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 ‘ideal mate’

Spotting Soulmates

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

this is the individual I do loveQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Is it true, that if we know ourselves well enough, we’ll be able to spot our soulmates at first sight?


A Dear Searching:

Gee, I was kinda hoping this answer would be more positive. You know ~ love at first sight, everything happy-go-lucky, those wonderful movie endings with soulmates hand-in-hand, smiles galore, and so forth. Sadly, I think this one from Henry Bowman’s textbook called Marriage for Moderns is going to be a bit disappointing for you, no matter how well you know yourself. Now that I think about it, “Is He ‘The One’ for Me?” might be more uplifting material, even if it doesn’t really answer your question. Feel free to wander over there. I promise I won’t mind.

1954: Love and Infatuation

Love grows, and all growth requires time. Infatuation may come suddenly. The question of whether or not there can be love at first sight is often brought up in discussion groups. It would be unwise to say dogmatically that there could never be love at first sight, but we can be fairly sure that there seldom is. Certainly it is much rarer than young people assume. If a boy had in mind a conception of an ideal girl and then he met a girl who exactly fitted the pattern, there might be love at first sight. Even in such a case, however, one might ask, ‘How did he know at their first meeting that she would exactly fit the pattern?’ To love a person one must know him. What usually happens in ‘love at first sight” is that the couple are strongly attracted to each other, perhaps even infatuated, from the very beginning. Then this strong attraction develops into love without any break in the process. It seems as if it were love at first sight; but that does not prove that it was. Often the question is asked by someone who has experienced such strong attraction and wants confirmation of his hope that it may be love and rationalization for a premature decision to that effect.

‘Love at first sight’ may also be compulsive in nature. The individual has a strong urge to love someone and this urge becomes focused on a particular person. What should be expressed as ‘This is the individual I must love’ is expressed by the person concerned as ‘This is the individual I do love.’ Such an urge to love is not uncommon in adolescence, when new emotions, with which the young person has not yet learned to live and which are largely the result of his own physiological and psychological development rather than his experience, begin to well up within him.

Source: Bowman, Henry A. Marriage for Moderns. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1954.
~p. 36 ~

Brandon and Brittney Sittin’ in a Tree

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

be assured of future happinessQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Will Brandon Boston and Brittney Chisolm get married and live happily ever after?


A Dear Brittney:


Oh wait, I changed my mind. No!

Ah, shucks, I don’t know.

Maybe you can decide for yourself, with a little help from Sex Behavior in Marriage, published by Charles A. Clinton in 1940. He’s an M.D., so we can trust him.

1940: Things to Know About One’s Sweetheart

Most young couples contemplating marriage have been acquainted with each other for some little time, though of course this is not always the case. But being acquainted with each other does not necessarily, and in fact does not usually mean, that they actually ‘know’ much about each other. The young man calls upon his sweetheart and is entertained by her in her home. He in turn entertains her by taking her out to dinner, to the theatre, to dances or to other social functions. Both are naturally on their good behavior ~ they put their best foot forward ~ they want to impress each other. They are particularly careful of their personal appearance, of their dress, of their manners. So it is frequently very hard to form any opinion of their real nature, tastes or character in all of this association. If they are thrown together a good deal in a perfectly informal way of course somewhat more can be learned. But in choosing a mate we have to go much deeper into the subject. One must, in order to be assured of future happiness, be sure that one’s life partner is entirely suitable in every way ~ physically, mentally, and morally; that his or her traits or characteristics will fit in with those of the one whom he or she is to marry. And there are many things to consider.

In the first place there is the question of physical fitness. This is of paramount importance and it means not only the present physical condition of the person but also his or her previous state of health. And of equal importance is the family history as regards disease. Is there any existing hereditary taint such as insanity or epilepsy? Even though there may be it does not mean that the person in question must necessarily become afflicted, but it so often happens that this is a matter which must be seriously considered. . . .

The matter of longevity is also important. Does one’s prospective mate comes from a long or a short lived family? If from a short lived family it is possible that the prospective mate may follow in the footsteps of his or her ancestors and die comparatively young. This of course does not always happen, especially if the cause for the short life of the parent or ancestor is know and can be prevented in the offspring. But, it is still an important factor and especially so to the young woman. Marrying a man who may be taken away in the prime of life or even earlier, perhaps before he has accumulated a sufficient fortune to take care of his family should he die, or where he perhaps cannot on account of a bad family history get an adequate amount of life insurance, is a serious matter to consider. Again he may leave a wife with a family of children which have to be reared and cared for which may prevent her from, if necessary, earning her own living.

Source: Clinton, Charles A. Sex Behavior in Marriage. New York: Pioneer Publications, 1940.
~ pp. 76-78 ~

Is He “The One” for Me?

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

shun a dragon of virtueQ Dear Miss Abigail:

How do I know if he is “The One” for me?

Just Curious

A Dear Curious:

Although it is easier for some to find that perfect person, all too often the situation is more complex; as Max O’Rell says in Her Royal Highness Woman, “Unfortunately for you, they are not labelled.” Never fear ~ he does offer some advice, and I do hope it will help you decide.

1901: On the Selection of Life Partners

In choosing their partners for life, people should be as careful as in choosing their ancestors. To give advice in this matter, however, is a very delicate task to undertake. . . .

