Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Loving is Believing - Jealousy in "Free to Love"

Hello there! How are you all doing? I had wanted to post this earlier, but a string of technical difficulties prevented me. Anyhow! As we say goodbye to March and hello to April, let's look at one last story for Women's History Month -- "Free to Love" from Young Love #99 (September 1972). This beautifully illustrated story (which looks to be courtesy of Tony DeZuniga, at least in part) shares a little bit in common with the last story I posted, which prompted some really interesting discussion . "Free to Love," like "Cry Like a Real Girl!" depicts the power of female friendship, and what happens when women work together, as opposed to against one another. However, I think you'll find this story (and the extra added bonus of the quiz that immediately followed) a much more productive representation of the Women's Movement. 

In this "true story," readers are introduced to Gail who is immediately depicted as "a jealous girl." When her friend Eileen comes to town, Gail is certain that upon meeting Eileen, her boyfriend Brent's affections for her are on a downward trajectory. Gail doesn't hesitate one bit to let Eileen know to keep her mitts off Brent.

When Brent takes the two girls out to the theatre and dancing afterward, Gail catapults further into a sour mood. By dancing with Eileen (in his eyes being friendly), Brent has embroiled himself in quite the uncomfortable situation with Gail.

After declaring that he doesn't want to be owned, Brent leaves Gail to stew.

 A few days after the fight, Gail asks Eileen to coffee. Anyone in their right mind knows that a conversation that begins with, "You haven't done anything wrong, not yet! But..." probably won't end well. Eileen socks it to Gail bluntly and instructs her to go to Brent and show him that she has learned to be understanding. But has she?

Nope! The next day when Brent shows up to talk, another fight ensues. By the end of it, Gail accuses Eileen of being vicious and calculating. Brent accuses Gail of making mountains out of molehills, and once again, expresses his need to not feel like he is owned. Needles to say, the two former lovers do not part on good terms.

A week later, Gail stumbles into a horrific scene -- Eileen and Brent hanging out in the park together. Though it seems to be platonic, Gail is beyond hurt. She realizes that she really has lost Brent. She then quits her job, gets a new one, and attempts to forget Brent by dating other guys. Not long after, Eileen drops by. Eileen insists that it isn't she who has hurt Gail, but Gail herself.

The two women then have a heart to heart and Eileen helps Gail realize that she is sorely lacking self-confidence, and in effect, has been led down the path of jealousy.

As a result of their conversation, Gail attempts to be less jealous when out with other men on future dates. One evening while out dancing, Gail bumps into Brent and his date. When alone, Gail sucks it up and wishes Brent the very best with his new lady and hurries off to "powder her nose" (AKA sob into a tree). Brent follows her and tells her she has changed. And clearly, if his kiss is any indicator, he is attracted to that change.

"You see, I knew the secret, then. 
Every grown-up girl knows it. Loving is Believing!
I'll never forget that in the years ahead!"

Following the sequentially illustrated story is the quiz, "Are you Jealous of Other Girls?" I haven't seen this tie-in between a story and a quiz before, so it is rather unique. Click to read in more detail, or take the quiz yourself! 

"Free to Love" is in essence, a cautionary tale. This story (and the ensuing quiz) is interesting because it takes an age old condition of romance -- jealousy, and uses it to sound off about the Women's Movement. "Free to Love" is most certainly a continuation of the recurring theme in 1960s and '70s romance comics that loudly and clearly instructed readers that jealousy would, without a doubt, kill a man's love. Though there is definitely a huge amount of truth to that, I can't help but think that this cautionary framework is somewhat a byproduct of men writing stories for women. What do you think? I'd love to hear! And hear your quiz results of course!


  1. Isn't jealousy unpleasant for everyone concerned 99% of the time?
    Gail was in a relationship, yet she could not get past her insecurities. This was not going to end well. Her friend or a complete stranger could have triggered the same result.
    The quiz seems overly cautionary to me. Are there really that many girls who are so competitive or insecure that they fail to make friends with other girls? I don't recall any girls in high school who didn't have female friends. Even the few girls who were loners or bookish had friends.
    I have noticed that there is an unspoken rule that best friends are not to date an ex. I guess obeying this rule depends on which is more desirable, a long, close friendship or a potential romance...

    1. I think those types of young women are few and far between, but unfortunately they do exist in my experience.

      Yes, that is definitely an unspoken rule -- the girl code. It doesn't ever appear that Eileen broke it, but poor Gail was so worked up I don't think she noticed!

  2. Thanks again, Jacque, for an entertaining and intriguing read.

    I thought I remembered seeing an example before of a romance story and quiz that had a tie-in, so I went back through my (small) collection of 1970s romance comics and found Girls' Love Stories 173. It has a quiz "How to Enjoy Parties," which is immediately followed by a four-page story, "Just Too Shy," in which a young woman is helped by friends to relax and enjoy a party. But the example you feature above is different: there the story is essentially an elaborate set-up for the quiz (the story's intro blurb even tells us so).

    "Free to Love" is an interesting story. The tie-in to the Women's Movement gives it a timely (at least for 1972!) slant and also gives a philosophical context for the theme of a young woman developing greater self-esteem.

    But you bring up a good point, Jacque, when you point out that the story most likely was written by a man. Being a man myself, I'm not sure how the story comes across to a female reader. Does it seem like a lecture on "If you want to keep us, girls, here's how (not) to act"? Or does it seem like helpful advice?

    In passing, I also have to note that Gail is wearing a smashing ensemble in the cover illustration!

    1. Oh yes! Now that you mention it, I do remember reading that one. Thanks, David!

  3. I agree with David - that is indeed a smashing outfit on the cover. And the opening splash page is equally smashing.
    As for the story, yes, it is interesting, but I found it a bit troubling in the same way David mentions, i.e., it seems like yet another admonishment (probably) penned by a man directed at women. Men are just as jealous and possessive (indeed, more so I think).
    And what's the deal with the men in this story pointing out other pretty women and asking Gail what she thinks? How would they like it if she pointed out every good-looking guy, saying something like "wow, isn't he a hunk, don't you think?"

    1. There are a few stories I have read that have the man "test" the woman by asking her her opinion of other women. Is that really something that happens? I certainly hope not!