Young Motherhood in DC's "Enter Marriage... Exit Romance!"
I am always intrigued by the '60s and '70s romance stories that involve young mothers, and there are actually quite a few. One, "Enter Marriage... Exit Romance!" from Young Romance #159 (April/May 1969) (with art that appears to be by Win Mortimer and Vince Colletta) features the plight of new wife and mom, Maria.
Awoken by the alarm clock, Maria is shaken from a frightful dream in which she and husband Billy are kissing passionately one moment, and torn apart the next. 5 AM has arrived, and with it, the responsibilities of the day.
Billy kisses their newborn and heads off to work. Though she knows Billy is a good father, Maria is saddened by his casual goodbye to her.
As the morning continues, Maria does her housework. Washing dishes, scrubbing floors, and folding laundry doesn't thrill Maria in the slightest. As she watches a show on television she reminisces what her and Billy's love life was like, before the drudgery of everyday life and caring for a baby set in.
Maria takes the baby out for a stroll to try to get in a better mood, but seeing a pair of lovebirds just makes her feel worse. She and Billy had what they had... before.
Maria loves her daughter, but she can't help but feel some resentment towards her.
When Billy arrives home that evening, Maria attempts to give him a taste of their romantic past. Billy resists her attempts at romance, citing fatigue and hunger. Billy is content with their situation, but Maria longs for more. When she volunteers to head back to work so Billy doesn't have to work so hard, she is quickly shot down -- Maria's place is in the home.
After her family goes to sleep, Maria flips through a photo album of her and Billy from when they were dating. She cries to herself:
"What's happened to our romance, Billy? Was everything that happened before we were married -- just a dream? And everything that's happening now --real?"
Time passes and nothing changes at home. Maria starts to look for thrills elsewhere, and one evening goes out bowling with her girlfriends. Maria has a great time and convinces the girls to stay out late -- 3 AM late!
The elation of the evening quickly vanishes when a neighbor alerts Maria that Billy had to rush the baby to the hospital. Maria feels terrible that she went out with her friends instead of staying at home.
For hours, Maria prays that their baby will live. Thankfully, Dina pulls through and it is in those hours at the hospital that Maria "...changed from child to woman." Maria tells Billy that she has learned her lesson -- love is stronger than romance.
Besides the effective art of "Enter Marriage... Exit Romance!", I think Maria's hesitation towards motherhood is believable, as are her feelings concerning the downward spiral that is her love life. I think many of us have definitely been there and can relate.
From today's perspective, we may be inclined to think that Billy is a jerk for not allowing Maria to work outside the home and that her guilt over her evening out is over-the-top. However, it is important to remember that this story was published in 1969 and Second-wave feminism was still making its way into the national consciousness. As we can see with this particular story, romance comics were clearly a reflection of the ongoing pressures experienced by mid-century women.