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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 ‘parties’

Be Second Sexiest at Parties

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Many of you are no doubt heading out to New Year’s Eve parties this evening, celebrating with a loved one or perhaps going solo, in the hopes of meeting someone special to welcome 2011 with. Ellen Peck, author of the fabulous How to Get a Teen-age Boy and What to do With Him When You Get Him (1969), has a whole chapter devoted to party going, which is so much better than party giving, where you have to devote all your energy to making sure others are having fun.  “When you go to a party,” she writes, “you have no responsibilities to anybody but you. Just see that you have a good time.”

Her chapter outlines how to find out about parties, how to get invited to them, what time to arrive, who to arrive with (if you don’t have a date already), and more. Since this book is all about “getting” a teen-age boy there’s quite a bit about flirting (if you’ve seen the play or ready my book or this site, you’ve heard some of this already). Conversation starters are covered, of course, because “party talk is planned,” but she also says that “you should also be planning your appearance.” Read on:


Wear pretty much what the other girls are wearing. If they’re wearing tunics, you wear a tunic. But look slightly sexier than most of the girls. Now hear this. This does not mean low, low necklines, long, long, lashes, body jewels, and beauty marks. This “sudden starlet” bit won’t work; you’ll just end up looking like you belong somewhere else. Don’t be the sexiest girl there.

But ~ can you manage to be the second sexiest?

Again, here’s where it helps to know what the other girls are wearing. If you know Irene is going to show up showing décolletage to the naval, you may cut your neckline down a bit. After all, if Kathy’s parties end in neck-nibbling and related indoor sports, you might want to show off a nibbleable neck before lights out.

Looking second sexiest gives you a couple of advantages. Especially over the girl who looks sexiest. That girl (Irene) is going to look slightly out of place. She’s going to make the boys feel slightly self-conscious about approaching her. Oh, they’re turned on by the way she looks, all right. But a guy looks at Irene and knows if he picks tonight to make-out with her, he’s going to go through a lot of ribbing all next week!

Also, do you know how all the other girls are going to feel toward Irene? Maybe hostile.

Do you think Kathy is going to think twice about asking so much competition over again? Maybe definitely.

So, better be second (or even third) than sexiest, as far as your appearance is concerned!


Hallowe’en Suggestions

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Hi kids! It’s Halloween time again (or Hallowe’en, if you celebrated this back in 1905). I consulted with Mrs. Herbert B. Linscott’s Bright Ideas for Entertaining to find some fun party tips for you this year. First, some decorating ideas:


Have mirrors everywhere: big mirrors, medium-sized mirrors, and little, wee mirrors, all reflecting and multiplying countless candles that burn in candlesticks of every description (most novel are those made from long-necked gourds and tiny squashes).

Across the top and down the sides of each doorway hang festoons of yellow and white corn and turn the husks back to show the firm, glistening kernels. Each window can be garlanded in like manner as well as the tops of mantels and picture frames. Here and there, in the most unexpected corners, can be placed Jack-o’-lanterns, smiling or gnashing their teeth, amid great shocks of corn. The great hall and stairway can be draped with fish-nets through the meshes or which are thrust many ears of corn. A stately Jack must point the guests up the stairs where two other individuals will usher them to the dressing-rooms.


And now, for some games!


In [a] doorway hang a big pear-shaped pumpkin, on whose shining surfaces all the letters of the alphabet have been burned with a hot poker. Keep this rapidly twirling while the guests, in turn, try to stab some letter with long meat-skewers. The  letter that is hit will establish beyond question the initial letter of one’s fate.

Place in a tub of water red, yellow and green apples. Provide each guest with a toy bow and arrow. The young man or maiden who succeeds in firing an arrow into a red apple will be assured of good health; plenty of money is in store for shooting arrows into yellow ones; and good luck is in store for those hitting the green ones.

Blindfold each girl present and, presenting her with a wand, lead her to a table on which have been placed flags of the different men’s colleges. The flag her wand happens to touch will indicate the college of her future husband.


And finally, the author rounds out the party plan with some food suggestions: “Browning nuts, popping corn, roasting apples, and toasting marshmallows will add a great deal of pleasure to the evening.”  Yum!

For more Halloween tips, visit this earlier post.

Happy Halloween!

When and How to Tell Jokes

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

don't giggle all the way throughThat Estelle Hunter. She sure is a crack-up in her Personality Development, Unit Three: Voice and Expression. I mean, that salesman joke ~ hilarious!

