By marrying Jim, I was doing something for my own personal satisfaction and pretty much in defiance of my father's wishes. What I didn't anticipate was how a series of events would dovetail together and forever complicate my life. Jim and I were just settling into an apartment together and tackling the realities of married life: he was looking for a job, and I was calling my mother ten times a day for recipes and tips on cleaning products. However, my string of beauty titles was still generating enough heat and momentum to land me a regular stint on the local news channel, KFMB in San Diego, as the weather girl. It was a popular morning show called Sun Up and a great opportunity I didn't want to miss. So I didn't mind that I had to rise and shine each morning at 5 AM and leave early to tape the show.

Then, while I was still learning on the job how to report on the barometric pressure and describe cold fronts for the morning news, I started waking up to bouts of morning sickness! What a shock! That wasn't much fun. It was only a few months into the marriage and—bam!—I became pregnant, first with my son, Damon, and two years later with my daughter, Tahnee. Needless to say, Dad was even more pissed off than ever, and a period of estrangement between us kicked in.

I had dreams of using the recent exposure I'd gathered to start building an acting career, but now I could feel my resolve was crumbling. A girl can't live on professional ambitions alone. I hadn't counted on this unexpected turn. In fact, no one had anticipated where my strong emotional attachment to Jim would lead, and most of my inner circle was shocked to see my plans go so far off course. But at the heart of my feminine soul I still felt that we were destined to be together. It would take more than a little nausea to shake my commitment. I had to see this thing through. And, happily, we had two adorable, healthy children. In fact, even my father's heart softened when he finally saw them. It was love at first sight.

Some might look at our union as a dreadful mistake. I used to think so myself at times, but in the final analysis it was truly a blessing. I knew that I had a decision to make. Was I to focus on my relationship with Jim and make a life with him, or was I to follow my ambitions for a career? The feminism of the '60s hadn't hit yet, but that didn't matter. I had never thought of asking for a consensus to follow my own mind, heart, and gut. Those were my willful days. The result was I had my first child at nineteen.

Even so, the birth of my two children had stopped me cold, and it took me a while to regain my equilibrium. I was forced to take a step back and reassess my whole life. Only it wasn't just mine anymore; it was ours. I still imagined that Jim and I could move forward together, with our children, but that was not to be.

Is Helen Gurley Brown's promise of "having it all" an idle one? Under the circumstances then, how could I hope for that? How could I be true to my biological destiny and my loving feminine nature and also not defect from my personal calling? As things evolved, opportunities did come a-knocking from Hollywood, but I wanted to go to New York and do theater. However, Jim had his own ideas, and unfortunately they didn't include either option for me. The breach that grew between us over the next few years gave me the license to gather up my two kids and leave my hometown and my marriage behind. But I didn't make it to New York. Moving to the Big Apple was an expensive proposition and with two children would prove too difficult. I had started to save money from modeling jobs for the airfare, but my locker at work was broken into and my money stolen. This setback was too much for me. I took it as an omen and changed my destination to Los Angeles, where at least I wouldn't have to acquire an entirely new wardrobe for four different seasons and worry about where my kids would play. As a Southern California girl, I didn't even own a winter coat.

My breakup with Jim remains the most painful decision of my entire life. For our children's sake, I should have stayed. Kudos to my mother on that score. C. S. Lewis wrote that you "stand taller when you bow." But I wasn't in the bowing mood. People talk about "falling in love," but there is also a will to love, which is what it all boils down to after the honeymoon is over. At our painfully young age, we didn't have the serious relationship tools to manage that kind of love. Those qualities come with a maturity that I couldn't even dream of possessing at the time. We were both just too damn young.

That doesn't, however, excuse me. The damage I did to my children and Jim by taking off as I did is immeasurable. It would take a whole book to get into it. I have no defense for my foolishness, except to say that I was young and pigheaded. My children are the best thing in my life . . . that I haven't done. Their good character, resourcefulness, and talents are all to their own credit. More on that subject later, when I can delve a bit further into motherhood.  
From Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage by Raquel Welch (April 1, 2010); reprinted with permission from the publisher.


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