Gypsy Creams

“problem page” Tag

You Big Fibber!

Woman's Weekly / 23rd April 1965

I have to say, I can’t help but be slightly impressed at people who find it easy to lie, as I’m not very good at it. Mary’s advice to this girl is quite canny, making her really think about what she’s saying. The stigma of divorce 45 years ago is clear from Jessie’s letter. I hope her final relationship continued to be happy, especially as her first husband’s divorce appears to have had nothing at all to do with her!

Incidentally, those who didn’t read my tweet or Facebook post may enjoy my recent appearance on the TATP (Talk About The Passion) podcast. I’m near the end, and that’s definitely not a fib.

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Puppy Love

Woman's Weekly / 6th June 1969

*emerges from bunker* Ah, peace at last. Anyway, I thought it was high time I treated you all to another Marryat. There’s a sweet letter about two youngsters in love, a woman who clearly wants backup from Mary to wave at her future son’s mum-in-law, but the most remarkable letter is tucked away, for some odd reason. Poor Joan is being threatened with eviction by her husband through no fault of her own, and although Mary tells her that she does have rights, as his wife, it’s strange to not have this as the lead letter. I hope Joan sorted out her life and got rid of her deadbeat husband, but it’s a telling sign that affairs and marriage breakup are nothing new.

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Leave It To Him

Woman's Weekly / 9th April 1965

Well, I fancied some Sunday sexism, so I thought I’d drag out another one of Mary’s pages. Nowadays, I’d hope that men taking women on dates would assume that their companions were able to string a sentence together to order their dinner, but in 1965, this was obviously considered to be taking too much of a chance. Pity the poor woman who wanted to leave after the coffees, but whose male companion was getting stuck into the whisky and leering at other women, eh?

We’ve also got some poor girl whose mother is clearly terrified of her daughter growing up (my mum practically had to crowbar me into a bra), and an even more unfortunate girl. I sincerely hope she didn’t need the help of the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child, and that her parents put the religious dogma aside to help her.

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A Special Boyfriend

Woman's Weekly / 2nd April 1965

It’s our Mary again! Here she gives reasonable advice to a woman who is contemplating an affair with a married man (although note that she can’t resist implying that she’d be a ‘home wrecker’, as if the man involved had no responsibility at all), but what struck me was her reference to a ‘special boyfriend’ in the second reply.

This reminded me of my mother and aunt suggesting that I could go on dates when I considered myself to be in a committed long-distance relationship, and I think this change is probably down to the fact that relationships can now be serious without marriage getting involved. A generation or so ago, it was far more common to date (in theory, without sexual intercourse taking place), then getting engaged once you felt you’d found ‘the one’, whilst my generation haven’t really dated in that respect, as sex tended to happen at an earlier stage, meaning that a series of serious relationships are now more the norm.

Other letters of note here include the rather sweet enquiry about having youngsters around the farm (I would have loved to go on holiday at Mrs T’s place), and the mother who was clearly dying to address her son with the letters ‘B.A’. I presume he was the first in his family to get a degree!

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Woman's Weekly / 19th August 1965

Here’s a few interesting indications of what life was like in 1965 for women. ‘Ruth’ seems to have paid the price for putting her own feelings above those of her family, ‘C’, thankfully, describes her positive experience of a ‘shotgun wedding’, and ‘Mrs S.C.’ seems to have a worryingly insensitive husband, judging from Mary’s reply.

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Mother Dearest

Woman's Weekly / 20th June 1969

MARY MARRYAT IN QUITE SENSIBLE SHOCKER. Nah, I can’t find much to be snarky about here, sadly, although the silly woman asking for advice on what to write in a prayer book was clearly a gift to Mary. Money for old rope!

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What’s Gone Wrong With My World?

Woman / 23rd December 1967

Here’s a treat: Marje Proops’ “Counselling in-the Round”. We’ve come in at the middle, as sadly I don’t have the issues either side of this one, but this is clearly something more ambitious than a problem page. Marje Proops’ advice is, in my view, spot on. This seems to be a classic case of what happens when a society insists marriage must accompany sex: two people get hitched whilst still riding on a wave of lust, and, as Marje says, either grow to love each other, or things turn sour soon after.

I hope this couple came to understand each other a little better as a result of this, especially as it’s hinted that the ‘other man’ isn’t really interested in sweeping this woman off her feet. Although this is clearly a bit of a sad case, it’s also a fascinating glimpse of a time when your attitude to BBC Two was an accurate marker of your class, and when those class distinctions actually mattered. Of course, there are still socio-economic groups in British society, and although the gap between the rich and poor is wider nowadays than it was even in 1967, there does seem to be a more fluid definition of class for the people in the middle, with fewer real markers of where you fit.

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She’s a man-i-ac…

Woman's Weekly / 23rd May 1969

Horray, it’s Mary Marryat! We’ve had an uneasy relationship with the long standing Woman’s Weekly agony aunt, but she’s not being particularly awful here. Tracking down your adopted children is ethically dubious, and would have been extremely difficult in 1969 anyway. Her advice to ‘Fenella’ (I love that name) and ‘Miss A’ is also sensible. However, it’s the letter to ‘Bernadette’ which raises childish giggles, as well as highlighting the essential conservatism of our Mary. She only views interest in sex as part of marriage, and recommends various hobbies to take Bernadette’s mind off her entirely natural libido. I can’t help but think that the late, great Claire Rayner would have suggested a different, free, form of entertainment…

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RIP Claire Rayner

Woman's Own / 16th August 1968

No doubt UK readers will have heard about the recent death of sexual health education pioneer and legendary agony aunt, Claire Rayner. Until I read the Guardian obituary about Claire, I hadn’t realised that she’d written health advice columns for Women’s Own between 1966 and 1975 under the pseudonym ‘Ruth Martin’. Naturally, I turned to my collection, although it must be said that as far as this site’s concerned, Claire was a victim of her own high quality, as there’s not many jokes you can make about her good advice! I thought this column was a good example of contemporary attitudes, however, so sit back, relax and wonder at the social climate which persuaded women that being ‘modest’ was preferable to easing their suffering, or that painful prolapses were just part of ‘being a woman’. Rest in peace, Claire: Britain will miss you.

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Clare Shepherd answers your questions…

Woman's Realm / 6th October 1967

I see we’ve got the old ‘indulge your sulky husband’ advice again, but Clare’s probably right about the cause, so I would have advised a good chat after dinner myself. However, the real interest lies in some of the other letters here. The woman who hasn’t told her daughter who her real father is because of shame over the divorce is a sad case, and although I’m not sure what Clare means by ‘legal difficulties’, the daughter clearly has a right to know. The poor woman who’s not been able to tell her husband about her problems with sex is a real sign of the times, but it’s reassuring that Clare tells her that help is readily available, and I can’t, thankfully, imagine a parent reacting to a blind boyfriend in the same manner nowadays as the letter writer’s mother here.

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