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 ‘masculinity’

How Boys Try to Prove Their Masculinity

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

look at me and my manlinessHere is another fine excerpt from A Girl’s Guide to Dating and Going Steady by Dr. Tom McGinnis. And not a moment too soon ~ it sure has unearthed a lot of mysteries for me. Those poor boys, always struggling to attain manliness! I feel for them, really I do.

1968: How Boys Try to Prove Their Masculinity

Boys reveal their ideas of manliness in their dealings with girls. In recognizing this, you will understand at once why they do many things girls rarely do. For instance, girls, who have no need to prove themselves in this way, rarely try to drive cars as fast as they will go. They do not have to risk their lives just because of a dare, and usually do not enjoy playing sports which give a great sense of strength and power. Watch teenage boys at the beach, showing their muscles and diving madly into the water. They are saying, ‘Look at me and my manliness.’

To many boys, the proof of masculinity consists in being able to win a girl. In caveman days, men showed their colors by capturing women and dragging them off. In our civilized times, boys try to do much the same by verbal prowess. The boy who can get a girl to fall for his line is often considered a hero. Some boys consider it manly to engage in heavy necking, petting, or even intercourse, not necessarily because they enjoy these things or care about the girl, but because they consider it one way of proving their masculinity to themselves. And that is often why they boast about their accomplishments later to other boys. (It also is why some men who are unsure of their own manhood cannot settle down to love one woman. Instead, they flit from one to the other, trying to prove their masculinity to themselves by getting women to succumb to them.)

Boys may have a greater need to feel masculine during their teen years than at any other time of life. As they approach adulthood, they may have many secret fears about their ability to live up to the picture of manhood in their own minds. Boys often doubt whether they will have the necessary sexual powers to do what is expected of men. Some may doubt that they are handsome or smart enough to appeal to girls. Some who are shorter or slighter than the average may doubt their ability to stand up for their rights. Such doubts, of course, contribute to a boy’s insecurity about himself and may make him supersensitive to criticism. A self-accepting boy might laugh off criticisms of his manhood, because he feels within himself that they are not deserved, but such criticisms will cut deeply into a boy who has uncertainties of his own. I vividly remember a short, thin boy with glasses who fought like a tiger when a bigger boy called him a sissy. The short boy took a beating, but he won his classmates’ respect for his courage, which was what he wanted in the first place. He had to prove to himself, and to everyone else, that the charge was untrue.

Let me sum up how most boys want girls to react to them: They want girls to think that they are attractive, smart and, above all, masculine. They want to be considered strong enough physically, as well as mentally, to protect a girl from danger. They want to be regarded as confident and decisive. And, as I said earlier, they want to be thought of as having those qualities ~ whatever they may be ~ which they themselves accept as masculine.

Source: McGinnis, Tom. A Girl’s Guide to Dating and Going Steady. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1968.
~ pp. 53-55 ~

Boys, in 500 Words or Less

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

rough and readyQ Dear Miss Abigail:

What is the best way or sentence to sum up boys between the ages of thirteen and fifteen?


A Dear Meg:

Golly gee whiz, Miss Meg. You’re assignment is hard! I couldn’t find just one sentence to answer your question, so I’m going to ramble on a bit. Here is more than you ever wanted to know about teen boys, from authors Frances Bruce Strain, Harold Shyrock, Frank Howard Richardson, and Ellen Peck. Do I get an A?

1946: The Art of Conversation

Boys say, ‘Girl’s can’t talk about anything but their hair and clothes,’ or they say, ‘They gossip about other girls and other fellows. It makes you uncomfortable.’ If you listen to the talk of girls on the street or bus or in a tearoom you are inclined to agree with the boys.

Boys talk about athletics, school affairs, their jobs outside of school, about their hobbies, their clubs, camp, today’s news, politics, movies, television, radio programs ~ everything. The detail a boy’s mind can carry is amazing. He is ready at the drop of a hat to talk on a hundred topics. The other day I chanced to inquire of a fifteen-year-old high-schooler about a certain radio program. he knew not only the programs, but the hours, the networks, the artists and even the daily theme or motive of every program in the week!

Source: Strain, Frances Bruce. Teen Days: A Book for Boys and Girls. New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1946.
~ pp. 153-54 ~

1951: Secrets About Boys

A teen-age boy is masculine in his attitude and somewhat rough and ready in his relations to the outside world.

Source: Shryock, Harold. On Becoming a Woman. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1951.
~ p. 27 ~

1961: What About Petting?

‘Lots of the boys who try to make you pet don’t really want you to at all. They do it because they think it makes them look like real he-men. They are what I like to call “sheep in wolves” clothing.’

Source: “Janie” in Richardson, Frank Howard. For Young Adults Only: The Doctor Discusses Your Personal Problems. Atlanta, Ga.: Tupper and Love, 1961.
~ p. 57 ~

1969: What the Teen-Age Boy Is Like

Actually, a handy definition of a teen-age boy, as far as you’re concerned, is a guy who yearns after sharp girls and wants like crazy to avoid losers. Reason? Insecurity. A sharp girl ~ a real winner ~ is going to make him feel more secure and sharp himself. (‘If she likes me, I must really be somebody,’ he’s thinking.) And a loser is going to make him feel more insecure than ever. (‘If that’s all I can get, I must be nowhere,’ is the flip side of the coin.)

How does a guy decide who’s sharp and who’s a loser? Every girl, all by herself, tells him. Generally, without saying a word.

Source: Peck, Ellen. How to Get a Teen-Age Boy and What To Do With Him When You Get Him. New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1969.
~ p. 57 ~