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Temptations Of A Girl Who Waits—Maureen O’Hara

We have so much in common, you wives and sweethearts of fighting men, and I. We know what it means to wait and hope and pray. Most of the time we don’t even know where our men are. We send our letters to APO addresses. We know anguish as we’ve never known it before. We know the meaning, the true meaning of prayer.

What we are likely not to face is the danger we are in. Not physical danger—but something far worse—the danger of letting loneliness creep in, and with it discontent. I don’t think there’s a girl today who hasn’t at one time or another, consciously or subconsciously, been faced with the temptations that result in the loss of ideals. It’s the reaction of suspenseful waiting. The heart cries out for relief.

I am not setting myself up as a moral court of justice. I speak only as one of many war wives who has seen some of these temptations come to people she has known, and who has given some thought to ways of combating the dangers brought about by waiting and living on hope day in and day out.

Every temptation stems directly from loneliness. No man will deny that. I shall never forget the gnawing loneliness—and perhaps the fear—that I felt when my husband Will was on Iwo Jima. It was so easy to draw up terrifying images in my mind. But I knew that I must not dwell on these things. Not if I was to dignify the work my husband was doing in the war or my own responsibility as his wife and as the mother of his child.

To tell a woman she must fight loneliness when her man is away is like telling her she should stop breathing. But at least she can lessen the pangs by being constantly active. I have made it a point to Work harder than ever on my career. I have just finished sixteen weeks on “The Spanish Main” and I’m rushing right into another film. I’m trying harder than ever to improve my work. Women who have no special careers can go into any kind of work that will keep them mentally occupied and physically tired. I emphasize that last part because I do not mean by activity going to parties and having many dates. The point is that if you’re tired, dog-tired, you will not feel like spending your time on senseless pleasures.

I think it’s very important for a girl, whether she’s married or single, to watch the kind of company she keeps when her man is away. A casual friendship can so easily develop into an infatuation. Possibly even into a love she hadn’t wanted. Very few women set out to be intentionally untrue to a man they’re in love with. That’s worth remembering. But it is so dangerously simple to slip from the right path.

A girl who waits for her man can tell by one good sign when she is slipping away from her loyalty to him. If she starts to compare her man with another man who is around her all of the time, she is generally heading for a fall. She begins to see things in him that remind her of her real love. She’s not conscious of the fact at first that the man with whom she has “casual” dates laughs the way Johnny does or has his eyes. Soon she finds herself seeing more and more of her substitute Johnny. Presently he becomes important to her in his own right. She tries to stop herself at the half-way mark. But she can’t. It’s like taking dope. She comes back for other dates, as she tries to convince herself that seeing the other man can’t make any difference. She reminds herself she isn’t being fair to the one she promised to wait for. She argues she still loves only him. But the thing rushes at her headlong and she’s in water so deep she can’t get out.

My heart has never been with anyone but Will, yet I have caught myself watching a friend of Will’s and mine. He looks so much like Will. He has so many of his characteristics. What he has done is bring back a bit of my husband to me to fill the lonely moments. However, we have made sure that our friendship has remained just that—and nothing more.

I can only say to girls who meet this rather ordinary problem that they must watch the company they keep.

My friend Kathryn Grayson makes it a strict point never to go anywhere even with close friends while her husband, Lieut. John Shelton, is overseas. Often she has told me how mu she would like to go dancing. So would I. But neither of us does.

Yet, I’ve felt loneliness so much at times that I’ve caught myself starting to hold the hand of a person next to me in a theater, just as I used to do with Will. It seems such a natural gesture to me. So combating this loneliness is a difficult job, but it must be done if the tap root of all temptation is to be chopped off.

Every woman who waits knows the awful dread that comes when no letters arrive. You watch the mailman coming down the street. And there is nothing so cold and awful as his pleasant smile as he says good morning and passes you by.

I didn’t hear from Will for an entire month when he went overseas. I had no idea where he had gone. But I continued to write him every day as usual. Then, in one day, I got four letters from him. He had been on a naval transport in the Pacific on the way to Iwo Jima and no letters had gone out.