1939: When and How to Tell Jokes

It is not unusual for a group to spend an hour or more in exchanging jokes or stories, but such conversation soon becomes wearisome and ceases to please. Don’t add your story unless it is better than any that have been told and you are sure that too many have not already been related. Remember that any story should be told only if it is interesting, if it is relevant, if it is in good taste, and if it has a good point.

Don’t laugh at your own joke, at least until everyone else has shown that he liked it. Don’t giggle all the way through a story or laugh before you come to the point. Don’t lose the point of the story as did a young woman who said to her brother:

“You’re a salesman so you’ll like this story. A salesman came into his office at night and someone asked him how he felt. He said ‘Pretty independent; I didn’t sell anyone anything today.'””You mean,” replied her brother, “that he said, ‘I didn’t take orders from anyone today.'”

When you have told a story successfully, don’t tempt Fate by telling another immediately. Turn the spotlight of attention on someone else by saying, for example, “John, what was the story about your guide in Italy last year? That was even more amusing than my experience.”

If John doesn’t tell his story exactly as you think he should, don’t correct him or attempt to add details. It is his story. Courtesy demands that you let him tell it as he will.

Source: Hunter, Estelle B. Personality Development, Unit Three: Voice and Expression. Chicago: The Better-Speech Institute of America, 1939.
~ pp. 82-83 ~

Hints To Those Who Would Have Fun with Magic

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

work up some interesting patterWow! The Fun Encyclopedia certainly does cover it all: “Fun with Icebreakers,” “Fun with Mental Games,” “Fun Outdoors,” “Fun with Music,” and “Fun with Puppets,” just to name a few. There is so much fun here that I didn’t know where to begin, but then I stumbled across the introduction to the chapter titled “Fun with Magic,” written by E. L. Crump. But beware ~ it was written in 1940, so you might want to do a little research on the addresses before mailing in your subscription checks for those magazines.

1940: Hints To Those Who Would Have Fun with Magic

The secret of success in magic is, of course, keeping the spectators from knowing how the trick is done. In order to do this the performer must practice each trick thoroughly many times before a mirror in order to perfect his technique. He must also learn how to evade the questions of his friends as to how the tricks are done. For just as soon as he tells one friend the news will spread until everyone knows the secret of the trick and immediately it will cease to be fun for the crowd. Several rules might be set down for the magician to follow strictly:

(1) Practice before a mirror each trick until it becomes natural and easy.

(2) Never repeat a trick.

(3) Never tell the audience what you intend to do.

(4) Never tell how you did a trick.

(5) Practice misdirection with your eyes. Your eyes should always look where you want the audience to look regardless of what your hands are doing.

(6) When something goes wrong, laugh and turn it into a joke, and the audience will laugh with you instead of at you.

(7) Work up some interesting patter to go with your tricks as it not only helps in the misdirection but adds to the interest of the effect.

If you wish to keep up with current magic it would be well to subscribe to some of the magic magazines of note. Four of the best are as follows:

Genii, 705 South Hudson, Pasadena California.
The Sphinx, Sphinx Publishing Corporation, 130 West 42nd Street, New York.
The Tops, Abbott’s Magic Novelty Company, Colon, Michigan.
The Dragon, Vernon, East Lux, Mount Morris, Illinois.

It is impossible to cover much of the field of magic in a work of this nature. The reader, if interested, should secure some of the many fine books on magic which are available today. The following are suggested:

200 Tricks You Can Do and 200 More Tricks You Can Do, by Howard Thurman.
How’s Tricks, by Gerald Lynton Kaufman.
Greater Magic, by John Northern Hilliard.
Modern Magic, by Professor Hoffman.
Magicians Tricks, How They Are Done, by Henry Hatton and Adrian Plate.
Houdini’s Magic, by Walter B. Gibson.

Source: Harbin, E. O. The Fun Encyclopedia. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1940.
~ pp. 875-76 ~

Origin of the Bridal Shower

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

each one thought of a giftAs maid of honor for my sister’s wedding in May, I’ve got a lot to do in the coming months. One major activity is to help plan the shower, and now that a date has been selected, I’ve turned to my books to find out more about this festive party. Etiquette expert Lillian Eichler provided a bit of history in The New Book of Etiquette, which I’ve found quite informative.

1924: Origin of the Bridal Shower

There are many kinds of showers, but most popular of all is that given to the engaged girl. Friends are never so good-naturedly generous as when a young woman confides that she has given her heart in love.

