Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

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Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an Off-Broadway production of the same name!


Posts Tagged ‘age’

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

we are useful, happy, well-adjusted individualsQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am about to enter my eighteenth year. Upon realizing this threshold, it seems I have developed a fear of actually being “a grown woman.” Even at the age of technical womanhood, I doubt that I’ll feel like I’m responsible or mature enough to think of myself as anything but a little girl. Can you help? With hopes of glamourous adulthood,


A Dear Amyliz:

Whoever said you have to grow up by a certain age? At thirty-two, I’m still not convinced I’m mature, or ever want to be. I still watch Sesame Street. I’d rather shop for toys than clothing. I wish we had nap time at work. Is that so wrong?

Maturity comes in different flavors for different people; you just need to find your own way, glamourous or not. And now onto the old advice ~ here are some additional thoughts about growing up from the one and only Pat Boone, from ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty .

1958: Do It Yourself

What does it really mean to ‘grow up?’

Did you ever think it meant a kind of a Cloud Nine existence where you could run your own show in your own way. Well, ’tain’t so! Remember the wisdom offered by a father whose son wanted to know: ‘When will I be old enough to do as I please?’ And the old man replied: ‘I don’t know. Nobody every lived that long.’

That’s about the size of it.

Our physical growth ~ height, hands, feet (especially feet!) ~ is miraculously taken care of whether we cooperate or not. But the growth we have to concern ourselves with is strictly the do-it-yourself kind. To be really grown-up is to arrive at maturity.

I think we have today potentially the brightest, nicest, most advanced teen-agers ever. Such an authority as Heman G. Stark, Director of the State of California Youth Authority, agrees with this. Says Mr. Stark: ‘On the basis of my thirty years’ experience, I’d say . . . the teen-agers of today are stronger, smarter, more self-sufficient, and more constructive than any other generation of teen-agers in history.’

The big question is, is he talking about a group? Or about you? You can ask, ‘Who, us?‘ Or, ‘Who, me?

Your individual growth toward maturity is what you personally are doing to fulfill your all-around potential. The dictionary describes maturity as ‘a state or quality of full development.’

Then a mature person will be the one who has made the most of himself in all departments. A mature teen-ager will be the one who is least distorted by those four teen-age symptoms we mentioned, and can live comfortably and harmoniously with himself and the world. In other words when, at any age, we are useful, happy, well-adjusted individuals, able to give as much as we get ~ we are mature!

Source: Boone, Pat. ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty: Pat talks to Teenagers. Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1958.
~ pp. 38-39 ~

Respect Your Elders, You Little Punk!

Monday, August 16th, 2010

his opinions are crudeQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I want to know if you’re over one hundred because this site is making me fall asleep like my grandma makes me do. So, are you over one hundred? Do you wear dentures, or do you prefer a wig?

Old Lady Hater

A Dear Hater:

Tsk, tsk. I’m ashamed of you, young man. Just because I’m thirty four doesn’t mean you can treat me with such rudeness. This little excerpt from Everyday Manners for American Boys and Girls ~ published in 1923 by the “Faculty of the South Philadelphia High School for Girls” ~ should whip you into shape. If you’re too young to understand all of the big words that they use, perhaps you can ask grandma to help?

1923: Manners with Older People

Be especially courteous when conversing with older people. Never interrupt them, and if asked to impress yourself, do so with modesty. A really clever young person knows that his opinions are crude and worth little besides those of more experienced men and women. It shows stupidity as well as rudeness to assert yourself loudly and perhaps contradict flatly what other people have said. You many not agree with them, but listen very courteously to what they have to say; and, if asked your opinion, give it very simply and deferentially.

Notice the needs of older people and be quick in meeting them. If a glove or a ball of worsted is dropped, or if some one mislays his or her glasses or feels a draught from a window, pick up the glove or ball, find the glasses, or close the window without waiting to be asked.

The giving of such attention to older people is a duty of girls as well as of boys.

Source: Faculty of the South Philadelphia High School for Girls. Everyday Manners. New York: Macmillan Company, 1923.
~ pp. 23-24 ~


Sunday, August 15th, 2010

the phlegmatic man will live longerRoad trip to Buffalo! I am heading out this week to visit dear old dad and sweet Grandma Rose, who turns 88 next month (Happy Birthday!). Her youthfulness got me thinking ~ will I be grow to be that age? Will I have her fabulous health and sense of humor? Is my career affecting my longevity? While searching for the answers, I found this helpful table from Light on Dark Corners.

