Read Excerpt: 'Beyond the Cleavage' by Raquel Welch

Months later, when Jim finally did come back home, I couldn't wait to see him. There I was, along with his mother and three sisters— Jan, Jerry, and Judy—waiting dockside to watch his ship come in. The Portuguese tuna clipper ambled sluggishly into sight looking like anything but a pleasure cruiser. But when I spotted Jim on deck, he was quite a sight for sore eyes. He was all tan and lean and muscled up from pulling those giant tuna nets aboard. He had also grown a rather dashing goatee and looked, for all the world, like John Derek in a pirate movie. Well, it was all over for me. I kept thinking what beautiful children we could make together. And I got my way. I dropped out of college, and we were married in Las Vegas. His mother, Tahnee, was there with us at the ceremony. We had her blessing. My mother was less than thrilled. My father was furious!

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.

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