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 ‘introductions’

Is Andy Interested In Me? or, Remembering Names

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

oh, yes, you can, if you want toQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Is Andy interested in me?


A Dear Evelyn:

I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify something for you and quite a few others who have recently asked me such questions as “Will I marry John Rachal?” and “Will I go out with Jonathan Bonin?” and “Am I wasting my time with the relationship I have at the moment?” Well, here it is ~ the one, the only, the OFFICIAL STATEMENT:

Miss Abigail’s Time Warp Advice is in no way whatsoever connected to the Psychic Hotline.

Whew. Now that we are all clear on that, you will understand why I cannot answer your question. So instead, I will use this space to share some totally irrelevant advice regarding the fine art of remembering names. I wonder, Emily, are you also troubled with this problem?

1961: Remembering Names

There is one thing that makes a hit with everybody. That is, remembering names. You may have heard people bragging ~ though they should have been apologizing for it instead of bragging about it ~ ‘I always remember faces, but I can’t seem to remember names.’

Oh, yes, you can, if you want to, and are willing to try hard enough. The late president Franklin D. Roosevelt was an outstanding example of someone who could call people by their first names after not having seen them for a long time. Nothing pleases a person quite so much as having his name remembered.

How can you gain this ability to make friends by remembering names? There are certain tricks and ways for developing this, but you can develop ways of your own. If you are determined to do it and willing to make the effort ~ and it does involve considerable effort ~ the battle is half won.

You can start this good habit better at your age than if you wait until later. Nothing will give you a better and bigger boost up the ladder of popularity, and the success that goes with it.

Source: Richardson, Frank Howard. For Young Adults Only: The Doctor Discusses Your Personal Problems. Atlanta, Ga.: Tupper and Love, 1961.
~ pp. 114-15 ~

Making Conversation

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

why not just relax?Q Dear Miss Abigail:

I’ve noticed lately that I have a problem talking about things when I get introduced. I never know the proper response, and end up saying something dumb that doesn’t make any sense. Could you give me some advice on making conversation?


A Dear Michelle:

You are not alone, my dear. Personally, I have an awful times with names. Sometimes I don’t even try to remember them ~ it’s no use! And I know someone who pretends to sneeze in the event of a lull in the conversation, and countless friends who prefer to stay huddled in the corner at a rockin’ party rather than mingle with strangers.

Never fear, Vera Bloom (aka “the Entertaining Lady”) has a bit of advice for us all.

1949: Conversation

When you stop to think of it, the really great talkers and great wits have been so rare that, in nearly three centuries of conversation both here and in England, there are few we remember besides Dr. Johnson, Sidney Smith, Oscar Wilde, Whistler, Oliver Herford, Shaw, Alexander Woollcott, and Dorothy Parker. Why not just relax, and console ourselves with the though that wit is a very dangerous possession after all, especially for a woman. For in either talk or letters, wit and tact rarely go together, and the woman who lets her tongue rule her heart can hardly be surprised when she makes enemies right and left. No one likes to be a target ~ except for Cupid’s darts! So be gay and entertaining if you can; be witty if you must.

Of course there are as many kinds of conversation as there are kinds of people and kinds of situations they find themselves in. All of us grope for things to talk about in casual contacts ~ it’s only with tried and true friends, or in the friendly relaxation of good shop talk, that people can really lose themselves in their enthusiasms.

But in any situation simplicity, being yourself, and really hearing the person you’re talking to, instead of wasting your energy worrying about what impression you’re making, will do more toward making you a good conversationalist than all the high-pressure charm hints that have ever been given.

The good conversationalist is always a constructive listener. She is altruistic enough to be willing and able to make the other person feel more important than herself, which means that she is willing and able to fish around among a stranger’s or an acquaintance’s interests until she gets an enthusiastic nibble on her conversational bait.

Source: Bloom, Vera. The Entertaining Lady: An Informal Guide to Good Living. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1949.
~ pp. 192-93 ~

How Do I Shake Hands?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

be vital, be aliveQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I was wondering what the proper etiquette is when a man comes up to you to shake your hand. Should you offer your hand or should he?

A Shaker and a Mover

A Dear Shaker:

I have a few tidbits for you from Ruth Tolman’s Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead. The first is from a chapter titled “The Art of Graciousness,” while the second appears in the “Social Postures” chapter and explains how exactly to go about shaking hands. I thought you might find that useful.

I don’t know about you, but after reading this I feel empowered to go out there and confidently shake hands with whomever I want, whenever I want. I am poised, hear me roar!

1969: The Handshake

A handshake is an expression of friendliness, it tells the other person that you are really glad to see him. Strive for a happy medium between a vise-like grip and a dead-fish grip. Your handshake is as expressive of your personality as your clothes and your speech.

And, if you are wearing gloves, my lady, would you remove them before shaking hands? No, a woman may shake hands with her glove on. However, because gloves are for street wear, they are removed as soon as you come indoors.