By the way, this book was published in 1911, the year that Grandma was born. I’m going to have to ask her if she knows what those “Coopers,” “Calico Printers,” and “Operatives” doexactly.

1911: Longevity

The following table exhibits very recent mortality statistics, showing the average duration of life among persons of various classes:

Employment. Years.
Judges…………………. 65
Farmers……………….. 64
Bank Officers…………. 64
Coopers……………….. 58
Public Officers………… 57
Clergymen…………….. 56
Shipwrights……………. 55
Hatters…………………. 54
Lawyers……………….. 54
Rope Makers…………… 54
Blacksmiths……………. 51
Merchants………………. 51
Calico Printers…………. 51
Physicians……………… 51
Butchers……………….. 50
Carpenters……………… 49
Masons………………… 48
Traders…………………. 46
Tailors…………………. 44
Jewelers……………….. 44
Manufacturers…………. 43
Bakers…………………. 43
Painters………………… 43
Shoemakers……………. 43
Mechanics……………… 43
Editors…………………. 40
Musicians……………… 39
Printers………………… 38
Machinists……………… 36
Teachers……………….. 34
Clerks………………….. 34
Operatives……………… 32

It will be easily seen, by these figures, how a quiet or tranquil life affects longevity. The phlegmatic man will live longer, all other things being equal, than the sanguine, nervous individual. Marriage is favorable to longevity, and it has also been ascertained that women live longer than men.

Source: Jefferis, B. G., and J. L. Nichols. Search Lights, or, Light on Dark Corners. Naperville, Ill.: J. L. Nichols & Co., 1911.
~ pp. 367 ~

To Retain Youthful Looks

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

wisdom comes with yearsPlease join me in celebrating my Grandma Rose’s birthday! She’s the most wonderful, joyful Grandma in the whole wide world, and maker of some pretty dang perfect mashed potatoes and the best grilled cheese sandwiches that I’ve ever had. Here’s a tidbit from a book titled How to Secure a Beautiful Complexion and Beautiful Eyes, published in the year of Grandma’s birth. It seems quite fitting, considering that she doesn’t look a day over seventy.

1911: To Retain Youthful Looks

Countless fortunes have been spent in searching for the Fountain of Youth, but never will this fountain be found until the searcher looks within. The secret lies there, open to the gaze of him who knows how to search, but, like all of nature’s secrets, it can not be purchased with money.

Birth is usually regarded as the beginning of life, and death as its end, but this is a mistaken view. The process of life is going on continuously; every second, every minute, every hour of the day we are casting off old material with every exhalation, and drawing in new material with every inhalation; it is a perpetual ‘beginning and ending during the whole of life. Every draught of water swallowed, every particle of food eaten, helps to keep this process of change in constant operation. Our hair, flesh, teeth, bones and every part of our bodies is practically renewed every few months, but so gently and so subtly does this change take place that we never become aware of it.’ . . .

When your birthday comes around do not sign over the fact that you are a year older; think rather with pleasure of all that has been accomplished during the year past and make plans for the year coming.

The thought that your body is a year older than last birthday is not correct; it is rather like a river, the waters of which rush rapidly onward and will never be seen again, yet the river remains, its waters continue to flow; they are constantly new waters, but the river is the same, rushing towards the sea with the same vigor, though centuries pass away.

Nature will attend to the changes with little help on your part, but you are the architect and must furnish the material. Every one can be master of his own body and has it within his power to make whatsoever alterations he desires. Mind does control matter and wisdom comes with years.

Source: Clarke, James J. How to Secure a Beautiful Complexion and Beautiful Eyes. Chicago: Advanced Thought Publishing, 1911.
~ pp. 92-93 ~

A Morning Revelation About Dating

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

In all your sex life take Christ with youQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Being an aged person of fifteen, I had thought I had a great deal of experience with relationships. However, this morning I realized that I had NEVER HAD A BOYFRIEND! NOBODY asks me out. I am really desperate to know why ~ I am pretty okay looking if I do say so myself, I smell ok. I am not too painfully shy, and I am not a tomboy. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!! Is there something I’m not noticing that is turning guys off? Or am I just a late starter? Most of my friends have boyfriends.

Sophie, Desperate and Dateless

A Dear Sophie:

You poor girl! You might as well give up. I mean, if you haven’t had a boyfriend yet, I doubt you’ll ever get one.

You know I’m kidding, right?

