Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Back (too) many years ago when I was in college I was friends with a stoner named Willie.  I had bought a cheap television for ten bucks for my dorm room to watch late night horror films and Willie thought that was a great idea and so he bought one for his room.  Now, if you're a stoner, television takes on a whole new dimension.  The only station Willie could get on his set (because he didn't spring for cable) was the local one out of Scottsbluff, Nebraska.  Willie's favorite was The Lawrence Welk Show because he was fascinated with how many weeks Welk could go without changing the set (the record, I believe, was five weeks).  This local station ran on a shoestring and aired mainly syndicated shows and old black and white educational videos.  And so it was that one day Willie came to me all excited because he had seen this remarkably cheesy show about Susie and her grandmother.  As Willie told me, the show ran thusly:

Susie was a beautiful, personable, intelligent high school girl who went to Grandma with a problem -- she couldn't seem to attract the attention of any boys.  Grandma said, let's see if we can figure out the reason why.  She asked Susie how long it takes for her to decide on her wardrobe each morning.  About fifteen minutes, Grandma, Susie said.  And how long does it take you to get washed up each morning?  Again Susie said, about fifteen minutes.  Then Grandma asked, and how long does it take you to get your hair done each morning?  About fifteen minutes, Grandma.  And how much time do you spend putting on make-up?  About fifteen minutes.  Then Grandma's voice changed and got a bit sharper:  And how long do you spend brushing your teeth each morning?  I'd guess about five minutes, Grandma.  AHA! said Grandma triumphantly (and perhaps wagging her finger -- Willie didn't specify), "Equal time for equal jobs!"  Problem then presumably resolved.

I mention all of the above because Susie's Grandma reminds me of Mrs. Rock, the advice specialist who manages to solve the personal romantic problems of young girls who seek her out.  (Mrs. Rock, a plump older woman with glasses*, has an office from which she spews out her advice, although I'll be damned if I know her job title.)  In addition to the illustrated stories, this issue of My Personal Problem has several pages of letters supposed from young people seeking help for their personal problems. (I'm fat, I'm ugly, my ex-boyfriend still has my class ring, how do I know what the right perfume for me is, am I coming on too hard with this girl I like, my boyfriend likes sports more than he likes me, my boyfriend is going into the Air Force and I wonder if I should stay true to him -- So many personal problems!)

In "Date-Breaker," Jim is a selfish creep who keeps breaking dates with trusting and not very bright Anne; usually Jim breaks a date to go dogging after other girls.  Mrs. Rock suggests that Anne keep out of Jim's life until he shows he can change his ways.  Dog in the manger Jim shows what a cad he is so Anne settles happily for Peter.  Take that, Jim!

Mrs. Rock doesn't appear in the next story, "Bewildered Rival."  Beautiful Betty has fallen in love with Freddie (who in the first panel looks grotesquely evil and/or grotesquely constipated...and why is he shown with such a grotesquely large head!).  Freddie, however, is also in love with his Mom and Mom is in love with Freddie.  Can this triangle be resolved?  And can Freddie and Betty live happily with Freddie's father who shows up after having walked out on Freddie and his mother when Freddie was just a baby?  This family takes the fun out of dysfunctional.

Mrs. Rock returns to help Judy Peal in "What's Happened to Us?"  Judy is a selfish bitch (Mrs. Rocjk would say a misguided soul who had misapplied her energies) who has brought her marriage to the brink by wasteful spending, ignoring her husband, and unfounded jealousy.  But Judy has now discovered her own failings and Mrs. Rock suggests that she re-adjust herself so that she doesn't repeat her mistakes and that she try to show her husband how much she loves him.  Judy, however is a slow (I would say blundering) learner and it takes a while for Mrs. Rock's advice to bear fruit.

Finally, in "Two for Company, Three for Love," seventeen-year-old Joan's problem is that she loves two boys equally and both have asked her to the graduation dance.  This is not just a first world personal problem, it's a high school first world personal problem.  Mrs. Rock's solution?  Don't see either boy for a week.  By then Joan will have a clearer idea of her decision.  The advice works.  Joan drops both boys and begins seeing a post-grad student (remember, she's still in high school; this isn't Roy Moore territory, but it's getting close) because she let her heart make up her mind for her.  Joan and Mrs. Rock are both pleased, but I fear for Joan's future.

Yes, I fear the road to romance is fraught with dangers.  And personal problems.


*None of the beautiful young and troubled girls who seek out Mrs. Rock wear glasses.  And, unlike Mrs. Rock, they all (with the exception of Betty in whose tale Mrs. Rock is absent) have long hair.

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