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 ‘teenagers’

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!


I Don’t Wanna Grow Up

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

we are useful, happy, well-adjusted individualsQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am about to enter my eighteenth year. Upon realizing this threshold, it seems I have developed a fear of actually being “a grown woman.” Even at the age of technical womanhood, I doubt that I’ll feel like I’m responsible or mature enough to think of myself as anything but a little girl. Can you help? With hopes of glamourous adulthood,


A Dear Amyliz:

Whoever said you have to grow up by a certain age? At thirty-two, I’m still not convinced I’m mature, or ever want to be. I still watch Sesame Street. I’d rather shop for toys than clothing. I wish we had nap time at work. Is that so wrong?

Maturity comes in different flavors for different people; you just need to find your own way, glamourous or not. And now onto the old advice ~ here are some additional thoughts about growing up from the one and only Pat Boone, from ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty .

1958: Do It Yourself

What does it really mean to ‘grow up?’

Did you ever think it meant a kind of a Cloud Nine existence where you could run your own show in your own way. Well, ’tain’t so! Remember the wisdom offered by a father whose son wanted to know: ‘When will I be old enough to do as I please?’ And the old man replied: ‘I don’t know. Nobody every lived that long.’

That’s about the size of it.

Our physical growth ~ height, hands, feet (especially feet!) ~ is miraculously taken care of whether we cooperate or not. But the growth we have to concern ourselves with is strictly the do-it-yourself kind. To be really grown-up is to arrive at maturity.

I think we have today potentially the brightest, nicest, most advanced teen-agers ever. Such an authority as Heman G. Stark, Director of the State of California Youth Authority, agrees with this. Says Mr. Stark: ‘On the basis of my thirty years’ experience, I’d say . . . the teen-agers of today are stronger, smarter, more self-sufficient, and more constructive than any other generation of teen-agers in history.’

The big question is, is he talking about a group? Or about you? You can ask, ‘Who, us?‘ Or, ‘Who, me?

Your individual growth toward maturity is what you personally are doing to fulfill your all-around potential. The dictionary describes maturity as ‘a state or quality of full development.’

Then a mature person will be the one who has made the most of himself in all departments. A mature teen-ager will be the one who is least distorted by those four teen-age symptoms we mentioned, and can live comfortably and harmoniously with himself and the world. In other words when, at any age, we are useful, happy, well-adjusted individuals, able to give as much as we get ~ we are mature!

Source: Boone, Pat. ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty: Pat talks to Teenagers. Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1958.
~ pp. 38-39 ~

Unstick Me From Seventeen

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

she yields to the pressure of opinionQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am seventeen years old and have hardly no experience with other kids my age. I am a girl but I feel so unfeminine and not pretty. It ruins everything when you’re stuck like this. What should I do?


A Dear Lolita:

Wow, Abigail, is that you? Oh, sorry, I thought you were me as a teenager speaking. You are not stuck, you are just seventeen. Things will get better. Personally, I had to wait until my thirties for things to really pick up, but it’s been worth the wait. I turned out okay, don’t you think? Here are some thoughts from our friends Evelyn and Sylvanus Duvall on growing up at your own pace. It’s from their 1962 book titled Sense and Nonsense About Sex.

1962: How Much Is Popularity Worth to You?

A considerable body of evidence indicates that the effort to be popular is overshadowing the real education and development girls need to become happy, creative women today. So much energy is put into getting into the social whirl that girls have little time or strength left for the study and reflection that are required to reach full maturity as persons.

Many a girl is trapped early in her teens into thinking that getting boys’ attention is the most important thing in life for her. She yields to the pressure of opinion that being popular with the fellows is necessary in order to feel adequate as a girl. She learns early in her high school career that getting into activities is one way to social success, and so she rushes from one thing to another in an effort to keep up with what she thinks is expected of her.

The girl who grows up at her own pace enjoys fellows and girls in her own way. She belongs only to those clubs that appeal to her; she associates with people she enjoys, regardless of whether they are ‘the big wheels’ or not. She may not have a date every Saturday night. She may prefer going to church Sunday evening to going out on the town. She isn’t afraid of studying and getting the grades that she merits. She doesn’t mind being ‘a nice kid’ because she knows deep within herself that being the most popular girl in high school may not be worth all it costs.

Many of the world’s greatest women were not particularly popular through their school days. They started out shy and retiring, seriously studying their lessons and slowly developing the talent within them. They didn’t try to force themselves into premature commitments or activities. But they laid foundations during their teens on which they could build through the years.