Thank you. Now let’s get down to business. If you just relax and think about this period in your life as a good thing, a time to focus on you, I’m sure you’ll find true love and happiness when you’re, like, sixteen or seventeen. Here are some tips from a book called Christian Girl’s Problems. The advice of author Bertrand Williams, according to the flap copy, is “based upon the Word of God and the power of Christ’s blood to cleanse the heart which accepts Him by faith,” so I’m sure he can help.

1943: Dating the Boys

‘How early shall I date the boys?’ you ask. Well, let me tell you about Sandra, the cutest little thirteen-year-old you ever laid eyes on. She had dark olive skin, bold brown eyes, blue-black curly hair that hung in ringlets, and had a flair for wearing the smart clothes her parents provided. Sandra attracted the boys when she was thirteen and these boys ~ some of whom were eighteen or more ~ wanted dates, but Sandra’s Sunday school teacher had been her confidante and they talked it over.

‘If you save your dates until you are older, won’t you get a grander thrill out of the first experience?’ asked Sandra’s teacher. And together they arrived at the conclusion that if she waited until sixteen for her first date, and made herself attractive by building a beautiful body and becoming glamorous in the truly Christian sense, she would build a better foundation for young womanhood.

True enough, when she was sixteen, a neighbor boy saw her, loved her deeply, dated her, and for the next two years, until he was out of college, they were true lovers. The first and only boy Sandra ever kissed, outside of her family, was this lad she married last spring just before he went to the army camp.

She said, ‘I never played around with all the boys in town, and I might have missed something, but you would have a hard time convincing me that I am not better off for having loved only my Dirk.’

Don’t date too early, and don’t become serious in your girlhood. By all means keep the boys at their distance, and when you finally date, keep your kisses as a sacred trust. Pawing and petting are out for the Christian girl who would hold her body in readiness as a gift to the lad she is to marry.

Treat your sex urges rightly while you are young, and they will be a great source of pleasure throughout life, but debase them while you are young, and they will collect a toll of tragedy for every day you live. In all your sex life take Christ with you. He alone will help you meet these problems, control the urge, and prepare you to be a future wife and mother.

Source: Williams, Bertrand. Christian Girl’s Problems. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1943.
~ pp. 58-59 ~

What is the Proper Age for Marriage?

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

early marriage is to be discouragedQ Dear Miss Abigail:

What do you consider a proper age for a woman to get married?


A Dear Considering:

So, my dear, you are thinking about taking the jump into eternal bliss. This is a very important decision for you to make, whatever age you are, so I’ve dug carefully through the books and found the following excerpt. Perhaps Dr. Bowman’s words will help you make up your mind.

1938: The Appropriate Age for Marriage

Many a young person faces the question as to the appropriate age for marriage. It is generally considered that the reckless and imprudent marry too early, while the educated and cultured marry too late. There is also a definite relationship between the age of marriage and subsequent happiness. The advantages of early marriage seem to be: First, it is easier to adjust to one another than when habits and ideas have become so well fixed. Second, it is often better for the children if the parents are reasonably young. This relates both to the greater ease for the woman in childbearing, and also the psychological adjustments between children and parents. Third, in case of the woman, increasing age lessens her chance of marrying.

The disadvantages of early marriage are: First, it may thwart the vocational or educational plans of the husband; second, it may handicap his earning power. To have a family dependent on him at the time he is struggling to get ahead in his vocation may keep him so tied down that he cannot acquire the means for self-improvement and advancement. Third, the qualities essential for a good mate are often not appreciated until the middle or later twenties. The young person is likely to mistake infatuation for love. It frequently happens that the person with whom he thinks he is in love at twenty will not attract him at all at the age of twenty-five when his judgment has become more mature. Fourth, when older, a person is more ready to settle down to the responsibilities of home life. Studies of marital happiness tend to show that there is a definite relationship between early marriage and subsequent unhappiness and divorce. . . .

[Studies] show conclusively that too early marriage is to be discouraged. It may be that men of 25 years, or above, and women of 22, or older, have acquired greater wisdom in choosing a suitable mate; it may be that they enter upon marriage more fully prepared, or that they are more ready to settle down to the responsibilities of home and family. Certainly, the age of marriage should be given serious consideration, and when one or both are younger than the ideal age, special preparation should be undertaken on their part and on the part of their parents, in order to offset some of the dangers of their immaturity.

Source: Bowman, Warren D. Home Builders of Tomorrow. Elgin, Ill.: The Elgin Press, 1938.
~ pp. 93-96 ~

I ~Heart~ My P. E. Teacher!

