General Articles

"DEAR MARY LOU—”

Lovelorn teen-agers of two nations demand advice from Toronto’s Mary Lou Dilworth —who’s a sage 18 herself

THELMA LeCOCQ December 1 1947
General Articles

"DEAR MARY LOU—”

Lovelorn teen-agers of two nations demand advice from Toronto’s Mary Lou Dilworth —who’s a sage 18 herself

THELMA LeCOCQ December 1 1947

"DEAR MARY LOU—”

THELMA LeCOCQ

Lovelorn teen-agers of two nations demand advice from Toronto’s Mary Lou Dilworth —who’s a sage 18 herself

MARY LOU DILWORTH is a pretty 18-year-old Toronto girl whose plan for life, since she has been old enough to make one, is young love, early marriage and children. The suggestion even now that she might be a career woman brings a curl of mingled distaste and amusement to her long lovely mouth, a look to her big brown eyes that suggests you must be joking. But, since she has put her signature to a threeyear syndicate contract which may make her by far the highest-paid newspaper woman in Canada, she amends with delightful disregard for mathematics, “Well, not for more than a couple of years anyway.”

Mary Lou’s contract is with Associated Newspapers Inc., to write a daily feature beginning about now—a teen-age lovelorn column, written by a teen-ager. She commences at a guaranteed salary of $50 a week, which will rise in direct proportion to the number of papers which buy her column. Should this number reach the hundreds the Toronto girl may find herself making something like a thousand a week. While she’s doing it she intends—“If someone can invent a 36-hour day”—to continue as feature writer and “Cupid Counsel” columnist for The Canadian High News, Toronto weekly catering to high school students, where she works an eight-hour day for a cub reporter’s salary.

It was while she was still at Oakwood Collegiato in Toronto, as a reporter on High News, that Mary Lou got the chance she really hadn’t been looking for. Someone on the News had the bright idea of running a lovelorn column for teen-agers written by a teen-ager. A list of letters asking advice on typical young-heart problems was published and the papers’ readers invited to try their hand at doling out sage counsel. Sixty would-be Dorothy Dixes took a fling at it, including Mary Lou. With great judgment she asked no help from her mother or any adult, offered advice based solely on her 16-year-old wisdom and experience. She got the job. That she has been a success is in a large part due to the fact that what she writes is honestly and solely advice from Mary Lou herself.

“I occasionally put the question to the office,” she admits, “But I never ask my mother. If it’s a mother’s advice they want they might as well ask their own mothers.” The idea of having a contemporary help teen-agers with their problems is one that she strongly believes in. “Parents regard these problems as silly and inconsequential when to the teen-ager they’re a matter of life and death at the time, even though they may be forgotten in a month.”

How to Talk—and Listen

MARY LOU says she has her owr problems.

wishes on occasion that she could write to herself. Whatever her problems are, it is unlike»y that lack of attractiveness has ever been the ca use. To look at, Mary Lou is definitely good. She’s tall, dark and nearly beautiful a slim five feet seven weighing in at 120 po a ids Her eyes are large and dark and set far apart. Her hair, which she wears straight and long, is lark with copper lights, is live and shining CKÍÉWI good health and plenty of brushing. Her mouthus wide and flexible and her rather shy, crooked sm i le shows sparkling white teeth that even a dentifrice ad couldn’t improve upon.

To meet, Mary Lou is unself-conscious and

friendly. She talks easily in a deep and slightly slurring voice -a voice that comes well over a microphone. She also knows how to stop and listen. Secret of her charm is her outlook on life, which is to enjoy it, to keep her mind and conversation on the things she likes and approves. These include dancing, canoeing, golf, bridge, bowling, semiclassical music and jive —and clothes and books (both novels and travel books) on which she spends most of her money.

To this basic philosophy that life should be fun, Mary Lou adds a proper respect for parental authority which she considers eligible for wellreasoned challenge but not something to be flouted.

