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 ‘neighbors’

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 ~

How Do I Deal with Pesky Neighbors?

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

i don't think so!Q Dear Miss Abigail:

You rock my web-world! Right on about the annoying marriage question ~ what a drag to be denied respect just because one’s status is single. My problem is that I live in small apartment building in close proximity to my neighbors. I don’t find any of them personally repugnant; however, I just don’t want to hear all of their business every day. How can I get out of long discussions of their personal problems without making them angry?

Another Independent Person

A Dear Another:

Dealing with annoying neighbors can be difficult. I found a few bits of advice for those living in apartment buildings with little room to breathe.

As for dealing with unwanted conversations, most of my books offer advice for those actually doing the talking. It is not you, my friend; It is the impolite neighbor who must learn some manners. Therefore, we must all remember to respect our neighbors’ privacy. If someone is backing away from you as you try to talk to them, for heaven’s sake, let them go!

1945: Life in Crowded Cities

Even more important than the need for consideration of others on beaches and in parks is that of the dwellers in city flats so closely packed that every sound made by one family is likely to be heard by several others. In fact, sound can appear to be intensified by distance. In the room with children, their play does not seem over-loud; a radio program ~ even a jazz band ~ sounds scarcely loud enough to bother anyone not close to it. But to the family living on the floor below, the patter of little feet sounds like a stable full of percherons. The toys they drop seem all of iron! The jazz band crashes through each separate convolution of a neighbor’s brain. As for young musicians’ “practicing” ~ there is no manager of an apartment house who is not at his wits’ end to solve this chief cause of complaint ~ approached only by slamming doors or a banging shutter.

There are certain annoyances to others that can’t be helped; babies must sometimes cry, children scream, dogs bark, or someone gets a hacking cough. The best one can do is to try to soften such sounds as much as possible by shutting a window temporarily, muffling one’s mouth and little by little training children and dogs.

An angle that is evidently difficult to understand is that in nearly all communal buildings in close neighborhoods, there are always those few who seemingly show no feelings for others because their own insensitiveness is, as it were, on another wave length. It is very hard to remember ~ or even to understand ~ that things which greatly annoy us ~ such as the unceasing sound of music ~ may not disturb others at all, whereas things to which we don’t object quite easily torture our neighbors.

Source: Post, Emily. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company,1945.
~ p. 54 ~

1963: Personal Questions

We are under no obligation to answer the personal questions directed at us. Yet we do not want to discipline another to the point to embarrassment. This we will not do if we become a little vague about the information they seek, or if we have a suggestion of amusement in our voice when we say: “Mary, I don’t think you meant to ask me that question?”

Source: Culkin, Anne. Charm for Young Women. New York: Deus Books, 1963.
~ p. 177 ~