A parallel can be drawn from hothouse flowers forced to bloom in time for the holidays. Horticulturists have been able to bring lilies to market in time for Easter, poinsettias for the Christmas trade, mums for football games, and colorful displays in time for Mother’s Day. But although these flowers bloom in time for market, they rarely can be transplanted successfully into the home garden where they might thrive through the years.

Why should girls be forced into early blooming, and lose the chance to mature slowly for the rich full years that lie ahead of them as women, wives, mothers, and persons in the modern world?

Source: Duvall, Evelyn M. and Sylvanus M. Sense and Nonsense About Sex. New York: Association Press, 1962.
~ pp. 62-64 ~

A Sunny Disposition

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

full of smiles and sunshine“This little book is born of a desire to help and encourage our girls who are struggling with the problems that come up in teens,” Mabel Hale writes in the foreword to Beautiful Girlhood. “Youth has its problems, its heartaches, and disappointments. It is not always a smooth path to the perfection of womanhood.” Ya got that right, Mabel. With chapters titled “The Strength of Obedience” and “The Girl Who Can Be Trusted,” Hale’s book certainly has helped me understand my teens ~ so what if I’m reading it twenty years too late?

1922: A Sunny Disposition

Once I looked upon the face of a dear little boy whose bright eyes and sunny smiles cheered my heart. I asked him what his name might be, and he answered, ‘Papa calls me Sunshine John.’ Then I knew that the merry smile I saw was, as I thought, an index to the sunny little heart. Any home is blest if it has a sunshine-maker.

Every girl owes it to herself and to her associates to be sunny. A happy girlhood is so beautiful that it can not afford to be spoiled by needless frowns and pouts. There are clouds enough in life without making them out of temper. A girl who is full of smiles and sunshine is a fountain of joy to all who know her. The world has enough of tears and sorrow at best, and her sweet, smiling face can scatter untold clouds. Could a girl ask for a better calling than that of a joy-maker for all about her?

Every girl must meet her share of bumps in life. If they do not come soon they must come late. It is impossible that she should pass through life in the sunshine all the time. She must have her share of shadow. She can not escape it. But it is not the deep shadows that generally cloud a girl’s life, and make her unhappy and sullen. It is the little things, insignificant in themselves, and which could have been passed by with hardly a thought if resisted one by one, that irritate the temper and mar the happiness. Every day our girl will meet with circumstances in which she has her choice between frowning and sending back a stinging retort, or smiling and passing them by with a kind word. If she can pass these little bumps and keep sweet, then she has mastered the art of being sunny.

Source: Hale, Mabel. Beautiful Girlhood. Anderson, Ill.: [Gospel Trumpet Co.?], 1922.
~ pp. 56-57 ~

None of the Guys Like Me!

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

boys and girls like yourselfQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I really haven’t had a boyfriend and my best friend gets a new one every time she breaks up with one. I was told it’s because I look like I beat guys up but I don’t. None of the guys like me. What do I do?

Seeking Love

A Dear Seeking:

You would feel so much better if I told you my pitiful dating history, which in the early years was made up of just one “affair” with my best friend Donny in junior high. He bugged me after three days, however, and I had to end it abruptly. Luckily he forgave me and we remained friends. Not until after college did I begin to sort of date, and only recently have I started to really get the hang of it. And I’m in my thirties!

My point is, everyone feels the way you do at one point in their lives or another. Here’s a little reminder from the textbook Living for Young Moderns, written in 1956 by Irene E. McDermott and Florence Williams Nicholas.

1956: If You Don’t Date, Don’t Think You Are Different

Would it surprise you to know that most high school students do not date regularly? And that great numbers graduate without having had a single date? If you seldom date, or not at all, you are not different from the majority of your classmates. There is no need to feel that you are socially a failure if you do not date. This does not mean that you should not date or try to get dates if you want them. It means simply that there are lots of other boys and girls like yourself who do not date, either because they are not interested or because they do not know how to get dates. Remember that there are many years ahead after you graduate from high school.

Source: McDermott, Irene E. and Florence Nicholas. Living For Young Moderns. Chicago: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1956.
~ pp. 104-105 ~

A Morning Revelation About Dating

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

In all your sex life take Christ with youQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Being an aged person of fifteen, I had thought I had a great deal of experience with relationships. However, this morning I realized that I had NEVER HAD A BOYFRIEND! NOBODY asks me out. I am really desperate to know why ~ I am pretty okay looking if I do say so myself, I smell ok. I am not too painfully shy, and I am not a tomboy. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!! Is there something I’m not noticing that is turning guys off? Or am I just a late starter? Most of my friends have boyfriends.

