Gypsy Creams

“problem page” Tag

Why Do People Hurt Each Other So?

Woman / 25 December 1965

Aha! A problem page! Although Evelyn Home was compassionate by the standards of the famous Mary Marryat, the advice here is both bad by its own standards, and, understandably, compromised by her inability to discuss homosexuality frankly, which wouldn’t be legalised between men for a further two years.

Although I can understand her urging to the writer of the featured letter to ‘forget’ her friend (a sexless affair, it seems), there was really nothing stopping him getting in touch to tell her what was happening, apart from, I suspect, a childish inability to deal with both his and her emotions. But of course, there wouldn’t have been the counselling services to help her deal with her understandable sadness, and so Evelyn could do nothing but urge her to push her feelings away, leading this poor woman to run the risk of becoming divorced from them entirely. What a sad situation.

Evelyn does redeem herself when advising a woman failing to cope with the idea of having a son-in-law with a different skin colour to her, and giving a woman who has developed a crush outside marriage permission to recognise her own sexuality. However, there’s an awful lot of avoidance here, and I recognise this attitude in older members of my family. I’m relieved that we can be franker about sex and more open to recommend talking about problems nowadays.

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Keeping It In The Family

Woman's Weekly / 30th April 1965

Ah, the past. Young heterosexual relationships are rarely policed in this fashion nowadays, of course, but we can’t make the same assumptions for everyone. It’s also worth noticing that there’s no mention of whether race is playing a part in the father’s reaction, but, to be fair, interracial relationships were very rare in 1965. Mary actually gives some good advice here, which makes a nice change. Her advice to the young woman being sexually bullied by her boyfriend’s father, although, is quite typical of the time. A quick web search does suggest that this problem still exists nowadays, but it is a good sign that the advice given is more empowering than Mary’s, and I do get the impression that it’s a bit rarer.

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Letting Their Emotions Run Away With Them

Woman's Weekly / 28th May 1965

I found the third letter here fascinating. It seems as if the mother subconsciously wants to punish her daughter for the almost inevitable consequence of being deeply in love. It’s sad that society back then saw that as a possible response, as her daughter would probably have resented her mother’s wish for years afterwards, but fortunately Mary hints at the one upside of the Church; that they almost always ignored a bride’s bump for the benefit of the child being born into wedlock.

The Italian embassy request is a curious one. If it wasn’t for my mother telling me that she lost her virginity to an Italian labourer (of which there were many in the UK in the 1960s), I may not have noticed it at all. I wonder if a young Italian man had left more behind in Britain than he had imagined?

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Careers for Girls

Woman's Weekly / 4th July 1969

Dammit Mary, I hate it when you’re so bloody reasonable. I’m pleased we’re past the point of having books called ‘Careers for Girls’, though, regardless of how sensible the rest of your advice is. I was also touched by the widow going on holiday by herself for the first time, which can be daunting today, let alone back then. I hope she had a lovely time!

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‘Suggestive Looking’ Eyes

Woman's Weekly / 14th May 1965

I’d love to state that Brenda’s problem is a thing of the past, but a simple Google search proves that sexual harassment at work is still alive and well. I’m pleased that I’ve never had to endure it, but there have been situations where being a woman has almost been seen as a character trait, rather than something out of my control.

Still, at least no agony aunt would begin a reply to this sort of letter nowadays with a victim-blaming statement of the sort that Mary trots out, although it’s worth remembering that Brenda had little power to change her situation back then. Sexual harassment claims are still tricky to prove without witnesses willing to back the claim up, or unambiguous written proof, but at least most companies worth working for have a procedure to deal with them.

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Your First Warning

Woman's Weekly / 7th May 1965

Well, as regular readers know, I’ve had my differences with Mary Marryat, but she’s quite capable of good advice sometimes, and so it is here. Obviously, the ‘sharp things’ are a telling indication of the age in which the letter was written, and it’s curious that the writer doesn’t connect those comments with the plight of her poor sister, and her feeling that she is somehow responsible for informing a potential partner of her family’s ‘moral failings’. Mary is quite right to remark that for every unmarried mother, there is a father, but I would go a bit further than that, and suggest that the writer has had her first warning that her suitor is, frankly, something of a judgemental arsehole, who appears to be unaware that women can’t get pregnant on their own.