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Harry felt himself shiverQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am in love with my P.E. teacher. What do I do? I mean I look into his eyes and he kind of looks into mine. To me he would stop traffic.


A Dear Lovey:

He can stop all the traffic he wants, but unfortunately he’s out of bounds for you, as this 1956 excerpt from Evelyn Millis Duvall’s Facts of Life and Love for Teen-agers explains. Never fear, Lovey dear, though you may be heartbroken and confused today, it will all work out in the end. I mean, you can always look into someone else’s eyes, right?

1956: Love Under a Cloud

One of the most difficult things that may happen while growing up is to find oneself in love with someone with whom one should not be. It is hard to understand and deal with in itself, and it is made more difficult by not being able to talk about it freely and easily. Other troubles tend to evaporate when we discuss them. Love out of bounds is love under a cloud. It often hurts inside us because it is not fully understood and it is hard to handle it comfortably. . . .

Crushes on Older Persons

Gertrude was ‘crazy’ about her history teacher. She lived for the hour that she spent in that one teacher’s class. She copied the way she did her hair. She spent all her allowance one Friday on red roses which she put on the teacher’s desk with a note that read,’With all my love, Gertrude.’ When it was time for school to close in June, Gertrude wept at having to be separated from her beloved teacher through the summer months. Her love for her history teacher was no less real because her folks scoffed at it as a schoolgirl crush.

Harry worshiped the coach. He hung on every word and carried out every little suggestion the coach made with zealous devotion. He slipped into the gym early in the morning to get out the equipment for the coach. One day when the coach threw his arm over Harry’s shoulder in a gesture of friendly companionship, Harry felt himself shiver all over. Was Harry ‘in love with’ the coach? Well, we do not call it that, do we? We feel that sometimes there is something not quite right in a boy’s being fond of an older man that way. And yet this is one stage of development that many boys like Harry go through.

It is as though young people getting into their early teens replace the close childhood love they have had for their parents with an even more intense feeling for some older person who for a while has the place of the parent, emotionally. This quite commonplace phase of growing up is something to become concerned about only when it persists for a long time and is not replaced by other types of affection. While it lasts it is a very precious kind of devotion, and not to be laughed at or ashamed of.

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. Facts of Life and Love for Teen-Agers. New York: Association Press, 1956.
~ pp. 311-12, 313-14 ~

Fifty-Six + Nineteen = Trouble

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

an attempt at rejuvenationQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Well, here is one for you. I am a fifty-six-year-young man in good shape. I lift weights and run to mention a few things, and do them because they are fun for me, not for vain reasons. Yesterday at our library a nineteen-year-old girl gave me a look that just said “O.K., come and ask me!” Well I did, and we went for coffee and shared phone numbers and email addresses. Of course I am tempted ~ I’m only human and still very ready. What is your advice, Miss Abigail?

Mr. Johnny

A Dear Mr. Johnny:

You don’t say whether you are married or not, so it’s kinda hard for me to answer properly. But I did stumble across this gem from The Sexual Conduct of Men and Women, by Norman Lockridge. It was written way back in 1956, when I think folks in their fifties were “elderly.” I bet you are particularly glad times have changed.

1956: The Comforts of an Old Man

Elderly men who consort with young women expect nothing for which they do not pay, and are wiser than many therefore. At the price ~ and it is just as high as most people think it is ~ all they expect is not to be laughed at until their backs are turned, and that is about all they get. Considering the demands society makes on the individual male to show himself to be virile while he is young, it is rather unfair to heap ridicule upon the head of the male who still strives for the same reputation when he is becoming old. The ageing buck is a stock character of comedy, with his somewhat passe clothes, his Homburg and spats, his gaudy vest and knobbed cane. The young girls titter at his gallant essays, the professionals overcharge him, his cronies mark him down for a liar no matter what exploits of his youth he calls to memory. His diet is watched and remarked upon, and any out-of-the-way food he happens to care for is leeringly marked up as an attempt at rejuvenation. When that hour comes a man expects sympathy and even kindness from women. If he has lost it, he has lost it for them.

Source: Lockridge, Norman. The Sexual Conduct of Men and Women. New York: Bridgehead Books,1956.
~ pp. 238-39 ~

The Years of Living Dangerously

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

put aside the bogeys and taboos

Q Dear Miss Abigail:

I am forty-seven years old and my boyfriend of three months is a youthful sixty-five. Many people doubt our relationship will work because of the age difference, but we do great together. I think his son believes I am just a “gold-digger,” but I am not digging for anything except a good, solid relationship. What are the odds that we will last?


