Career Romances for Young Moderns

Career Romances for Young Moderns were a series of books published from the 1950s-1970s about young women striking out in different career fields. But because these were career romances, the books usually ended when the women gleefully give up their career for a man. The books paint a hilarious picture of a business world that's thankfully out-of-date. They're a little hard to come by today, but can be found in used bookstores and online.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mirror, Mirror

"Mirror, Mirror," by Marjory Hall, 1956

Well-written, again, as all Marjory Hall books are, but Kim is not the world's most likable heroine, and the china business is kind of skated over.

Main character: Kimberly Mason
Career: Some sort of administrative assistant at Lakeland China
Gael's grade: B+

Trauma #1: Kim is unattractive. Not real-life unattractive, but Career Romance for Young Moderns unattractive, which is to say she's not fat, but she has a "too-short, too broad nose," "sallow" skin, and is "moon-faced," with "full and bushy" eyebrows. (Kim thinks plucking her eyebrows is "cheating," but eventually gives in.)

Trauma #2: Kim's jealous of movie-star-beautiful Lisa Enright, daughter of Lakeland China's president. Lisa is "beautiful, slim, and green-eyed, with coppery, curling hair, and was dressed in a faultlessly tailored copper-colored linen dress." Of course they become friends, Kim regrets judging Lisa by her cover, and Lisa helps Kim improve her looks with diet and exercise.

There's a great quote that makes it apparent how much dress sizes have enlarged since this book was written. "You wear what -- a sixteen?" Kim says to Lisa. "I think a fourteen would be just right for you." And Lisa replies, bitterly, that she supposes Kim wears twelves. Kim admits she does, but notes that she used to wear an eighteen. (I would guess you knock each of these sizes down about four notches or so in modern-day sizing to get them right. Kim probably wears a modern ten, is my guess, at her chubbiest.)

Trauma #3: Kim's also jealous of ice-princess Christine, another gorgeous Lakeland employee, but soon learns that Christine is uncomfortably aware of how icy she is and is just dying to come out of her snobby shell somehow. She helps Lisa and Kim with their Refine Kim project, but still shocks Kim with her coldness. Then one day, Christine asks Kim to be her roommate. Turns out Christine is secretly married and separated. Scandal!

Trauma #4: Kim is recruited to do a really stupid project and given only a few days to do it. She is told to go to 100 local homes and quiz the women on their china, all while she was hoping to go up to a college for a date weekend...with who, you ask? Why, with "junior class president GEORGE BUSH." Well, that's his name, but he's too nice and smart to be our chief exec, or even his dad. Or even a third cousin thrice removed.

Prince Charming: Kim thinks she likes Roy Severance, a smart-alec Lakeland worker, but it becomes clear that her prince is really tall, broad-shouldered Howie Adams. As Kim's look improve, Roy starts asking her out. When Kim chooses to stay at Lakeland instead of go to college, Howie disapproves.

What's standing in their way?: Turns out Howie is runnin how own Catch Kim campaign, but because he was the sole support of his family, he thought he couldn't date seriously.

How does he come to his senses?: His mother gets started in the dress business and "without my family to support, I can start thinking like a normal guy." And Kim decides to give college a try for a year, since Howie needs that year to make sure Mom's dress shop gets off the ground, so he drives her off to college. As he does so, he tells her he's been given sales territory in San Francisco, "the glamorous Golden Gate city." He pre-asks Kim to marry him, couching it with talk about her getting through college and him making sure his mother's business works. She realizes she has grown more confident when she sees herself making friends with a shy frosh who one year ago, could have been her.

Signs o' the times:
Lisa makes chains of paper dolls when she is looking forward to an event, and rips one of the chain to mark the days passing.

Lisa thinks plucking her eyebrows is "cheating."

Quote that says it all: "You see, Kim, we always think of selling women complete sets of china. ... We think of a bride, hope to start her on a pattern, hope she'll tell her friends what it is and get a lot of it as wedding gifts, and hope she'll add to it as she goes along until she gets a complete set. Then we forget all about her. The production and control people spend all their time making the china harder and more durable every year if possble, so that her chances of breaking pieces get more and more remote. We're like our own worst enemies in a way. What we'd really like, of course, is for her to throw every plate she has in the ashcan once every two or three years and start over, but fine china represents a resonably large investment and naturally we can't really expect our poor bride to do anything so helpful to the business."

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