The bridal shower is one of our most charming before-the-wedding customs. It is a pleasant and sensible way for friends and acquaintances to present gifts that would seem too trifling if they were presented singly. The custom has an interesting background, and its origin takes us across the sea to Holland.

Many, many years ago ~ so as the tradition runs ~ a beautiful young Dutch maiden gave her heart to the village miller who was so good to the poor and the needy that he himself had but few worldly goods. He gave his bread and his flour free to those who could not pay, and because of his goodness everyone loved him. Everyone but the girl’s father. She must not marry him, he said. She must marry the man he had selected ~ a fat, horrid, wealthy man with a farm and a hundred pigs! ~ or she would lose her dowry.

The miller was sad, and the girl wept on his shoulder. The people who had eaten of the good miller’s bread were sad, too. Couldn’t something be done about it? Couldn’t they give the girl a dowry so that she could marry their kind miller and make him happy? They didn’t have much money, it is true, but each one thought of a gift that he or she could contribute.

And they came to the girl in a gay procession: one with an old Dutch vase; one with some fine blue plates for the kitchen shelf; one with strong linens made on the hand looms at home; one with a great shiny pot. They showered her with gifts and gave her a finer dowry than ever her father could! There was a solemn wedding ceremony and a jolly wedding feast, and even the father came at last to wish them happiness.

A good many years later, an Englishwoman heard of a friend who was about to be married and decided that the only gift she could afford was too slight an expression of her good wishes. Remembering the story of the Dutch ‘shower’ and knowing that there were other friends who felt precisely as she did, she called them together and suggested that they present their gifts all at the same time. The ‘shower’ that they gave was so successful that fashionable society adopted the custom, and it has remained ever since.

Source: Eichler, Lillian. The New Book of Etiquette. Garden City, N.Y.: Garden City Publishing Co., 1924.
~ pp. 82-83 ~

Party Out of Bounds

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

scavenger hunt anyone?Friends, I selected this one in anticipation of my big birthday party on June 7th. Everyone is invited, but please, leave that bad, bad liquor at home!

1967: Party Out of Bounds

Sometimes you’re at a party that has gotton out of hand. Perhaps there is drinking that you had not anticipated. Maybe it has turned into a petting session. Some teen-agers are disgusted, because parties so often turn into unpleasant situations.

Usually parties get out of bounds because of insufficient planning. If the activities and games are planned for a party, it is unlikely that it will degenerate. People find no need particularly to turn away from relaxing fun and entertainment to other veins.

Sometimes there are parties without adults on tap. Chaperons may seem old-fashioned, but it does help to have adults at social affairs; their very presence keeps things under control. Regardless of how carefully you plan parties, incidents may arise that need a firm adult outlook. Suppose some fellows try to crash your party, bringing liquor with them. This is a hard situation for you to handle alone, but your parents would be able to put a stop to it at once.

Who Is to Blame?

When a party gets out of hand it’s usually blamed on the hosts or hostesses. True, much of the fault is theirs. If they had planned the party properly, and made sure adults were present, the trouble might not have started. In one sense, however, every person at the party is responsible when it gets out of control. If you’re at a gathering, and it seems to be getting wild, you might try to help steer it back to safety. The time to act is the moment the party starts to get rough. It does no good to wait until the next morning and then condemn the host.

What Can You Do?

Try to get some activity started to pull the party back in line. Suggest one that would be fun ~ really fun ~ to absorb the guests. Perhaps a game of charades will liven things up. Maybe there are enough table games around to capture people’s interest. How about a spur-of-the-moment scavenger hunt? Or maybe everyone would like to go out to the kitchen and make hamburgers or popcorn balls.

If a gang of boys try to crash a party, are you prepared to handle the situation? Do you know how to get help if they come looking for trouble? Many of the incidents that happen at parties can be avoided if each young adult takes responsibility for seeing that things run smoothly.

If you find that you can’t help keep the party under control, the next best thing is to leave. If people are are drinking too much and you’re not enjoying yourself, simply explain to your hostess that you had better be running along. No one has much fun at a party that has gone out of bounds. After you have left such a party, reflect on it a while. Maybe you can prevent it from happening next time ~ especially at your party!

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. The Art of Dating. New York: Association Press, 1967.
~ pp. 164-66 ~

It’s Halloween Party Time!

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

which witch is which?Ah, fall is upon us yet again. And what does that mean? After reading these party ideas, get out your costumes, rake the leaves, and carve those pumpkins, because . . .

1948: It’s Halloween Party Time!