A Dear Sherrie:

Stop listening to everyone else and listen to your heart (wow, did I actually just say that?). But seriously. You are certainly old enough to know what is right for you, and if things with your new boyfriend are great, then I say go for it! Do what you want to do! “Live dangerously” and enjoy life! Let’s read along with W. B. Wolfe in his A Woman’s Best Years. And I expect to hear everyone chant “you go girl” and “woo hoo” and “oh yeah” at the end of this passage.

1946: Live Dangerously!

Above all, learn to live dangerously! Life is very short, and the precious minutes seep through the hourglass with unseemly haste. All the more reason why you should put aside the bogeys and taboos that you accepted uncritically in your youth, and seek that which you need to fulfil your life. Seek it bravely. Do not defer living any longer. Take chances! It is better to take chances, it is better to try, to fail, and to try again ~ if you are certain of your goal ~ than to remain in cowardly and unhappy security to live out aeons of regret for lost opportunities.

I wish that the scope of my book permitted me to write down the hundreds of instances that I know of women who, after forty, have determined to take their lives into their own hands ~ and make signal successes of them! I can only outline some of the more dramatic ones to show you what can be done.

I need not recall the thrilling life stories of such women as Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, Jane Addams, Henrietta Szold, Edith Wharton, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Myra Hess, Eleanora Duse, Ernestine Schumann-Heink and countless others whose lives and works have added so generously to the sum total of human happiness. These great women, and many others like them, should be the great saints of womankind. . . .

But I am not writing about the great women of history, the Cornelias, the Elizabeths, the great Katherines. Others far better equipped than I have told these stories with beauty and sympathy. I want to sing the praises of women who are saying “Yes!” to life in less dramatic but nonetheless effectual ways. I want to toast the women who go on making the world a somewhat happier place to live in, devoting their time, their energies, often their private resources to the cause of human service. These unsung women, all of them over forty years of age, are carrying the banners of emancipation to the far corners of the world. They are the women who live dangerously ~ the women who refuse to accept bogeys and taboos, simply because they are hoary with tradition!

Source: Wolfe, W. Beran. A Woman’s Best Years: The Art of Staying Young. Garden City, N.Y.: Garden City Publishing Co., 1946.
~pp. 234-36~

When the Woman is Older

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

she may appreciate him moreI don’t know about you, but according to the grumbling of many of my readers and friends, the pickings seem to be getting slimmer out there in datingland. So when a few gals I know came across some fine younger gentlemen (you know who you are), it got us all thinking ~ is the age thing really an issue? Let’s read a bit on this topic from Evelyn Millis Duvall, author of the book that started it all: The Art of Dating.

1967: When the Woman is Older

Public opinion says that the man should always be older than the girl he dates. Some girls feel this pressure of opinion so strongly that they refuse to reveal their true ages if they are indeed older than their dates. They may even deliberately falsify their ages and pretend to be younger than they are. Actually a girl can be older than the boy she dates, and a woman older than the man she marries, without any damage to the relationship unless one or the other of them makes an issue over their relative ages.

Some of the happiest marriages ever studied are those in which the woman is older than her husband. Social scientists who are concerned with interpreting interpersonal relationships feel that since marriage demands more of the woman than it does of the man (in her having to adjust to his name, his work, his place of residence, and his way of life), it helps if she’s emotionally mature enough to make these adjustments in a grown-up way. Being the older of the two, she is, theoretically at least, more mature and so is able to work out a mutually satisfying relationship. Although nothing quite parallel has ever been studied among dating pairs, the situation may operate similarly. An older girl is not quite so apt to be demanding, jealous, and possessive. She may have much to give the boy in the way of social poise that will eventually help them both. She may appreciate him more than would someone his own age or younger.

The most important factor seems to be the two people’s own feelings about their difference in ages. If an older woman is always afraid that she’ll lose her man to some younger female, or if she “lords it over him” because she’s wiser and more experienced, there may be trouble. If, on his side, he makes her feel vulnerable by teasing her about her age, or if he takes a dependent role and lets her manage things and him, the relationship may founder. But if two people can understand that the number of birthdays a person has had is far less important than the quality of the life he has lived, age differences are no longer a legitimate concern.

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. The Art of Dating. New York: Association Press, 1967.
~ pp. 46-47 ~