Afternoon TV Stars May 1974
"I'm just not ready for another man in my life…”
By Linda Rosenbaum
Erika Slezak plays Victoria Burke on “One Life To Life”
She's come through a long-run love affair unscarred, and now she's enjoying her single status!
What's a nice, beautiful, intelligent and talented 27-year-old girl like Erika Slezak doing being single? Being very happy and content, thank you.
"I'm enjoying my single status a lot," says Erika emphatically.
For the record, Erika does have a basis for comparison since she was married for a short time when she was in her early twenties, and she recently ended a year-and-a-half romance with her "One Life to Live" co-star, Antony Ponzini, which was as intense as any marriage could be. Neither experience left Erika soured on the institution of marriage, nor on intense relationships for that matter. But she most certainly is relishing her independence and is in absolutely no hurry to change her situation.
"I would like to remarry if I find the right person," says Erika brightly. "But if he never comes along, I will never remarry-it's as simple as that. If the right person came along now, I'd marry him, but I'd rather he didn't come along at least for another year or so. I'm just not ready at the moment-I know that. I can't really explain the reasoning behind this. All I know is that I feel it's necessary for me to be on my own for a while.
"It has absolutely nothing to do with having experienced any great wounds when Tony and I broke up. There were no wounds at all. We're super good friends now-if I ever needed help with anything, I wouldn't hesitate to go to him. But we were wrong for each other. Breaking up was the best thing in the world both for him and for me. We always had and always will have a mutual respect and liking for each other, but we drove each other crazy. Toward the end, we were both very unhappy. I've just had it for a while with living with people and taking care of them. I want to enjoy myself by myself for a while. I love having my own apartment and living here alone."
Although Erika would not hesitate to marry if the right guy came along, she admits that it's almost impossible to feel optimistic about the chances for a marriage to succeed these days. "It really is damn hard to make a successful marriage. It takes a lot of careful thinking and a lot of hard work. You have to really want it to succeed, otherwise there are too many temptations in today's world which will get in the way.
"I don't believe marriage and fooling around go well together. If you're married, you're married. If you want to fool around, why get married? If you feel you can't be faithful to one person, nobody is forcing you to make a commitment to one individual. I suppose there are some people who would not be bothered by an unfaithful spouse, but it would drive me insane. If I'm going to marry a man, I would expect that we plan to be devoted to each other and not bring in others along the way. That's what marriage means.
"I used to be optimistic about the chances for a successful marriage, but slowly my optimism was chipped away because I saw so many failures. But that has to do not with the institution itself, but with the fact that the people involved are not willing to work hard enough at it. Nowadays, what with all the traveling around people do on their jobs, it's so easy to go astray. And there's not even that much stigma connected with it any more, which makes it even easier. It takes a real effort to keep that commitment to another person, but I think it can be well worth it. I want to be married in a very old-fashioned way I suppose-I want to be devoted to my husband and I want him to be devoted to me."
Living in today's world might make being married more difficult than ever before, but Erika also believes it's never been easier to be single, especially if you're a woman. "It's still true that the world is designed for couples, but it's becoming less so," she points out. It's definitely much more accepted these days for a woman to remain single longer than in the past. Or not to get married at all. Years ago, if I were 27 and unmarried, I'd be regarded as well on my way to being an old maid forever. That kind of thing, thankfully, doesn't exist any more. It's absurd. Women are getting married for the first time at 35, 40 or 50 simply because they didn't want to get married before then, that's all."
If ever someone had a good example to model her own marriage after, it would be Erika, whose parents (her dad is famed actor Walter Slezak) have been happily married to each other for 30 years and were never married to anybody else, either.
It's a great compliment to them that they will also serve as Erika's model when it comes to bringing up the children-2 or 3, she says-that she hopes to have one day. For example, Erika believes that at least one parent should be home with the children on a fairly regular basis during the first four or five years of their lives; her own mother permanently retired from a very promising operatic career to raise her family. "My father firmly believes all women should have careers outside the home, except his own wife," Erika laughs. "Actually, my mother and father both believed children of two performers usually suffer tremendously. Because mother gave up her career, she was always free to pack us up -- 'us' being my younger brother Leo, who's now a film director living in Vienna, and my older sister Ingrid, who's married to a doctor and living in Canada with their two children-and follow Dad if he had to be away for a long time. If we couldn't go because of school, sometimes she'd go off without us to visit him, but never for so long that we noticed it particularly."
As did her parents, Erika plans to, encourage her children to choose their own paths. "I truly believe that children should do exactly as they want unless it's sheer craziness," she comments. "Every person has a very individual soul, or spirit. It should not be, crushed by parents who are trying to mold their children into what the want the children to be. A parent can and should guide, but within certain limits. If one of my kids decided he wanted to be a garbage collector, I might ask him to ask himself if he was sure that's what he really wanted to be, but I wouldn't try to stop him. Or if a kid of mine came to me and said he wanted to be an actor, I'd do exactly what my father did with me when I came to him and said that -- I'd tell him all the wretched things about the business as well as the good things, an then tell him to go ahead with it.
"Basically I plan to raise my children the same way my parents raised the three of us, but not entirely. We were treated as children, not as people, and I would not do that. For example we were not consulted on decisions that would affect us, such as what was for dinner, nor were we asked our opinions about anything. I prefer to talk to children in a way that makes them feel equal to me. Dealing with children on a more adult level helps them to grow up. I was 20 before I dared offer any of my opinions to my parents, which isn t surprising since I'd never been asked for them in all that time. I would ask my children to think for themselves as soon as possible, something my parents' generation did not encourage "
ERIKA SLEZAK, Victoria Riley on "One Life to Live," is the daughter of Walter Slezak. Her parents live in Switzerland. her brother Leo is a film director in Vienna. and her sister Ingrid resides in Canada with her doctor husband and two children. A bachelor girl, Erika shares her New York flat with several dogs and cats.