When no letter arrives, some women either think the man has forgotten them or they stop writing themselves. Or else they write angry and complaining notes to their men.

Every woman who loves her man must guard against the temptation to become suspicious of him when no letters arrive. She must remember that much of the mail is lost. She must not use lack of mail as an excuse for going out and losing her sense of perspective. And she shouldn’t write him annoyed letters, berating him for his silence.

The men over there often don’t have the opportunity to write, but they always have the intention. We can at least write them and believe in them.

I cannot understand how a woman can permit herself to feel that her man is not coming back to her. I couldn’t face my God if I allowed myself to think that Will wasn’t coming back. Yet, such a defeatist attitude is another common temptation. Or rather, it’s frequently used as an excuse for a girl’s unexemplary actions.

This type thinks one or two out-of-line dates are not important. Then come more affairs. And finally she says to herself, “Why shouldn’t I have fun? He won’t come home, anyway. I can’t be left entirely alone.”

Once a girl loses her belief in the protection and guidance of God over her man, she has lost herself and stands a good chance of losing most of her fineness as a woman.

We women may think of the possibility of death. We may let it consume us with a great fear. But always in our hearts if we believe, we say, “When he comes home, we’ll do this.” But we never, never use the word if.

There are women, too, who use rumor as an excuse for going off the deep end. Believing that their men are cavorting gaily around foreign lands, they adopt the attitude of, “Well, I’ll have a wonderful time, too. I’ll show him!” But no woman ever shows up a man if she uses a mere rumor as an excuse.

I knew a girl who heard about men having such a good time in Paris. She knew her sweetheart was in the European theater, but she hadn’t heard from him for several weeks.

She was sure he was having one gay time. So she started to “show him.” He came home recently. He saw what had happened to her and he never saw her again.

She hadn’t waited long enough to find out that he had been in the battle of the Ardenne—and that was why he hadn’t been able to write.

One of the not so spectacular but oh so insidious temptations that besets us women who wait is a loss of interest in the things around us and in ourselves. Who cares what I look like or what I do, we’re all too apt to say. And therein lies a very real danger.

I know one woman who has fought the temptation to stagnate from the day her husband left. She has set out to rid herself of her frustrations. She has analyzed the things she felt were wrong about her marriage—and has consistently tried to improve them.

I know I’ve changed since I haven’t had Will near me. I’ve not been as careless about my appearance as I was before. For a while, it was tempting to come home from work on my new picture with my make-up on, put on any old dress and sit down to any old dinner. But that could become a habit. A habit that would annoy Will when he came home. Now, I spend an extra half hour at the studio to remove my make-up. I come home, take a shower and put on a fresh and presentable dress for dinner. I dine just as though he were here with me, holding my hand—as if there were nothing more important to me than appearing as alluring as possible for him.

In everything I do now, Will is with me. He’s on my mind consciously all of the time. Even in my relationship to my little daughter I’ve trained myself to be keenly aware of his right. I adore my baby. But she is also Will’s child. And he is my husband. I love them both. I can’t let my love be greater for my child than it is for Will just because he is away. Not if I’m to hold on to my happiness—and to Will’s too.

As I’ve been writing this. I’ve felt Will very close to me. I do miss him so much. I’m like all women in that respect. I miss him in little things. The bathroom, for example, is clean and tidy. None of his perpetual wet towels are around for him to stamp on. But in its very tidiness, I miss him so that my heart cries out for him.

Nothing is any fun any more. When I get all dressed up to go to a premiere, I’m empty inside. When people say, “How nice you look,” it doesn’t mean a thing. Will didn’t say it.

I miss him when I come home from the studio and his cheery welcome isn’t there to greet me. I feel him in all the cold silence in the house, in all the echoes in my heart.

But all women who really love their men feel as I do. Our only job is to remember that we love them. Is it so hard to remember love? I don’t think so. Not with a bit of trying.





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