Spooky Welcome: The hostess or chairman of the committee should greet the guests one at a time, in order to give them a novel hand-shake. An old glove is stuffed with cotton and a short stick, which is held by the hostess inside a coat-sleeve. When the unsuspecting guest takes hold of the gloved hand extended to greet him it comes off in his grasp.

Ghost Story: Secure a copy of Ellis Parker Butler’s delightful story, “They Ain’t No Ghosts”; and have it narrated by a good speaker, while all lights are extinguished.

Goofy Graveyard: In a room apart from the general festivities arrange a woodland scene, with lights covered with blue paper, and tombstones of white cardboard, having the sides and top folded back about two inches to give the effect of depth, some having curved tops and some being square. The jingles are clearly printed with black crayon. Invite all the guests to stroll through the place, while someone behind the scenes makes sounds of moaning and

Source: Githens, Harry. Everybody’s Party Book. Franklin, Ohio: Eldridge Entertainment House, 1948.
~ pp. 128, 130-31 ~

1963: Spooke Party

Not necessarily for Halloween, you understand, but very appropriate then. Masks are a must, and the best kind for this party is made from a pillowcase with slits cut for eyes, mouth and breathing space ~ very scary with no face marked on at all, possibly very funny if you mark once with felt-tipped ink pens, and very pretty if you add glitter for eye shadow, upholstery fringe for eyelashes, sew on beads for earrings and a necklace. Add a hank of thick black cotton rug yarn and you could be Cleopatra.

Have a cauldron of water bubbling in the fireplace, on a grill or on the kitchen stove to cook frankfurters in, and let each guest spear his own with a long-handled fork or sharpened branch. Relishes, hot-dog rolls, baked beans and other yummies team with the witches’ brew of cider or orange-cranberry punch.

Ghost stories (if you’re low on these, try the library), bobbing for apples carved with the initial of your true love’s first name, and fortunetelling add to the fun. If one of your friends has the gift of fast, comic patter, he might be the fortuneteller; or you might write simple funny predictions in plain old milk on slips of paper and let each guest pass his slip over a candle flame to read the message. (Messages? “You will be asked to baby-sit next Thursday.” “Richie awaits you.” “You will own a basset hound before you are 30.” “There is a cloud in your life at present, but it has a silver lining.” “Within seven years a sports car will be made with your initials on it.” “You will get through high school by the time you are 25.”)

A good game to play is “Which Witch is Which?” Hang a sheet across a doorway, allowing just enough room for feet and ankles to be seen. Each girl appears barefoot ~ one girl at a time. The one who keeps the boys guessing longest is the winner.

Source: Haupt, Enid H. The Seventeen Book of Etiquette & Entertaining. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1963.
~ pp. 274-75 ~

Proper Lighting

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

cheers without dazzlingWhen this was selection was originally written, I had just become an aunt (welcoming to the world, little Olivia Rose), my mom had turned sixty, and I hit thirty-five. Much to celebrate in Gemini-land, wouldn’t you agree? With such good cheer in the air it seemed appropriate to have a little birthday party. Good hostess that I am, I made sure to dim the lights properly to ensure a fabulous time for all of my guests. I do hate overhead lights, so this was a natural for me!

1957: Proper Lighting

Proper lighting is essential to a pleasant atmosphere, and by proper I mean light that flatters, that cheers without dazzling, that is intimate without inviting eyestrain. Too many of our modern methods of lighting are seemingly designed with a view to annihilating the human race. We will only be perpetuated, after all, so long as men are attracted to women and vice versa, but how there can be any hope for mutual attraction between the ghoulish faces that stand revealed by contemporary idea to do away with any and all pleasant illusion. This is accomplished in one of two ways: either the lights are cunningly concealed somewhere in the vicinity of the ceiling, casting a pale, indirect, ghastly green glow on the room and its occupants, or, crueler still, there is the relentlessly direct type ~ the spotlight that hangs immediately above your head, opaquely shaded to allow its full white glare to do its worst on you, for all the world like those naked bulbs the police ~ the movie police, anyway ~ shine in the face of a suspect in the hope of breaking his spirit. They know what they’re doing. It’s enough to break the most upright spirit. But direct or indirect, the result is the same. Make-up might as well not be used. Every line and pore and hollow is mercilessly disclosed and magnified, on young as on old.

