They come to Toronto by the thousands-girls like Barbara who want three things: a career, a pad and a man
SOME OF THE PRETTIEST GIRLS in Canada walk down Bay Street in Toronto every lunch hour. Some? Hundreds. So many, that it may seem
at first glance that Toronto produces more pretty girls than any other city in Canada.
The fact is, however, that most of them aren’t Toronto girls at all. Most of them are from somewhere else. Most of them are also single. And a good many of them are caught up in a struggle that they never suspected they would ever have to face.
Every year thousands of high-school and college graduates from a multitude of smaller Canadian towns move to this city to test the free, swinging, glamorous challenge of life in a metropolis. Among them last summer was Barbara Fulton, a 21-year-old. 1965 journalism graduate of Carleton University, Ottawa — like the others, not quite
ready to settle down with a husband and a houseful of appliances.
For the majority of college girls who come to the city — the bright, well-dressed, sort of hip girls who seem to have everything going for them — Toronto is a rather special land of opportunity. Closer to home than Europe, and less of a jungle than New York, it is the Canadian home base of such “glamorous” industries as publishing, advertising and television.
The creative nature of these industries might be enough in itself. But there is another big attraction as well: they simply crawl with bright, ambitious young men, eligible men. And a girl who has spent four years developing her mind, her taste for the finer, hipper things of life — a girl like that just knows she can land a prestigious job (well, a .ve/n/'-prestigious job anyway) among the
kind of people she would like to meet — and be.
Her first impression of Toronto is even better than she had imagined. High-rise apartment buildings, such as the Village Green and 100 Roehampton, abound in saunas, swimming pools, breakfast parties and all kinds of single, peer people with glamorous jobs.
There are pop art galleries, cinema clubs, theatres, and the yellow pages of the phone directory list 213 publishers, l 12 public-relations firms, 148 advertising agencies, plus the gigantic manfilled CBC.
The famous Penny Farthing, possibly the only coffee house on the continent with a swimming pool, is just one of several people-watching sidewalk cafés, and at the Place Pigalle, an alwaysof
it is respectable to talk
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Finding fun is easy-finding a man takes a little ingenuity
to strange men because they are sure to have read Kafka and Camus — and, besides, nobody is dressed up or looks on the prowl.
The only trouble with this initial impression of “a big, wide, wonderful city just waiting for me,” is finding out that it isn t. The first shock comes when she discovers, to her astonishment, that neither employers nor employment agencies are impressed by her college degree.
“Most college girls think the BA is the ticket to a glamorous job,” says Diane Freedman, career counselor at a Toronto personnel office. “But a degree isn’t such a big thing — BAs can’t type and they don’t even have office experience.”
It didn’t take Barbara Fulton long to realize that prospective employers were more interested in her manual skills than her journalistic mind. One employment agency, unable to place her in advertising or public relations, offered her a receptionist job with their own organization. Barbara accepted — it meant promotion to a counseling position within a year. But an oflice reshuffle in the firm resulted in her being laid oil before the year was up — because she didn’t know shorthand.
It’s a big drop from the top of the academic ladder to the bottom of the business world. One political-science major, forced to begin as a secretary, says. “The only thing that saved me was knowing that l didn't need this place or any place. After four years of scholarships, there I was trying to fill a stapler for my boss. I used to tell myself. ‘I can and will walk away from this, away from being servile.’ ”
For most, it’s “servility” — and even the very
most, word “secretary” — that /
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“It’s as if I’m the only virgin here”
rankles. A secretary is not a girl who can discuss Erich Fromm or analyze the political structure of Tanzania. “The girls flip when I tell them that,” comments Diane Freedman. “Some get indignant, some belligerent, some feel reduced to nothing.”
“I can’t accept starting at the bottom,” says Barbara Fulton, echoing the sentiments of everybody else. “I want to be doing something glamorous right now.”
Beginning salaries for secretaries seldom cover the rent in a high-rise apartment building. Not until they start looking do girls from out of town suspect how difficult it is to find a nice, clean, modern place to live, at a reasonable price, in downtown Toronto. Barbara found it easier at first to move into the Student Co-op, a string of old houses near the University of Toronto campus. “It’s a great place to meet people,” she says. “The street is full of students and grads and frat houses.”
Ironically, for a girl who has enough money to move immediately into one of those breakfast-party apartments, making new friends is not quite so simple. “There are lots of single people in my apartment building,” says Catherine Broderick, a University of British Columbia graduate working as a copywriter at Eaton’s. “But you never see them, except coming and going in the lobby or on the elevators. People in Toronto don’t seem cold — they are just involved in their own lives and don’t have the time.”
Another Vancouver girl has seemingly infallible methods for meeting respectable, desirable men. “I read The Intelligent Woman’s Guide To Man-Hunting, by Dr. Albert Ellis.” she says. “He believes it’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to select the man she wants and then pick him up.
“So I went to an exhibition of mobiles at the Toronto Art Gallery, picked out an interesting, intellectuallooking man, and swung a mobile in his face. We went out for dinner — and he’s still one of my good friends.
“Then I heard that lots of single men go to the symphony concerts at Massey Hall — and not too many single girls. One night I went to the symphony by myself and at intermission I was just standing there, outside the men’s washroom, and this man came over and said hello. He turned out to be an English professor. At least, when you meet men this way, they are less likely to be married.”
This is another shock. Far too many of the bright, ambitious, good-looking young men a girl meets, especially through her job, are already married. “It bothered me at first, seeing what went on with the married men and single girls in the office,” says Leslie Lander, a sociology major from McMaster. “But now. I’ve sort of mellowed. I figure, ‘Live and let live,’ as long as I stay away from it myself.”
“I’m glad I’m on the single side,” says a girl who made it into the creative department of an advertising agency. “At 1.30 a.m., after an evening of dinner and drinking — he must have spent $60 — he called his wife to pick him up at the subway.”
For some, there is an additional moral compromise. “I feel so pressured to lose my virginity,” says one 21-year-old raised in a small Ontario town. “Everything I read — Sex And The Single Girl, Irving Layton’s poetry, all the women’s magazines — seem to be pushing me toward this. 1 couldn’t have thought of it at home — it was the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. But in Toronto, I feel as if I’m the only virgin around. I feel as if I’m wasting.”
Although most of the girls do learn to take the job problem, man problem and moral problem in stride, somehow the hardest reality to face is the real purpose of their having come to the city: growing up.
“I wanted to find out how independent I actually was,” says Barbara Fulton. “As it turned out, I was — and I wasn’t. It was tiresome when the bills started coming in, and I had to pay them. I just hadn’t realized how much it costs to live, and then I suddenly felt very sorry for my father.”
“I wanted freedom,” says Catherine Broderick. “So I spent three days on the train from Vancouver and here it is — freedom. There’s no one to tell you what time to come home. It’s a funny feeling.”
One 25-year-old believes that almost anybody, anywhere, experiences these feelings at some time in life. “But it’s more dramatic when you live far from your home,” she says. “Even if you have found very good friends, gone through an extremely close love affair — or something like that — there is nothing quite like your family. Some girls go back home three or four times, but after a while, there’s no point. Everything, and everybody, seems different.”
Most stay in Toronto. Once a girl has stepped out into the world on her own, it sometimes requires more courage for her to admit she can’t take it than it does to take it. As Barbara Fulton says, “Going home would be like moving a step backward. I really miss my family, and I do spend a lot of money on long-distance calls, but I think I’ve had all the guidance they can give me.
“Now I have to develop as a person on my own — no matter what.” ★
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