July, 1976


Soap Opera Serials


Mary Hartman: Where Is Romance When You Really Need It?


By Joy Martin


Mary Hartman is not a woman to be envied. Not only must she cope with crisis within her marriage, she has to find the courage and patience to help those who come to her for support in their own problems. Through it all she fights to keep from breaking down completely because there is no one she can count on to pick up the pieces after it’s all over.


Her husband Tom has not been true to his role as life’s companion to Mary. His insensitivity to Mary’s needs has left her with feelings of angry frustration at being unable to communicate with him. His selfishness and lack of consideration make him a man hardly worthy of Mary’s great love.


For nearly two months Tom expressed no desire for Mary. Confused and hurt, Mary tried to coax him into making lover to her, and he flatly rejected her advances. When asked why he was behaving so coldly, he explained that it turned him off when Mary made the first move, and that the best thing she could do if she wanted him to make love to her was to do nothing.


Inside, though, Tom wondered if, perhaps, there weren’t something wrong with him—it couldn’t be that he was just getting old. After all, his neighbor and best friend Charlie Haggers claimed to have wonderful relations with his lovely young wife, and Charlie was even older than Tom. No, there was nothing wrong with Tom—it had to be Mary. There was simply something not terribly appealing about a wife who concerned herself with the waxy yellow buildup on her floors and who blamed him for everything wrong in the world. Such a woman could not possibly find time to appreciate Tom and understand his moods.


But Mae Olinski could. Every man in the factory wanted to get his hands on Mae—and since Mae was a divorcee they all figured it would be a cinch—but she seemed to have her eyes mostly on Tom these days. Tom found out just how easy it was to spend the night with Mae. She knew how to appreciate a man.


When Mary found out, she was furious. But that didn’t bother Tom—he had proved his point. In fact, seeing Mary in a state of rage rekindled his old desire for her and at last, after two months spent practically as strangers, Mary and Tom eased into each other’s arms.


Their happiness was short-lived, for Tom soon learned from Mae that he had contracted a social disease from her, which he had, in turn, passed on to his wife. Mary threw him out of the house when she found out. Tom pleaded with her to allow him to return home, but Mary was determined that they remain separated. He finally won her over with a dinner he cooked, accented by champagne and candlelight.


But things were never quite the same anymore. Mae was a constant presence in their house, and when she attempted suicide under their very own roof, Mary decided it was time to try to get Mae to go back to her husband. The results of this attempted reconciliation between Mae and Mike were disastrous. Tom was so displeased with Mary’s meddling, he sought a legitimate way to spend less time with her. He accomplished this by winning a seat on his union’s grievance committee. This guaranteed evenings away from his wife.


Yet with all the unhappiness she has to deal with within her own family, Mary must also be there with a sympathetic ear when her friends come to her with their problems. Loretta Haggers, her next-door neighbor and best friend, was involved in a near-fatal car crash which left her paralyzed and put her future as a country-western superstar in serious doubt. Astronomical hospital bills, plus the legal fees involved in a malpractice suit, plunged her and her husband deeply into debt and nearly caused them to lose their home. But through her uncompromising faith in the Lord, and with Mary’s help and her husband Charlie’s unending devotion, she soon learned to walk again. Her music began to be heard on the radio, and her records began to sell, and the future looked rosy indeed when disaster struck once more. Unbeknownst to Loretta, Charlie had been married for a short time fifteen years ago, and his ex-wife Muriel was about to come back into the picture, bitter over the past and intent on destroying Charlie’s marriage with Loretta. She claimed that many years ago, Charlie had thrown a pan of hot bacon grease in her face, scarring her for life, and that she now wanted some kind of compensation for her suffering. Charlie denied everything. Loretta doesn’t know who to believe and it appears that one more marriage is headed for some stormy times.

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