Mary Jo Shively
Part Calico Choir Girl, Part Satin Dance Hall Doll
With A Dash of Hellcat Red In Her Hair
Mary Jo Shively is a devoted mother, a meticulous worker, and a loyal friend -- and probably the character whose personality changes the most during the course of the series. During the first season, the newly divorced Mary Jo is extremely shy and easily intimidated. However, as her dealings with her children, men and the business world start to bring her out of her shell, Julia Sugarbaker seems to be her biggest influence. By Season Seven, she has studied under "The Terminator" and can easily give Julia a run for her money.
Mary Jo was raised in Franklin, Kentucky, where her father, Davis Jackson, was a veterinarian and her mother a housewife. She has an older brother, Skip -- who made her life miserable by calling her Mary Joseph and treating her like the brother he would have preferred -- and a sister, Patty. Her parents divorced after Mary Jo was grown and out of the house, but she still had a very difficult time with their separation.
After her own divorce, Mary Jo slowly learns to assert herself and develop a very strong personality. Every bit as passionate about her convictions as Julia, Mary Jo has greater difficulty discerning and expressing her beliefs. She reluctantly, but eloquently, champions the issues of safe sex and birth control at her daughter's school.
Mary Jo attended college and minored in French art. She and Ted Shively, her ex-husband, grew up together and married very young. Like many other women, she tried to live her life through him. Due to poor undergraduate grades, Ted was forced to attend medical school in Guadalajara. They moved there when Mary Jo was six months pregnant with their first child, Claudia Marie. Mary Jo financed Ted's medical education by working as a file clerk during the day and waitressing at night. Ted used his leisure time to have affairs with other women. When Ted graduated, they returned to the States and he opened a gynecological practice. It was during this time that the couple occupied an apartment next door to Charlene Frazier and the two ladies formed their close friendship. Although Mary Jo was the spouse who actually filed for divorce, Ted let her know he wanted it in a hundred little ways --- he had a hundred little affairs. Their second child, Quinton, had been born by this time. Mary Jo sued for child support, but accepted no alimony.
It takes a great deal of courage for Mary Jo to go out on her first date after her divorce. Suzanne sets her up with J.D. Shackleford, a talent scout for the Atlanta Braves. J. D. is also recently divorced with three children. Almost the complete opposite of Ted, he and Mary Jo develop a mutually supportive relationship which lasts several years. They eventually reach a point where it is either time to marry or break up. They decide to split up, but still remain close friends, and then J. D. loses his job in Atlanta and relocates to Cincinnati.
Over the course of seven years, Mary Jo seems to lose many of her inhibitions. We know that she can't drink, but we also see her go to bizarre lengths to get men, use a client's home and clothes to fool an old rival, obnoxiously flaunt different breast sizes in consideration of implants, and just generally express her opinion no matter how wildly inappropriate or insulting it may be. Mary Jo has a wisecracking mouth --- never missing a chance to poke fun at co-workers Suzanne and Allison or share stories of her children's behavior issues.
With the exception of J. D., she doesn't seem to find much luck in the dating game --- often prompting her to wonder if she's cursed to be alone or date losers. Occasionally she chooses to date men who are not even in her intellectual ballpark --- defending her actions in the name of women's liberation and preaching that women are allowed to date younger or shallow sex objects as equally as men do. It almost is as though she is going through a mid-life crisis, exhibiting the same outrageous behavior that many men do at her age.
By the end of the series, Mary Jo is feeling the urge to become a mother again and is attempting to become pregnant through artificial insemination.
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