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 ‘dating’

Special Driver’s Permit

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Special Driver's PermitDid you score a group date with some friends this weekend? Today’s installment of the Lover’s Fun Card Set is one that could come in handy, particularly if you plan on cruising around with a carload of friends who are more into whooping it up, and less into safe driving. No worries about being considered a dullard – just fill in your name and present this to the driver. I’m sure he or she will respect your driving opinions. While we’re at it, here’s a some advice from the site on the topic of automobiles.

This one about “joy-riding to the roadhouse“, from Elinor Glyn, is a favorite of mine.

I’d Like to Make a Date With You

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

I'd Like to Make a Date with You

The first card in our Lover’s Fun Card Set suggests an easy way to express interest in a girl or guy that you’ve got your eye on. Why not print up a stack of these and carry them with you? Of course if you strike out and he/she hands the card back to you, you might not need a whole lot of them.

If the card doesn’t work, I’ve got a number of tips for asking someone out on this site. Girls who are afraid to make the first move might be inspired by Ellen Peck’s advice. A Miss Abigail classic is this one, which instructs you on how to ask someone out by telephone. And boys, here are some more tips for you to help you get up the nerve to ask a cute girl out.

Good luck!

What Should I Cook Him?

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

ego, libido, and feedoQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Any tips on what to cook a guy for a romantic meal? I am thinking of his birthday. Thank you!


A Dear Katie:

I do believe I’ve located some fabulous advice for you in Robert Loeb’s She Cooks to Conquer. It should help you plan your dinner. I’m sorry I have no room to include the complete recipes, which are actually illustrated (see “The Man Who Stayed for Breakfast” for an example), but I think the menu ideas will be enough to set you on the right path.

Oh, and you’re welcome.

1952: The Man Who Came for Dinner

Classical Circe, when ensnaring Odysseus and his crew, had to employ her magic wand upon occasion, and could not merely depend on her vintages and victuals for complete enchantment. The reason for this was that, like pilots who formerly had to fly without benefit of electronic devises and radar, Circe too had to cook by the seat of her panties.

But you Circes today, with the aid of the latest scientific findings, will not have to cook on a hit-or-run basis. By putting to use the results of surveys and information gleaned by psychologists in their minute studies of the male (and with special thanks and all due apologies to Doctor W. H. Sheldon), I am about to furnish you with a fool-proof guide. This will make as certain as possible that the luring dishes you serve your Odysseus will be the exact food of his choice. For, by grading him for type, you will approximate the yearnings of his own particular ‘feedo.’

It has been found that the male animal comes in thress basic sizes and varieties, each bearing a very complicated name that actually is easy to explain: the somatotonic, the viscerotonic, and the cerebrotonic!!!

Each of these varieties will be both illustrated and decribed briefly. All you will have to do is to determine into which category your own Odysseus belongs and then serve him a menu recommended for his type. Thus, in one fell ‘soup,’ you will have combined the magic of psychoscience with the enchantment of twentieth-century culinary savoir faire. What manner of male exists who will be able to resist such witchery?

~ ~ ~

Here is the male SOMATONIC: he’s the muscle man with paleolithic instincts, more likely to flex his biceps than his brain; he’s quick of decision, prone to passion, which he demonstrates in immediate action. He’s probably the club athlete, prefers the locker-room to the salon or boudoir, and his tastes in food run chiefly to red meat.

So here are two menus to choose from, graded for type and taste, when this muscled Odysseus arrives for dinner:

Muscle-Man Menus

No. 1:
Oeufs Riants
Steak Circe
Pommes de Ciel
Asparagus, Sauce Odysseus
Wine to Serve: Red Bordeaux ~ room temp.

No. 2:
Fruit Cup Cyclops
Lamp Chops Ajax
Spuds à la Maison
Peas Penelope
Wine to Serve: Rosé ~ chilled

And here we have the male VISCEROTONIC ~ a man of guts, if we ever saw one. He’s usually more balloon-shaped than streamlined, copiously equipped with avoirdupois and tummy. He’s accoutred with a jovial disposition, his emotional font being chiefly centered about his abdominal region. With a bird in one hand and a bottle in the other, he’s in a Falstaffian kind of heaven. Of the trio, he’s the one most vulnerable to your culinary wiles ~ he’s the gourmand, if not the gourmet.