Sophie, Desperate and Dateless

A Dear Sophie:

You poor girl! You might as well give up. I mean, if you haven’t had a boyfriend yet, I doubt you’ll ever get one.

You know I’m kidding, right?

Thank you. Now let’s get down to business. If you just relax and think about this period in your life as a good thing, a time to focus on you, I’m sure you’ll find true love and happiness when you’re, like, sixteen or seventeen. Here are some tips from a book called Christian Girl’s Problems. The advice of author Bertrand Williams, according to the flap copy, is “based upon the Word of God and the power of Christ’s blood to cleanse the heart which accepts Him by faith,” so I’m sure he can help.

1943: Dating the Boys

‘How early shall I date the boys?’ you ask. Well, let me tell you about Sandra, the cutest little thirteen-year-old you ever laid eyes on. She had dark olive skin, bold brown eyes, blue-black curly hair that hung in ringlets, and had a flair for wearing the smart clothes her parents provided. Sandra attracted the boys when she was thirteen and these boys ~ some of whom were eighteen or more ~ wanted dates, but Sandra’s Sunday school teacher had been her confidante and they talked it over.

‘If you save your dates until you are older, won’t you get a grander thrill out of the first experience?’ asked Sandra’s teacher. And together they arrived at the conclusion that if she waited until sixteen for her first date, and made herself attractive by building a beautiful body and becoming glamorous in the truly Christian sense, she would build a better foundation for young womanhood.

True enough, when she was sixteen, a neighbor boy saw her, loved her deeply, dated her, and for the next two years, until he was out of college, they were true lovers. The first and only boy Sandra ever kissed, outside of her family, was this lad she married last spring just before he went to the army camp.

She said, ‘I never played around with all the boys in town, and I might have missed something, but you would have a hard time convincing me that I am not better off for having loved only my Dirk.’

Don’t date too early, and don’t become serious in your girlhood. By all means keep the boys at their distance, and when you finally date, keep your kisses as a sacred trust. Pawing and petting are out for the Christian girl who would hold her body in readiness as a gift to the lad she is to marry.

Treat your sex urges rightly while you are young, and they will be a great source of pleasure throughout life, but debase them while you are young, and they will collect a toll of tragedy for every day you live. In all your sex life take Christ with you. He alone will help you meet these problems, control the urge, and prepare you to be a future wife and mother.

Source: Williams, Bertrand. Christian Girl’s Problems. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1943.
~ pp. 58-59 ~

My Parents Won’t Let Me Have a Life!

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

this makes you maddest of allQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I’m 16 years old, and I’ve been getting really close to this guy; we’re really like best friends. I stay after school everyday just to spend time with him, and I’m constantly on the phone with him. My problem is that on the weekends my parents won’t let me go anywhere, anytime, whether or not I’ve done anything wrong. They simply just don’t want me to have a life. I don’t know what to do.


A Dear Azriel:

Lucky for you, during my perusal of thriftstores and used bookstores last week while on vacation, I found the perfect book to help you out. Here is an excerpt from Frank Howard Richardson’s For Young Adults Only: The Doctor Discusses Your Personal Problems.

1961: You and Your Parents

At your age there is probably no relationship more difficult that that between you and your parents. They have known you as children and as irresponsible young teen-agers. They have dictated to you. They have controlled you as best they could.

Now you are young adults, have minds of your own, are thinking your own thoughts, planning your own futures. Those thoughts do not always agree with those of your parents. It is a source of great irritation to you that they can’t seem to see your point of view, which you are convinced is the right one. This makes you feel bitter toward them. Then you blame yourselves for this feeling of bitterness. . . .

You are mature enough to realize that there is always a conflict being waged between parents and their children who are maturing into adulthood. In this difficult situation you can see that this conflict between parents and children is inevitable. Both sides may well pray hard for wisdom. But you can take the situation in hand. You know you cannot yet be independent of your parents and go your own way. For they are supporting you, and you don’t really want to break with them right now, anyway. You know that.

What you do want is a fair deal, and you feel that you are not getting it. It may be about your allowance, or the use of the family car, or staying out too late at night. Or, and this makes you maddest of all, they may not like the boy or girl you are going steady with. . . .