A woman should avoid accepting a man who has been particularly successful with women. At the same time, she should look for one to whom woman is not an enigma, and who is a man of the world and of strong character, so that she may feel sure that when he chose her, he said to himself: ‘I know my mind; happiness for me lies there.’ On that man she will be able to depend and lean safely.

As peace and security are the guarantees of happiness in matrimony, a man should not choose a lovely rose who will attract the attention of all the men, but look for a modest violet in some retired, shady spot. The violet is the emblem of peaceful and lasting love.

A woman should avoid marrying a man who at home is the favourite of many sisters who constantly dance attendance on him. That man is spoiled for matrimony. He will require his wife to bestow on him all the attention he received from his sisters, besides those which he has a right to expect from a wife.

I should advise women to shun a dragon of virtue like fire: she should prefer a dragoon rather. A man may be good, but he must not overdo it. He that has no wickedness is too good for this world; not even a nun could endure him. Fancy, my dear lady, a man being shocked by you! The male prig is the abomination of the earth, and should be the pet aversion of women.

Source: O’Rell, Max. Her Royal Highness Woman and His Majesty Cupid. New York: The Abbey Press, 1901.
~ pp. 21, 23 ~

The Growth of Love

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

are those skins dry, honey?Girl loves boy. Boy loves girl. But before they take that next step, they might want to ask these questions from Dr. Keller’s Love, Courtship, Marriage.

1928: The Growth of Love

The young woman studies a certain young man who is paying her a great deal of attention, and intuitively she asks herself the same questions that the cave woman asked. Is this man strong and brave? If other men come to the cave, will he be willing to fight them and be able to win? Can he hunt so there will always be a lot of meat to eat? Will he provide the family with skins and fire and cattle to milk? Will he be kind to the baby? Is he the kind of a man that will stay in the cave at night? Is he a one woman or a many woman man? Is he healthy or sick? What kind of a tribe did he come from? Was his father good to the women and children? Has he ever been able to save any skins and accumulate any cattle and grain and dried fish? Is he a spender or a saver? Last of all, does he really desire me so much that he wants me for all of his life? or will he be tired of me when I have the first baby?

While she is by his side in the automobile he is asking himself a similar set of questions about her. The fact that they are going sixty miles an hour does not keep him from thinking. Is this woman strong and true? If I am away from the cave and other men come, will she fight them or love them? If I bring meat and food home, will she be able to cook them so they taste good and their eating makes me strong to hunt some more? Or shall I have a constant pain inside? Will she be able to cook like mother does? (Better stop asking that, young man, or trouble will begin!) Will she be willing and able to keep the fire burning and make the butter and see that the skins are dry and clean? When I come back from the hunt, will she be in the cave or running around, talking to that red headed woman? Will she want to have babies and can she take care of a baby so that it will not die? Is she a one man woman? Would she rather be home than anywhere else? What kind of woman was her mother ~ how about her tribe? If I accumulate property, will she be able to care for it? Finally, do I want her for a wife? Or shall I be sick of her and she of me a few months after we are married?

When young people begin to ask themselves such questions, they are in love. Not the love of adolescence, but the love of approaching maturity. There is something deeper than a simple friendship and good comradeship developing between a young man and woman when they begin to look more deeply into each other’s personalities and go past the stage of looks and automobiles. They are preparing for real life.

Source: Keller, David H. Love, Courtship, Marriage. New York: Roman Publishing Company, 1928.
~ pp. 25-27 ~

Will I Ever Find Mr. Perfect?

Monday, July 12th, 2010

dear little human traitsQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Will I ever find my Mr. Perfect?


A Dear Zeenat:

This reminds me of that song ~ “Looking for love in all the wrong places; looking for love in too many places; la la la…” ~ sorry, where was I going with that? Oh, yes. Mr. Perfect. Well, according to the following paragraphs from The Sex Life of Youth, it might be time to consider settling for a Mr. Less-Than-Perfect.

1948: Search For a Perfect Mate

In commencing the consideration of this topic it must be remembered that it is the marriage of two human beings that is being considered. No adjustment can be altogether perfect. At times, people are unduly concerned or remain unmarried because they cannot find an ideal mate who, in fact, could not exist outside their imagination. Nor would such a perfect mate be appropriate for the imperfect self one has to offer. Saying that love is blind may be related to this desire for perfection, and marriage, where either of the individuals is conscious of no defects or shortcomings in the loved one, can hardly be expected to satisfy every day reality. A man of middle age was heard to remark: ‘We have been married fifteen years and have never had a cross word.’ A young man who heard him replied: ‘What an impossible story! Either you are a terrible liar or you are living a very monotonous life.’

Thus often one seems to be hunting a mate for an ideal self instead of for the self he is. When he does so, he is frequently caught by an alternating sense that the person contemplated is both not good enough and too good for him. In other words, she (or he) is not good enough for the ideal self and too good for the actual self. Both considerations lack a sense of reality. We can never expect to find another who has no faults. Whether or not those faults will be barriers to the relationship will be determined by whether they stand out as constant irritations or whether they are “dear little human traits.” Experience would seem to show that a man or woman does not always love another in spite of his faults but often because of them.

Source: Elliot, Grace Loucks and Harry Bone. The Sex Life of Youth. New York: Association Press, 1948.
~ pp. 83-84 ~