Man-of Guts Menus

No. 1:
Soup Hades
Veal Vulcan
Pommes Aphrodite
Salad Athena
Wine to Serve: Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cabernet Franc ~ room temp.

No. 2:
Hors d’Oeuvres Hermes
Chicken Scylla
Potatoes Charybdis
Artichokes Artemis
Wine to Serve: Chablis ~ chilled

And here ~ the third of this trio of male ‘tonics’ ~ the CEREBROTONIC no less. Sometimes tall, dark, and handsome ~ or not handsome and not tall (he could be short and blond) ~ or just tall ~ but always lean and thin (you pick him for color and length). He is more apt to be a Casanova than a caveman. His approach is subtle and hidden; his ego, libido, and feedo are swathed in the skin in the sheep but beneath which pulsates the drive and appetites of the wolf. His taste-buds should be subtly titillated, but once aroused are rewarding.

Lean-Man Menus

No. 1:
Zeus Soup
Shrimps Poseiden with rice
Salad Persephone
Wine to Serve: Graves ~ chilled

No. 2:
Clam Juice Calypso
Lamb Laertes
Pommes Polythemus
Salad Telemachus
Wine to Serve: Red Bordeaux ~ room temp.

Source: Loeb, Robert H., Jr. She Cooks to Conquer. New York: Wilfred Funk, Inc., 1952.
~ pp. 29-31, 45, 59 ~

(One Man’s Suggested) Office Manners (for Women)

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

the privileges of the weaker sexQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I have an ex-boyfriend who immediately got a new girlfriend who works within my jurisdiction. His new girlfriend is my officemate. So I took revenge by forwarding their email that says “I love you”, using the guy’s email, to all of our officemates! Yeah, I knew his password. And eventually they knew I was the one who did it. Am I too bad? Do I really have to apologize when in fact they are the who started to mess with me?


A Dear Shao:

I could take this question in so many directions, but I think I’ll focus on one of the core issues at hand ~ your behavior in the workplace. Crummy boyfriend or otherwise, you better watch how you handle yourself at the office. Apologize now before you are out of a job, and take this opportunity to reflect upon your manners at work. Bad email-forwarding girl!

The following is from Walter Lowen’s How and When to Change Your Job Successfully (1954), found in a chapter titled “The Problems of Women in Business.” While the “problems” of the 1950s may have changed slightly (no, there was no email back then), it may help you to see that work is a very serious place and women should not take that lightly. Well, at least according to this guy, who seems to have a lot to say on how women should behave.

1955: Office Manners

Under the catch-all heading of ‘office manners’ comes a whole slew of things that can be problems for the woman in business if she doesn’t watch herself ~ and them. You know all about them, I’m sure, but just for a safety-first double-check, let’s run down a list of ‘don’ts’:

Don’t hog the telephone with your personal calls.

Don’t spend too much time in the washroom.

Don’t keep a sloppy-looking desk, outside or inside.

Don’t take long lunch hours to do your shopping.

Don’t dress too severely, or too glamorously. If you have a date right after work, wear something that will serve both purposes ~ such as a tailored suit that can be dressed up after five with a colorful scarf or gay pin.

If you have to be home at a certain time each night ~ to take care of your husband or child, perhaps ~ make sure the boss knows about this in advance, and agrees.

Don’t overdo lateness and absences and chalk them up to sick leave on the theory that women are entitled to more ailments than men.

Don’t excuse poor job performance by taking refuge in your sex.

Don’t carry on feuds with other female employees ~ a tendency which is especially true on the secretarial level.

Don’t gossip, especially about men, more especially about men in the office, super-especially about married men in the office.

Don’t expect to combine the freedom of the career girl with the privileges of the weaker sex. Any working woman who thinks she deserves special consideration because she is a woman doesn’t belong in a plant or office.

Source: Walter Lowen, How and When to Change Your Job Successfully. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954
~ pp. 191-92 ~

Same-Sex Etiquette: The Same?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

mary, when was the last time you thanked your date?Q Dear Miss Abigail:

One of the difficulties of same-sex relationships is figuring out the etiquette of dating. Do I open the door or does she? Do I offer to pay half the check, even if she has asked me out to dinner? Who decides when it is time for the end of the evening smooch? I know in this era everyone seems to be confused about gender roles, but if you could give me some advice to help make my dates a little smoother, I would be extremely appreciative.

