She realizes, unhappily, that he’s the fellow she should have wed in the first place. And she might have—if she had waited.

I don’t have to name names of important Hollywood stars to prove this point. You know who they are as well as I do.

The press has a way of labeling youthful Hollywood marriages as “declarations of independence”! It’s nothing new and a logicial enough analysis. Some parents lay down the law in no uncertain terms, seemingly unaware that an unhappy home-life can drive a girl straight to the marriage-license bureau.

Believing that marriage is a solution to all problems is, of course, a dangerous attitude. When a girl marries, she walks right into a whole flock of new problems. Matrimony is by no means an escape. If she feels escape necessary, a girl can find a job and take an apartment by herself.

A teenager should think twice (at least twice a day for a year or so, I might add) before saying “I do.” Then perhaps she’ll think herself right out of the idea. A happy marriage is every girl’s goal. And I stress the word “happy.” However, some will settle for marriage, period. Maybe high-school graduation is drawing near and the lady thinks, “If I get a man, then I can relax.”

That’s sheer laziness. And foolishness. You have to be on your toes all through life, married or single. Why not face it?

And while I’m issuing warnings, I believe I should mention the immature male. He’s the fellow who says, “Marry me now, or goodbye forever.” Watch out for him. You may think you love him and still have every intention of letting a sensible time elapse before tying the knot. An ultimatum from a man she care for, or thinks she could come to can for, can really throw a girl off balance. Especially if it’s the first ultimatum she’s ever received.

The first time I heard the phrase, I took it seriously. “Well . . . goodbye,” I said sadly, never expecting to see the gentleman again. I was amazed when he came back. After a while I learned that if they care, they always come back.

You may find it hard to hand a man his hat when he cries, “Farewell.” But remember, if a fellow can say it and mean it, he couldn’t possibly love you. And if you do marry him, chances are that he’ll be saying “goodbye forever” whenever you have a difference of opinion.

I recall hearing a story about a high-school class day speaker whose subject when addressing the seniors was somewhat less than inspiring He said, in effect, “Poor kids. What a shame you have to go out into the cold, cruel world.”

Numerous people think it’s a dreadful shame, particularly as far as girls are concerned According to popular opinion, the feeling seems to be that every girl should be married—right now. Popular opinions are something you can’t do much about. People will talk. In small towns, you hear a girl mutter, “Everybody thinks I should marry Joe. But there’s just one thing wrong. I don’t love Joe.”

So go look for a Jim, I say. You can’t please everyone, but I know sensitive teenagers who have nearly wrecked their lives trying.

Opinions ride high in Hollywood, too, and they’re accompanied by a spotlight. Lately, I’ve been accused of playing the field, of having too many dates, of all things! I do know a lot of men; some are in the movie industry, some are not. I enjoy being with them. I doubt if I’ll get serious about anyone for a while yet. However, eventually I’ll want to remarry I’ve always had a happy family life and more than anything else I want a good marriage and a happy family. But will I ever meet Mr. Right if I play recluse?

Suppose I did confine my interests to one man? What would folks say? Probably what many of them said when the erroneous report of my forthcoming wedding to Bob Wagner was printed while we were at work on “Beneath the Twelve-Mile Reef” last April—that Terry was rushing foolishly into another marriage.

Can you win? I think so. When you come to realize certain things. For instance, that you alone must make the final decision That you must use your head as well as your heart. That marriage means sharing common interests—and many many problems. It also means sharing religious interests.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that there is no such thing as selfishness in a happy marriage. A great many teenagers make this marital mistake. In their teens, few people have learned to give in. They’ve always been the center of their family group. Their families have always taken care of them—and suddenly they’re expected to take care of someone else.

Again I’ll say that I think it’s best to wait! And when the time does come, be absolutely certain that you can’t live without the man of your choice. You’re going to live with him the rest of your lift. At least you are if you’ve let your head and your heart work together!




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