“I don’t think parents should be careless about who their children date with,” says Mary Lou, “nor about how late they are out.” It is her opinion, though, that no hard and fast rules can be

made. “Parents make the mistake,” she believes, “ot going by age. Some children mature earlier than others.”

Recently she received a letter from a boy whose family refused to allow him to attend the school dances that all his friends went to. They had told him to wait till he was 16, but when the day came they advanced the going-out. age to 17. Mary Lou, with rare insight, placed the blame not so much on the parent? as on the boy. She gathered from bis letter that he had been going into tantrums about it like a baby. Advised that he act mature, sit down and explain his side of it rationally, make them see that he .vas old enough to look after himself. The boy tried it and he wrote to Mary Lou that it had worked, he was going to the school dance the following Saturday. “It was one of the nicest

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thank-you notes I ever got,” she says.

Unlike most advisex's to the lovelorix, Mary Lou is no invisible mystery to her clieixts. If they px-efer a talk to a letter they are quite free to drop into the High News office to see her. Oddly enough, some of the shyest prefer to fell it than to write it. One very youngman who wished to see her sent up a note by a taxi driver. The driver failed to deliver it and when the troubled youth got no reply he telephoned her at home, asked her to please come across the street to the postbox where he’d left his letter half in and half out of the box for her to pick up. She replied that since he was that close he might as well bring it to the house himself. After xnuch persuading he came, “a little short guy with glasses.”

His problem, he said, was shyness, but he maxxaged to forget it to the point of unburdening himself in the Dilworth living room till three o’clock in the morning. Mary Lou didn’t know what could be done about anyone as shy as that but hoped he felt better after talking about it.

When the column, “Cupid Counsel,” first ran in the High News, the correspondents were in the ratio of 55% female to 45% male. In a short time the order was reversed, still has the boys well in the majority. With both sexes the px'oblems fall pretty much into three groups—to date or not to date, to kiss or not to kiss, to go steady or vice vei'sa. On the subject of trying for a date with a member of the opposite sex, whose liking is in doubt, Mary Lou believes there’s no harm in tryixxg. “Next time you see him,” Mary Lou advises A' TROUBLED GIRL. “He’s not going out of his way to px-ove he likes you if you’ve given hixxx no friendly encouragement . . . Getting along with people is a giveand-take affair, so put in your share axxd you’ll reap the dividends.”

About kissing, Max-y Lou writes, “No, never ask a girl if you xxxay kiss her good night. You’d feel like a dope if she said no, and furthermore it’s something you shouldn’t talk about . . . If you’ve gone out with a girl and don’t think she’d object (she probably wouldn’t) don’t lose your nerve-—just go ahead!”

This doesn’t meaxx that Mary Lou advocates px'omiscuous kissixxg. In another issue of the News she wi'ites, “Since when did boys like girls to kiss them good night after a first date? Both my boy friend and I think that’s outrageous!”

On the question of “going steady”

Mary Lou believes that’s entirely up to each particular couple, but that they should sit down and talk it over, come to a mutual agx-eement one way or another. Typical letter along this line reads “I am very fond of a certain L. M. who claims he is fond of me. But here is my problem. I find L.M. does not like the idea of my accept ing dates for parties or dances from other boys. Yet he does not falter in asking other girls for dates. Do you thiixk this is fair to me?” To this Mary Lou replies, “Here we go again ... it certainly isn’t fair to you . . . you’d better have a little chat with him . . . some boys too often think aloxxg these lines axxd methinks it’s time they changed !”

Little Black Book

Mary Lou is xxo feminist but she does believe boys have rather the best of it. “A boy has his date book. He can phone a girl-—and choose which oixe to phoixe ... A girl mustxx’t phone a boy—it just isxx’t done.”

Mary Lou has no ixxtexxtion of crusading against this long-standing order of the world. She believes a girl can get a loixg way by being friendly and pleasaixt—“Perhaps he’s shy too.” She advises that a girl can iixvite a boy to one party or similar organized activity, but she must not coxxtixxue to invite him if he gives her no encouragement.