These are occasions when handshaking is necessary:
~~Whenever anyone extends his hand to you. If you are a young woman, you would wait for an older woman to extend her hand to you.
~~When men are introduced to one another. Even in a group a man will shake hands with each man to whom he is introduced unless it is most awkward for him to do so.
~~A woman may shake hands with a woman her own age, with a man to whom she is introduced as she chooses. It is the woman who takes the initiative in handshaking when men and women are introduced.

1. The right hand is brought from the side of the body to the waistline with the inner wrist leading in a semi-circular motion and is placed firmly in the palm of the other person’s hand for one or two visible hand shakes.

2. The left hand may be allowed to remain at the side or may be brought toward the waistline. It also may be necessary to use the left hand to hold one’s purse and gloves while shaking hands.

Please don’t hand someone a “wet dishrag” hand to shake. Be vital, be alive. Let the other person know and feel that you are genuinely glad to make his acquaintance.

Source: Tolman, Ruth. Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead. Bronx, NY: Milady Publishing Corporation, 1969.
~ pp. 234-35 (1st); 99 (2nd) ~

Alternatives to Waving

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

a pleasant nod and smileQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Should one wave when meeting someone, or should there only be an exchange of waves at a parting?


A Dear Confused:

Although nothing I found specifically addressing waving, the following quotes touch upon general rules for greeting others in public. They’re from a1956 book written by Frances Benton titled Complete Etiquette. The first is a tip for men; the second offers an alternative to waving for women. Why not try a bow, the next time? Sure would get your friend’s attention!

1956: Manners

Making a Woman Conspicuous. A well-mannered man does nothing to make a woman conspicuous in public. He doesn’t talk loudly or intimately with her, or call her name aloud across a lobby. If you want to hail a friend across the street, cross and catch up with her so you can do so without announcing her name to the whole block.

Bowing. Bowing for a woman does not, of course, mean a formal deep bend. It is, rather, a pleasant nod and smile, accompanied by a slight bend forward from the waist. Bowing should be a friendly gesture rather than a stiff one. You would use it greeting friends across a room, and some naturally graceful women combine it pleasantly with shaking hands. The only time a woman makes a deep bow is when being presented to a high church or state official.

Source: Benton, Frances. Complete Etiquette. New York: Random House, 1956.
~ pp. 8-9, 4-5 ~

May I Present Miss So-and-So?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

the younger is presented to the olderQ Dear Miss Abigail:

When you are introducing someone to someone else, which name to you say first? For instance, is it “Debbi, this is Dr. Bailey-Graff” or, “Dr. Bailey-Graff, this is Debbi”?


A Dear Debbi:

I believe the following excerpt answers your question quite nicely. It’s from The New Book of Etiquette, written by the lovely Lillian Eichler (who is, in my opinion, goddess of all things etiquette). And what a coincidence ~ just the other day I was wondering what to do when introducing my friends to the queen. Thanks, Lil!

1941: Introductions: The Correct Form

For all ordinary occasions, the plainest and simplest form of introduction is best. One may say: ‘Mrs. Johns, may I present Mrs. Brown?’ or, ‘Mrs. Johns, Mrs. Brown.’ The second form is less formal. The word ‘present’ is not expressed but it is understood.

A younger person is always presented to the older or more distinguished. But a man is invariably presented to a woman, no matter what the difference in age may be. The exceptions to this rule are when a woman is introduced to the President of the United States, to a cardinal, or to a reigning sovereign.

The correct introduction of either man or woman to the President is: ‘Mr. President, I have the honor to present Mr. (Mrs.) Brown.’

To a cardinal, the introduction would be: ‘Your Eminence, may I present Mrs. Brown.’

The introduction to a king or queen is very simple. Only the name of the individual being presented is uttered. The person making the introduction simply says: ‘Mrs. Brown!’

When two women are introduced, the younger woman is presented to the older. If Mrs. Brown is an elderly woman and Mrs. Smith a recent bride, the correct introduction is: ‘Mrs. Brown, do you know Mrs. Smith?’ or, ‘Mrs. Brown, this is Mrs. Smith.’

An unmarried woman is always presented to a married woman in this manner: ‘Mrs. Brown, may I present Miss Smith?’

Similar distinctions are made when introducing men. The younger is presented to the older, the unmarried man to the man who is married. Where there is no difference in age, title, or dignity, the best form for the introduction is: ‘Mr. White, Mr. Brown’ with no particular emphasis on either name.

Source: Eichler, Lillian. The New Book of Etiquette. Garden City, N.Y.: Garden City Publishing Company,1941.
~ pp.51-52 ~

Should Our New Neighbors Welcome Us?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

i should like to come to see youQ Dear Miss Abigail:

We recently purchased a home in a new subdivision. The only neighbor to come by so far to welcome us and introduced himself has been a young boy of seven. Since it’s been three weeks, I was thinking of taking the initiative and going to introduce myself. My husband thinks that the neighbors should welcome us.

