FROM OUR ARCHIVE
We might assume the Seventies were a time of women’s lib and newfound freedom, but this provocative piece by GH writer Hazel Meyrick shows we were still struggling against society’s expectations…
SHOULD WIVES LOOK LIKE GIRLFRIENDS?
The premiere was over, and at the swish London hotel where they were staying overnight, film directors Richard Attenborough and Bryan Forbes were collecting keys for their respective rooms.
‘Just a minute, gentlemen, you can’t take those ladies with you,’ said the hall porter, barring the way. ‘Those ladies’ were, in fact, their wives, Sheila Sim and Nanette Newman.
But wasn’t it a compliment, really? Isn’t it rather nice to be thought of as your husband’s girlfriend, rather than just his wife?
‘I think English wives are particularly bad at this girlfriend business,’ says Francoise Duvaigne, a French divorcee now working in London. ‘They are like English puddings – heavy and boring. They have atrophied, and only seem to come alive when you mention children or cooking. And their clothes! They seem to be stuck with plain, unfussy, unexciting things. Yet English men get more attractive all the time.’
Mary S. could be one of the wives she is talking about. Mary doesn’t think of herself as a wife anymore. She is, in her estimation, a mother now. Her skirt, which stayed mid-calf for years, has at last caught up with the midi-look, and threatens to become fashionable. Her hair is a no- nonsense shape. At parties, you’ll find her in the corner with other mothers, gossiping away about the parent-teacher association. She doesn’t seem to notice men at all and they, in turn, don’t notice her. Mary’s husband is having an affair with his secretary, but Mary doesn’t know about it. If she did, she would probably consider it a childish peccadillo. Mary makes a wonderful mother but, despite her intelligence and her degree in economics, she has got lost, somewhere along the way, as a woman.
Why should we cease to be good company just because we happen to be married? And are we really so hard up that we can’t buy a belt to smarten up an old sweater, or try on a dress that we think won’t suit us, just in case it does?
Running a home, coping with children, perhaps because it is done largely alone, does seem to bring some wives down. But when a spilled packet of cornflakes becomes a major tragedy, it’s time to get back a sense of proportion. Girlfriends are, on the whole, amusing, well turned out, slightly sexy – and fun. Is there any reason in the world why wives shouldn’t be the same?
’s front cover in 1971