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Drama Queen

Woman's Weekly / 27th June 1969

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…”. All of these letters are significant in their own way, as none of these problems are issues for men. The 16 year old girl is probably being a bit overwrought, but I stayed the night with my best friend more than once as a teen without being accused of meeting a boy by my parents! Both Mrs. C and Working Wife are suffering from higher expectations being applied to them than to their husbands, and naturally, poor Worried won’t see the father of her child for dust. In some respects, things haven’t changed all that much, but at least women have more options nowadays to either get themselves out of trouble, or to avoid landing themselves in it.

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Poor Worried Jane

Woman's Weekly / 11th July 1969

Yep, it’s another tantalizing problem which we don’t have access to! What on earth happened to poor Worried Jane? Another letter which confuses me is the question from an unmarried mother about adopting her own child after the father clearly left her high and dry. I’m going to have to page friend of the site Kif; did unmarried mothers not have automatic custody of their children, or has she given up the child to the local authority and is trying to get it back? It’s not clear.

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Two Misguided Teenagers

Woman's Weekly / 25th June 1965

Oh dear. Obviously, I hope things worked out for these two girls, but it makes your heart sink to see Mary come up trumps again with her judgmental language. What makes her think that either of these two girls will EVER put themselves in such a position again, given the trauma that they’re suffering? This is before the legalisation of abortion in Britain (excluding Northern Ireland), which happened in 1967, so if either of them were pregnant, their options were to bring up the child themselves (or have their parents go through the charade of pretending it was a sibling), have the child adopted, or to have a dangerous illegal abortion.

Of course, what Mary doesn’t mention is that the woeful lack of sex education until recently in the UK (and it’s hardly perfect now), meant that many young people were exposed to the adult world with no way of preparing themselves for it. Perhaps you could justify this ignorance when youngsters had close supervision from adults (although it no doubt caused unnecessary anxiety for young couples), but it was wholly inadequate for the 20th century, and is recklessly irresponsible in the 21st. Sadly, what should be a simple process of preparing children for the challenges of adult life is endlessly highjacked by those motivated by fear and bigotry, who appear to think that informing children of the inevitable features of adulthood means that they’ll want to try them all out! It’s a grave insult to those children to assume that they can’t make an informed decision. Luckily, wilful ignorance is no longer government policy (despite the efforts of this MP), and the internet means that there isn’t just one official source of information, with Dr Petra Boynton, a experienced sex educator, giving a good list here. Of course, there’s more than enough misinformation on the internet, but at last ‘ver kids’ at least have most teachers in this country on their side to help guide them through.

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Just a Domestic?

Woman's Weekly / 18th June 1965

Hmm. Read the first letter and see if you agree with me that there may be more to this than Mary realises. Everyone loses their temper occasionally, usually when they’re tired or have had a hard day, but regular bouts of extreme anger are different. It’s particularly concerning that the husband only displays this anger to his wife, so everyone else in their lives probably think that he’s an ideal man. Of course, domestic violence wasn’t really taken seriously until the 1980s; when my aunt left her abusive husband in the 1970s, the police were prepared to sit at a distance when he visited her, meaning it was only her quick closing of the door which prevented him from stabbing her with a knife he’d concealed.

What is also worrying is that we haven’t come all that far on this issue in 45 years. This editorial in the Guardian from 2008 states that more women worldwide between 19 and 44 die from domestic violence than any other cause, and the proposed changes in legal aid will make women more vulnerable. And being a victim of violence isn’t restricted to women in heterosexual relationships; anyone can be a victim, and convictions are even more difficult in these (rarer) cases. Mary’s eventual advice of marriage guidance isn’t wrong, but she’s obviously underestimated how frightened this woman is. After all, she’s finally picked up the courage after 30 years to write to a problem page, so getting her husband to undergo marriage guidance? Unlikely. I hope his temper just restricted itself to shouting, because I have a horrible feeling that this woman wouldn’t have got anywhere in dealing with his anger issues.

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