Practically all of Mary Lou’s cox-respondents come to her with the datekiss-and-going-steady questions. Frequently parent trouble enters into it. In xxone of the letters has there been any problem involving delixxquency. “I guess if it was like that they wouldn’t write to me,” says Mary Lou. There is never any question about drixxking.

“High school students don’t drink,” states Mary Lou. The odd exception to this rule, in her opinioxx, is found among studexxts who go with an older crowd and think it’s smart. She believes, too, that a boy or girl is more likely to drink if he or she sees drinking iix the home. As for smoking, Mary Lou says, “According to the school board high school students don’t smoke, but they do.” She herself enjoys a moderate use of a popular corktipped brand, carries her own smoothly working lighter.

Even before her syndicate column began Mary Lou’s advice in High News was read and sought after in far places. Among the letters she has received is one from a boy in Loixdon, Eng., who wishes to settle in Canada but needs a sponsor because he’s oixly 17 and another from a Marine in San Francisco who would like to help a pal to make up with his girl. 1

Oixe of the questions most frequently

! asked, not of Mary Lou but about her,

I is “how any high school girl became so j j wise?”

j The answer «to that one seems to he i that Mary Lou is a well-adjusted product of a happy home and school 1 life. Her unsensational story is that j ! she was born in 'Toronto, attended ! i Palmerston Public School where she ! ! consistently headed her class, went j on to Oakwood Collegiate where she sometimes headed the class.

At school she was good in English and music, sang in the choir and in a ; girls’ trio and sextette. At an early age I she won a prize for swimming, played corner-lot baseball with her older brother and his pals, had a try at figure j skating, commenced piano lessons at I nine and was pretty generally busy. At collegiate she became a reporter on the High News, editor of the school j yearbook and secretary of the Student Council. Two years ago she joined the I 'Trinity United Church choir.

1 During her holidays she has done Ontario’s north country pretty thoroughly, has been for three seasons on the council of a summer camp in Muskoka. This last summer she went out on a canoe trip, found herself elected cook for a party of 22. “They seemed to think I was all right,” she laughs, “but then we were hungry enough to eat anything.” Mary Lou’s other domestic accomplishment is knitting. She’s knitted diamond socks by the score, knitted a knee-length sweater for her boy friend, a shortie coat for herself.

Life in a Whirl

Of the influences that molded her . life, Mary Lou has only a little criticism—and that’s about school. “You i have to learn so many things that have I no bearing on actual living . . . 'There’s not enough economics and : household science, no training in a specific trade or in public relations. ; 'There should he more of the things : that help you when you get out in the world.”

For her home life, Mary Lou has nothing but praise. Her parents (her : father is an insurance man) married young—they were 19 and 20. “My brother and I came along soon after,” says Mary Lou, “and the four of us j grew up together. We go golfing and j bowling and we play bridge.”

It wasn’t till she began writing “Cupid Counsel” that things really began to happen to Mary Lou. High News sent her on a flying trip to Mont; i real where she had a mid-air interview I with Barbara Ann Scott.

Almost simultaneously one national I magazine and one digest magazine decided she was good story material and that sent Mary Lou on a whirl lo j the bright lights. First exciting moment j was when a friend who worked on the 1 digest called her, broke the news which i she had seen on an advance copy of the ' magazine, that Mary Lou was going to New York, would broadcast on “We, the People,” a radio program featuring people with remarkable jobs or stories to tell.

High News heralded her newest exploit with a front-page three-column headline “Mary Lou ‘Up in the Clouds’ Again—Now It’s New York for Broadcast.”

Out of that trip came the contract which in the matter of widespread readership may put her in a class with the most popular women writers on the continent. What she’s going to do with the money, Mary Lou hasn’t decided. What she’s going to do with her life is all settled. He’s good-looking. He’s a high school graduate. He’s going to be a newspaperman. -Ar