New Neighbor

A Dear New Neighbor:

According to my source, the ever-proper Emily Post, there are some things you can do to help bridge the gap between you and your new neighbors (see part one of this answer). But further reading concludes that your husband is right about what your neighbors’ responsibilities are (see part two).

1937: Introduction By Means of a House of Charm ~ And a Puppy

The best possible advice is to take a house, no matter how little ~ in fact, the smaller it is the easier it is to make it look attractive. And that it shall look attractive is a vitally important point, since the personality of the house you live in is a far more telling introduction of you to your neighbors than anything short of a personal introduction by friends.

A house of charm says plainly that charming people live in it. If you are an ardent gardener ~ or can become one ~ nothing could be better, since gardening is a bond of sympathy between neighbors everywhere as well as an absorbing occupation.

Another unfailing friend-maker is a puppy ~ but not if you let it bark or slip through the fence and dig your neighbor’s lawn, or chase her chickens, or frighten her chickens, or frighten her baby. One thing you will probably have to leave to fate (or to your judgment of the character of the houses that you settle among), and that is the hope of finding your neighbors congenial, and the equal hope that they will find the same quality in you. . . .

How a First Visit is Made

In very large cities, neighbors seldom call on each other. But if strangers move into a neighborhood in a small town or in the country, or at a watering-place, it is not only unfriendly but uncivil for their neighbors not to call on them. The older residents always call on the newer. And the person of greatest social prominence should make the first visit, or at least invite the younger or less prominent one to call on her; which the younger should promptly do.

Or two ladies of equal age or position may either one say, “I wish you would come to see me.” To which the other replies “I’d love to.” More usually the first one offers “I should like to come to see you, if I may.” And the other, of course, answers “Oh, I do hope you will.”

Everyone invited to a wedding should call upon the bride on her return from the honeymoon. And when a man marries a girl from a distant place, courtesy absolutely demands that his friends and neighbors call on her as soon as she arrives in her new home. 

Source: Post, Emily. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company,1937.
~ pp. 105-6, 124-25 ~

Girl Meets Boy. Spider Meets Girl. Boy Likes Girl!

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

silly, but funny-sillyQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I’m a fifteen-year-old girl. I am fairly pretty, and I have had boyfriends before. I have a good social life, I get on with men, and I have an interesting personality. Yet I never get approached by men. I just never seem to meet any suitable ones! Is there something else I should be doing, or will I have to carry on waiting?


A Dear H.:

I bet you never thought that a silly little rhyme could help you meet boys. Well, it can! Although you’ve had boyfriends in the past, here’s a little refresher course in introductions and taking that first step toward L-O-V-E. It’s from a recent addition to the collection titled Teen Days. It was written by Frances Bruce Strain in 1946. And yes, “peeny, weeny pider” is what the book really says. Do you think I could make that up?

1946: Getting Under Way

But I hear you say, ‘My trouble is not too many dates, or going after other people’s dates or giving up dates. My trouble is getting under way in the first place.’ The strategic thing is the introduction. . . . Friends bring about introductions and introductions are touchstones. They can make or unmake a first date. What you say, how you say it, the way you look, your voice, gestures, posture, appearance ~ all of these are active forces in whether he says after a few minutes, ‘Let’s sit down somewhere,’ or ‘Can’t we dance this one?’ or ‘Where have you been all my life?’ or ‘You don’t want to dance, let’s talk,’ or whether he says ~ ‘I’m happy to have met you,’ and edges himself away into the distance.

You can make your own introduction through associations at school, or church or just talking the same bus to school, but it is nicer when some friend brings up a boy at some social affair and says ‘Tricksy, I’d like you and Dick to know each other. Tricksy, this is Dick Burns. Dick, this is Beatrice Hale.’ . . .

Introductions must be exploratory, both must share the exchange of remarks which follow. The talk must be small, very small and light. If there hasn’t been any hint given to act as a starter of conversation, you’ll just have to look about you and fasten upon anything that offers itself, even a tiny spider.

At a porch party two newcomers who had just been introduced caught sight of a little spider on the railing. Instead of screaming and acting silly the girl quickly chanted:

‘Oh, a peeny, weeny pider
Went up a water pout.
Down came the rain
And washed the pider out.’

‘Is there any more?’ asked the boy.

‘Oh, yes;

‘Out came the sun
And dried up the rain,
And the peeny, weeny, pider
Went up the pout again.’

Then of course the boy had to take a try at it with the resulting laughter as his piders and pouts got all mixed up. Silly? Yes, silly, but funny-silly. It’s that kind of thing that brings a first

Source: Strain, Frances Bruce. Teen Days: A Book for Boys and Girls. New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1946.
~ pp. 140-42 ~