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 ‘men’

Is a Man Abnormal if He Likes Art and Dislikes Sports?

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Sex Questions and AnswersI’ve got a husband who likes art and dislikes sports (and he seems to be well-adjusted), so I was a bit intrigued to read this excerpt in a new addition to my collection, the book Sex Questions and Answers: A Guide to Happy Marriage by Fred Brown and Rudolf T. Kempton. I’m not sure what this has to do with sex, though the authors may have felt it was an important issue ~ it’s in the chapter titled “Problems of Sexual Adjustment.”


Every normal man has a bit of woman in him and every woman contains some of the male in her personality. There is, generally speaking, no such thing as an “ideal” combination of masculinity and femininity in one person. In some primitive societies the females are breadwinners while the males do the housework and gossip. In other societies both men and women play dominant roles. Among ourselves it has, until very recently, been the accepted pattern for males to be dominant or “masculine” while females were expected to be “feminine” or passive. The ideal combination of traits, evidently, is whatever is regarded as most desirable in the particular society in which the person lives. Our standard requires that a man be aggressive and “ambitious” in his lifework, that he exhibit an acceptable interest in “male” recreations such as sports, that he look forward to marriage and the rearing of family, and that he seek enjoyment from the companionship of other men. The feminine part of him should enable him to show warmth and affection toward others, an interest in the arts, kindness and consideration. There are many men who would have a feeling for fine paintings, flowers, and the gentler aspects of life if this sensitivity had not been squelched early in life by an insecure father who insisted that these represented “sissy” interests. An excessive interest in sports to the exclusion of other interests may reveal limitations in the personality range and, in excess, a prolonged adolescent identification of manliness with the possession of physical prowess. Everyone tries to select from the environment those aspects of it which suit his intellectual and emotional needs. Some of those selections will be based upon inner weaknesses which require identification with a powerful football team and the need to win, while others will seek more passive and less muscular pursuits. Neither one nor the other is “abnormal” but merely reflects the different ways in which individual differences cause people to take from the environment whatever they need. The best balance of masculine and feminine traits is achieved when the individual is able to mingle with members of his own and the opposite sex without experiencing tension and strain.


Now that I think about it, I suppose tension and strain during sex might be a problem.

Man ~ The Ungrown

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

passion is the little fire with which he toysIn 1911, author Edward Carpenter wrote in a prefatory note to his book Love’s Coming of Age:

When I first wrote this book some fifteen years ago, if was refused in succession by five or six well-known London publishers; and ultimately I had to print it at my own expense. Such was the taboo then prevailing on matters of sex. . . . to-day people are beginning to see that a decent and straightforward discussion of sex-questions is not only permissable, but is quite necessary, if ever we are to have a better order in this department of human life.

I’m glad I was able to find this edition ~ a “specially authorized American issue,” which contains “all the latest additions and corrections up to date,” according to Mr. Carpenter. Here is an excerpt:

1911: Man ~ The Ungrown

Man, the ordinary human male, is a curious animal. While mastering the world with his pluck, skill, enterprise, he is in matters of Love for the most part a child. The passion plays havoc with him; nor does he ride the Leopard, as Ariadne is fabled to have done.

In this he differs from the other sex; and the difference can be seen in earliest years. When the boy is on his rocking horse, the girl is caressing her doll. When the adolescent youth, burning to master a real quadruped, is still somewhat contemptuous of Love’s power, “sweet seventeen” has already lost and regained her heart several times, and is accomplished in all the finesse of feeling.

To the grown man love remains little more than a plaything. Affairs, politics, fighting, money-making, creative art, constructive industry, are his serious business; the affections are his relaxation; passion is the little fire with which he toys, and which every now and then flares out and burns him up. His affections, his passions, are probably as a rule stronger than woman’s; but he never attains to understand them or be master of their craft. With woman all this is reversed.

A man pelts along on his hobby ~ his business, his career, his latest invention, or what not ~ forgetful that there is such a thing in the world as the human heart; then all of a sudden he “falls in love,” tumbles headlong in the most ludicrous way, fills the air with his cries, struggles frantically like a fly in a treacle; and all the time hasn’t the faintest idea whether he has been inveigled into the situation, or whether he got there of his own accord, or what he wants now he is there. Suicides, broken hearts, lamentations, and certainly a whole panorama, marvellous in beauty, of lyrical poetry and art, mark the experience of love’s distress in Man. Woman in the same plight neither howls nor cries, she does not commit suicide or do anything extravagant, she creates not a single poem or work of art of any account; but she simply goes on her way and suffers in silence, shaping her life to the new conditions. Never for a moment does she forget that her one serious object is Love; but never for a moment does she “give herself away” or lose her head, in the pursuit of that object.

Source: Carpenter, Edward. Love’s Coming of Age. New York: The Modern Library, 1911.
~ pp. 31-32 ~