Shelly, a Sister

A Dear Sister:

Unfortunately, the majority of my books (ok, maybe ALL of my books) do not discuss same-sex relationships in a positive light. But Miss Abigail does not discriminate, and feels that dating advice for boy-girl relationships should work equally as well for girl-girl or boy-boy relationships.

So put your imagination caps on and let’s all pretend that the references to “boy,” “he,” “him,” and “his” in the following paragraphs are actually “girl,” “she,” “her” and “hers.” Oh, and don’t forget to ignore the comment claiming that clinging “too closely to members of your own sex” is a bad idea.

If you can do all of that and not lose your mind, then I think you’re ready for same-sex dating!

1963: Is It Wrong to Kiss a Boy on the First Date?

There is nothing wrong about a brief, affectionate goodnight kiss which will not arouse passion. Do not feel, however, that he won’t ask you out again unless you kiss him the first night or that you must repay him for the coke and hamburger he bought you. This is too high a price to pay, even if you had a large coke.

When You Approach a Door with Another Person

Stand aside and indicate by word or gesture that you would like her to go first. Should it entail less effort for you to go first (perhaps to open the door or to turn on a light switch), excuse yourself and precede. Your reason for such an action should be quite obvious to her.

Source: Culkin, Anne. Charm for Young Women. New York: Deus Books, 1963.
~ pp. 107, 127 ~

1967: Enjoying a Date

You and your date have mutually decided where you are going. You have taken care to be dressed appropriately. You have taken pains to be clean and neat. But even these precautions don’t insure success on a date. A date is wholly satisfying only when each person is considerate of the other. Dating is not fun if either of you:

~~ flirts conspicuously with others
~~ brags about previous conquests
~~ gossips about other dates
~~ clings too closely to members of your own sex
~~ avoids participation in the activities
~~ makes an issue over minor mishaps

Such behavior is essentially a lack of courtesy, and it can really keep you from enjoying each other. Often one or more of these breaches of etiquette can lose you a second date with your escort.

Courtesy Is More Than Manners

If may seem out of place to bring up courtesy here. You may feel that, of course, you are naturally courteous to all your acquaintances. But it might be a good idea to take stock of yourself to see just how courteous you really are. Mary, when was the last time you thanked your date as he held the door for you? John, when was the last time you helped your date out of the car instead of leaving her to fend for herself? Do you always remember to thank your date’s parents for “that wonderful dinner”? How often do you tell your date how much you enjoyed the evening? All of these things are just common courtesy. It seems, however, that the more we date a particular person, the more we take him or her for granted.

A fellow may say to himself, “Of course I enjoyed the date; she knows that.” Yet think how good it would make her feel if he told her once in a while. How much more her parents would think of him if the boy stuck his head in the door and told them how much he enjoyed this evening. Such courtesies go a long way toward making a boy a good date and a pleasant companion.

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. The Art of Dating. New York: Association Press, 1967.
~ pp. 125-26 ~

Dear Lovey Dovey

Monday, August 16th, 2010

seize a pencil or penQ Dear Miss Abigail:

My boyfriend is going away for a month and I was just wondering if you had any neat things that we could do to keep in touch. Plus, he’s sixteen and I’m thirteen so it’s really hard for me to trust him while he’s down there.


A Dear Anonymous:

I think I’ll avoid that trust issue, and instead focus on your quest to keep in touch. I’d like to explain the very ancient art of letter writing (probably before your time). I know, I know, it sounds scary and foreign, but before we had phones and email, people actually wrote letters to one another to share stories and experiences. Read on about this unusual concept in this quote by author Richard A Wells. His book Manners, Culture and Dresswas written in 1891.

1891: Letters and Letter Writing

Delightful is the art of letter-writing and one not hard to be acquired. To write a good letter doubtless requires some experience; to write one which is marked by originality and beauty requires, in some degree, a peculiar talent. But almost any person of ordinary intelligence can learn how to express himself or herself in an acceptable manner upon paper.

Good grammar, correct orthography, precise punctuation, will not make a clever communication, if the life and spirit of the expression are wanting; and life and spirit will make a good impressive epistle, even if the rhetorical and grammatical proprieties are largely wanting. Some of the most charming letters we ever saw or read were from children, who while they tortured grammar, yet reproduced themselves so completely as to make it appear that they really were chattering to us.