Your parents are as anxious as you are to get things on the right footing. But they don’t know how to go about it. You can be the one to show them.

Choose a time when they are in a good mood. Then, reasonably and quietly, present your case. A good time is right after you’ve enjoyed a good meal. Don’t press for an immediate answer. They may have to have a little time to think things over. But it may amaze you to find how they will swing around to your point of view, if you have presented it unemotionally and maturely. No, this will not be easy. But who has ever claimed that growing up into adulthood is easy?

Source: Richardson, Frank Howard. For Young Adults Only: The Doctor Discusses Your Personal Problems. Atlanta, Ga.: Tupper and Love, 1961.
~ pp. 28-30 ~

Am I in Love?

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

they miss one another terribly when apartQ Dear Miss Abigail:

How do I know if I’m in love?

Rocky Road

A Dear Rocky:

Ah, one of those age-old questions that just never seems to die. At least you should take confort in the fact that you are not alone. Millions of people out there, including this writer, have wondered the same thing at some point in their lives. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’m going on a hunch that you are a teenager or in your twenties, so I found this passage that seems like it might provide some answers. It’s from the extremely ~ as many old advice books were ~ Christian book titled Youth Looks at Love, written by Letha Scanzoni in 1965.

1965: Puppy Love

Diane and Don were both shy teenagers when they found themselves seated next to one another at a church social. Soon they discovered they enjoyed talking togther and that they felt less self-conscious in crowds when they were with each other.

They began going steady and they liked to do things together. Often they helped one another with homework or even visited one another to help with household chores. One day they washed Don’s father’s car together, another time they took Diane’s small brothers on a picnic while her parents were shopping for some new furniture. Then there were the days they picked cherries and berries at a farm outside of town, so that their mothers would have canning fruit at the lowest prices possible.

Each feels more self-confident when with the other, and they miss one another terribly when apart. They feel they are ‘in love,’ yet realize they are much too young to be sure this is the love on which a successful marriage could be based. Until they are sure one way or the other, they’ll continue their good times and companionship.

This is the love of the early teens. For weeks Jeff and Julie are sure they are in love. Songs like ‘Too Young’ have great appeal for them. They are together constantly: on the phone, in person, passing notes in school, through daydreams (and night dreams, too). Then gradually, or perhaps suddenly, they find their interest in one another is dwindling and a new interest replaces it.

Again, this is normal and nothing to be laughed at. As evangelist Billy Graham has pointed out, ‘Don’t scoff at puppy love. It’s very real to the puppies!’ Yet, like a crush, it is not a love which could make a successful marriage. Ralph G. Eckert speaks of an alert teen-age fellow who observed that puppy love is fine, but if one married just on puppy love ‘he’d probably lead a dog’ life.’

Source: Scanzoni, Letha. Youth Looks at Love. Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1965.
~ pp. 70-71 ~

The Thin Line Between Like and Hate

Monday, July 12th, 2010

you started acting gigglyQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Could “I hate you” mean “I like you”? I ask this because there’s this guy and when we we’re playing and joking around he said “I hate you” and I said “I hate you” back. But when I said “I hate you,” I really wanted to say “I like you.” So like instead of him saying “I like you” he says “I hate you.” Is it like him saying “I like”? Is he just too shy to say “I like you”?


A Dear Alex:

Lucky for you, I have an amazing talent for interpreting just such a conversation. Closing my eyes, thinking, thinking ~ hey, I think he likes you!

Here’s some advice that might help explain why communicating with boys can be so difficult. It’s from Ellen Peck’s informative book titled How to Get a Teen-Age Boy and What to Do with Him When You Get Him, written in 1969. And before I go, please remember, Alex, that like is such a strong word. Please use it very carefully.

1969: What A Teen-Age Boy is Like

A teen-age boy is basically insecure.

It all started when you were twelve and he suddenly noticed that you were wearing a bra. That’s all the evidence he needed that you were definitely and completely female. But you left him feeling very unsure of himself as a male. Especially when you started acting giggly and embarrassed whenever he came around. (Yes, you did too.) And that nice, comfortable feeling he had with you ~ and with all girls when they looked pretty much like he did ~ changed. You became different then. Because of that bra, and the giggly behavior, he began to feel uncomfortable and tongue-tied around you. And maybe he isn’t quite over that feeling yet. Even though you’ve stopped the giggling. (Or, if you haven’t, do.)

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.
~ pp. 54-55 ~