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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!

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Posts Tagged ‘bodily functions’

Stop Cutting the Cheese, Please

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

avoid in any companyQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I have a little problem. I can’t contain my gas. In school I cut the cheese at least once every hour. Usually I go to the bathroom, but sometimes the teacher won’t let me go or I can’t get to the bathroom on time. Everyone laughs at me when I “fart.” Now they call me gassy lassie. Please help!!!!!

Signed,
Lassie

A Dear Lassie:

After careful research, I came up with no mention of your particular problem. Sorry. Most references were all about the digestive process, which was a bit too scientific for my fine arts background. There was also a lot on eating correctly, yadda yadda yadda ~ if you really want details you should be talking to your doctor, not some silly old-advice columnist. But the following does address one of the issues at hand here. It’s from Eleanor Boykin’s This Way, Please, from 1940. So eat right, call your doctor, and in the meantime, hurry hurry hurry out of that classroom.

1940: Private Affairs

While care of the person is an important matter, it is not one to be attended to in the presence of witnesses. A boy cleaning and filing his nails in public is as unalluring a sight as one washing his neck and ears or brushing his teeth. A girl who combs her hair or goes through make-up contortions under public gaze loses some of her charm. The majority of men feel a certain disgust watching such actions. A dressing-room, bedroom, or bathroom is the place for you make the toilet. If, when you are out, you can inconspicuously run a clean powder-puff over your face, no one will accuse you of indelicacy. But even this is unbecoming when you do it repeatedly, for it suggests far too much thought of your person and not enough thought of your companions. What would you think of a man who, while with you in a restaurant, whisked out an electric razor, plugged it into a wall socket, produced a pocket mirror, and shaved himself?

Here is the rule to go by. Do nothing in company that calls attention to the body or its functions. Stifle a yawn you feel coming on, if you can; if you can not, at least cover your gaping mouth. If and when you must blow your nose, get out your handkerchief inconspicuously and do it as quietly as possible without making the act more noticeable by apologizing for it, unless you have had to stop in the midst of speaking. Follow the same practice when you are forced to sneeze or cough. Throat-clearing, scratching, cleaning out the ears, picking the teeth, spitting, and similar unpleasant acts all well-bred people avoid in any company.

Source: Boykin, Eleanor. This Way, Please: A Book of Manners. New York: Macmillan Company, 1940.
~ pp. 22-25 ~