It is comparatively easy to compose. The secret of it is hidden in no mystery ~ it is simply toconverse on paper, instead of by word of mouth. To illustrate: if a person is before you, you narrate the incidents of a marriage, or a death, or of any circumstance of interest. It is an easy and an agreeable thing to tell the story. Now, if the person were so deaf as to not be able to hear a word, what would you do? Why, seize a pencil or pen and write out just what you would have told them by words. That very writing would be a delightful letter! It is this naturalness of expression and individuality of a letter which so delights the recipient.

Source: Wells, Richard A. Manners, Culture and Dress of the Best American Society. Springfield, Mass.: King, Richardson & Co., 1891.
~ pp. 169-70 ~

The Eyelashes Have It

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

what I needed was false eyelashesQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Is there a certain way to look at a guy to make him want you more than any other girl?


A Dear Mary:

I bet you never thought that eyelashes were so important when it came to making googly eyes. But they are, at least according to Eileen Ford, the head of “the world’s most famous model agency.” I found this gem in her book titled A More Beautiful You in 21 Days. Eileen wouldn’t lead us astray, would she?

1972: Eyes Are for More than Looking

In thinking about how alluring women use their eyes to convey a thousand hidden messages, I realized that there’s something very few women know. Professional beauties all over the world use false eyelashes. Eyelashes so cunningly applied that no one knows they are not their very own.

Imagine sitting next to or across from someone ~ sipping your iced tea and looking deep into his eyes, slowly lowering your lashes, then looking back into the very depths of his eyes. Even if he’s been around for twenty or thirty years, it’s not too late to learn to flirt all over again.

When I decided that what I needed was false eyelashes, I decided that strip eyelashes weren’t for me, as I was allergic even to surgical adhesive and they made my eyes red. So I went to Jean Kane of New York’s Eyelash Studio and asked for help. Miss Kane has taught many of our models and applies individual eyelashes to many of the world’s outstanding beauties. She teaches our models as I will teach you now.

You may buy individual lashes or take an inexpensive pair of strip lashes and pull the single lash from the end of the strip with a tweezer. If you are using a strip, trim the lashes first with a single-edge razor blade. Place the lashes on a sheet of white paper. Put a mirror flat on a table so that you will be looking down into it. Pick up each eyelash in turn with tweezer and touch it to eyelash glue so that you have a very small amount of glue on the lash. Attach the lash about halfway back on the underside of one of your own lashes. You can trim the lengths with blunt-end scissors (such as nose-hair trimmers). Do not cut straight across, but cut the lashes at uneven lengths for a feathered look.

I keep my eyelashes on for days it it isn’t windy, washing around them carefully. If a few fall out, I replace them. When the eyelashes finally become stiff and unnatural-looking, I take them off by pressing a hot washcloth to my lashes and gently pulling off the lashes as they come loose.

When you’ve mastered this trick, use those eyes of yours for what they were meant for.

Again you’ll find the mirror a great help. Practice various expressions from innocent to sexy, from sad to gay, and try to use them every time you look at someone. Stare deep into his eyes, smile with your eyes, let your eyes smoulder.

Where did romance go? You’ll find it never left at all.

Source: Ford, Eileen. A More Beautiful You in 21 Days. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.
~ pp. 96-97 ~

Useless Tensions and Busy Girls Don’t Mix!

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

disturb the mental stateQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I have this really difficult boyfriend. I am involved in a lot of different things at school and sometimes I don’t have a lot of free time on my hands. I also have a job. My boyfriend is always complaining that I never spend enough time with him. I also have really strict parents who continually check to see that I have good grades. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed and then my boyfriend calls me and complains. It’s so hard to deal with. I don’t want to quit any of my clubs or my job and I don’t want my grades to slip, but I really can’t deal with the pressure from my boyfriend. What should I do? How can I make time for him, my activities, and myself?


A Dear Kimberly:

Have you considered Yoga? It’s working wonders for stress in my life these days. But alas, you probably don’t have time for something like that, particularly when you’re trying to trim down your schedule.

The following is from Questions Girls Have Asked, and may provide you with some information about wasteful energies that drag folks down. Although it speaks to exercise and work, I think we can apply some of the concepts to your problem. Of course, you’re on your own to determine what your “useless tension” is, but it sounds to me like you’ve already figured that out.