Source: Maxwell, Elsa. How to Do It, or, The Lively Art of Entertaining. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1957.
~ pp. 213-14 ~

Mistress of Ceremonie

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

others like to be amusedTo make sure my guests have fun at my party this weekend, I’ve looked up a few tips ~ I am certainly not above giving myself some advice. This one is from Beatrice Pierce’s book titled The Young Hostess. Now if I could just get the boys to wear pirate costumes ~ I’d be all set.

1938: Mistress of Ceremonies

When your friends come to your house, whether it’s for a party or just to say hello, it is up to you to see that they have a good time. The first thing to consider is your crowd ~ their likes and dislikes as to entertainment. Some friends are glad of an opportunity to get together and talk. Others like to be amused. If your crowd likes talking, or gathering around the radio or victrola to listen to music or to dance, let well enough alone. Your role is easy. All you need to do is to encourage your guests to follow their inclinations.

Unfortunately, there are guests who do not seem to have any ideas or inclinations that they wish to follow. They do not care enough for conversation to consider it entertainment. They do not like to sit and listen to music, and they do not dance. Or perhaps there isn’t room enough for dancing. What to do with these difficult guests? Well, sometimes they just have to be taken by the hand and coaxed into having a good time. As hostess you must use ingenuity in thinking up the right games and amusements for them. You also have to use enthusiasm and vivacity to get guests in the right mood for entertainment. Once started, things usually go with vim and vigor. But often you have to put forth an effort to get your party happily under way.

In planning entertainment for guests, a good deal depends upon the time and place. Is your house large or small? It makes a difference whether you are giving a party in an apartment furnished with fragile antique furniture or in a roomy house or in a shack at the seashore. It also makes a difference whether you are giving a party in the afternoon for a few girls or a large party in the evening for both boys and girls. Then, too, you have to adapt your games to the kind of clothes you have asked your guests to wear. It would certainly be hard on a new party dress to go ducking for apples. On the other hand, it might be loads of fun for a guest who was dressed in a gypsy or pirate costume. Here is where a little judgement in making things harmonize will stand you in good stead.

Source: Pierce, Beatrice. The Young Hostess. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1938.
~ pp. 216-17 ~

The Modern Girl’s Craze for Dancing

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

the modern girl seizes her opportunitiesIn 1920 Arnold Bennett wrote in his book Our Women about everything from the “perils of writing about women” ~ “the idea would not occur to me to write a book about men; the subject would insufficiently attract me, because it would contain no challenging possibilities, I should as soon think of writing about the multiplication table” ~ to two chapters outlining the masculine and feminine views of the sex discord.

The following excerpt is from an entertaining chapter entitled “Salary-Earning Girls.”

1920: The Modern Girl’s Craze for Dancing

Admitted, [the modern girl] is fond of pleasure. All young people are fond of pleasure, and if they are not then there is something wrong with them. The grey-haired lady when her hair was golden was precisely like the modern girl in this: she took all the pleasure that the social machine had offered to her. Often it was little enough, perhaps. To my mind the tragedy of existence ~ provincial existence in particular ~ fifty years ago lay in the failure of communitites to organise themselves for pleasure. The doom of ennui lay upon whole districts, including the suburbs of great capitals. And it was terrible and its effects were vicious. That is altered, and is being still further altered. Society has organised itself better for work, and better also for pleasure. Life is made to yield more than it used to yield, and yet life lasts longer and youth lasts longer.

The modern girl seizes her opportunities ~ she does no more. The increase of opportunity is due to the improvements in education ~ and in transport. It is due, that is to say, to improved work, part of which work is done by the modern girl herself. And since work precedes pleasure, and the energy of the modern girl is finite, she is very unlikely to carry pleasure to excess. If she did, it would as usual cease to be pleasure.

Much is said about the modern girl’s craze for dancing. But seeing that the modern girl dances with the modern youth the alleged craze cannot be charged against one sex only. And is it necessary to point out that dancing is not an invention of the present age? On the contrary, the erudite affirm that dancing is among the oldest, if it is not the oldest, of human diversions. No later device has surpassed it in healthiness, sanity and pleasure-giving quality. Probably there never was a time when the healthy girls were not “crazy” for dancing. If the modern girl dances more than her ancestress, the explanation is that nowadays a dance can be arranged and carried out with less than a tenth of the trouble necessary in the past, and that communities have discovered their own vast potentialities for organised enjoyment. The explanation is certainly not that something sinister and incomprehensible has happened to the modern girl.

Source: Bennett, Arnold. Our Women: Chapters on the Sex-Discord. New York: Truth Publishing Company, 1921.
~ pp. 146-48 ~