1963: Get Rid of Useless Tension

Get rid of useless tension that wastes energy. Probably the most common cause of futile energy loss is in emotional states. For example: The amount of energy used by a person in the doing of a piece of work is dependent in a great degree upon his peace of mind. Work that is distasteful, disagreeable, or just boring takes more energy than the same work if pleasing and interesting. (1) Strange as it may seem, brain work of itself requires no energy. Only as the associated work of a pencil or typewriter brings muscles into play, or some strain of position or posture prevents complete muscle rest, does mental effort draw on energy store. (2) But let an element of fear, displeasure, or hurry disturb the mental state, and tension increases in the whole body; every muscle is affected, and there is added energy output, energy used to no purpose. (3) The thinking one does while walking or gardening requires no extra energy. The mental activity that accompanies physical work may be very relaxing.

The exercise value of physical work may be greatly lessened by an associated emotional disturbance. A muscle may be able to work, yet be unable to let go and rest between contractions. What a waste! Much greater energy is expended, but useful work is not increased. The result is exhaustion and excessive fatigue.

Source: Wood-Comstack, Belle. Questions Girls Have Asked. Southern Publishing Association, 1963.
~ pp. 140-41 ~

Some Thinking on Drinking

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

stories of innocent maidensMy friend and I were approached by our waitress the other night after we had finished eating dinner. “A gentlemen at the bar would like to buy you ladies a drink,” she claimed. We were a bit confused ~ let’s just say we were not dressed or acting in any manner to attract the opposite sex, and our gift-giver was not making himself obvious. Despite our keen sense of etiquette we were unsure what to do, so we hestitantly accepted the drink.

So the question was begged, what does one do when offered a free drink from a stranger? Well, there wasn’t much on this topic, unless you count Helen Gurley Brown telling us in Sex and the Single Girl to “Expect and encourage gifts from men. They are part of the spoils of being single.” Here’s some further advice on drinking from a different book on a similar theme, titled How to Be Happy While Single.

1949: Some Thinking on Drinking

The girl who drinks too much is no more of a problem than the man who guzzles too freely. Most girls agree however that the difficulty is not, as they may have been led to believe in their impressionable budding girlhood, one of protecting their honor. They hear stories of innocent maidens set upon by drunken brutes and wonder, because this sort of thing always seems to happen to other people, never to them. It’s the boys who stay sober who bear watching. As for their own reactions to liquor, some women admittedly become somewhat amorous when drinking. The girl who realizes this fatal tendency within herself has to keep on the double qui vive. She doesn’t worry half as much about the man as she worries about herself. If she can handle her own affectionate proclivities, she won’t have any trouble managing his. If not, she may awaken in the stark light of dawn to recall the night before with discomfiture and embarrassment, ardently wishing that someone would arise from the earth to bear her off, as Pluto carried Proserpine. Nothing will come of it. It is much better for her to keep reminding herself while drinking that the man didn’t look half as attractive before she had that fourth Manhattan.

Source: Van Evera, Jean. How to be Happy While Single. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1949.
~ pp. 76-77 ~

None of the Guys Like Me!

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

boys and girls like yourselfQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I really haven’t had a boyfriend and my best friend gets a new one every time she breaks up with one. I was told it’s because I look like I beat guys up but I don’t. None of the guys like me. What do I do?

Seeking Love

A Dear Seeking:

You would feel so much better if I told you my pitiful dating history, which in the early years was made up of just one “affair” with my best friend Donny in junior high. He bugged me after three days, however, and I had to end it abruptly. Luckily he forgave me and we remained friends. Not until after college did I begin to sort of date, and only recently have I started to really get the hang of it. And I’m in my thirties!

My point is, everyone feels the way you do at one point in their lives or another. Here’s a little reminder from the textbook Living for Young Moderns, written in 1956 by Irene E. McDermott and Florence Williams Nicholas.

1956: If You Don’t Date, Don’t Think You Are Different

Would it surprise you to know that most high school students do not date regularly? And that great numbers graduate without having had a single date? If you seldom date, or not at all, you are not different from the majority of your classmates. There is no need to feel that you are socially a failure if you do not date. This does not mean that you should not date or try to get dates if you want them. It means simply that there are lots of other boys and girls like yourself who do not date, either because they are not interested or because they do not know how to get dates. Remember that there are many years ahead after you graduate from high school.

Source: McDermott, Irene E. and Florence Nicholas. Living For Young Moderns. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1956.
~ pp. 104-105 ~