Dubious Love Advice From Vintage Self-Help Books

by Kathryn Petras & Ross Petras

How do you “jolly your man?” What do you do with Mr. Pushy? And what if he smokes… marijuana?! You may have the answers now, but if you lived in another time, things would be way different.

Behold, 12 of the most weird and wonderful vintage rules, advice, tips, and earnest admonitions from the 1900s to the '60s that would make any feminist cry. Or laugh. Or both. They’re the words of so-called wisdom from the top relationship advisors of their times.

There's Elinor Glyn, the flapper-era writer who came up with the concept of “it” (sex appeal). '60s pop singer Connie Francis, who sang “Stupid Cupid” and “Where the Boys Are,” tells you how not to be stupid where boys are concerned. From the 1940s, Dorothy Fremont Gray offers info from “So! You Want to Get Married” for young Catholic girls. Anne Culkin, developer of the Anne Culkin Course of Personality (we never heard of it, either), talks about kissing on the first date. And kind-of-creepy 1900s sexologist Dr. William Josephus Robinson comes, er, clean about panties.

Self-help experts from the past have all the answers you (don’t) need, right in time for Valentine's Day.

1. Attract men by looking the right way

"Nothing appeals more to a man than immaculate cleanliness. A stunny beauty, who looks even slightly soiled, will lose out every time to her plain-faced sister so pleasing to the senses ... Here are a few little things that greatly lessen a woman’s charm in most men’s eyes:

Red hands or arms. Finger nails too highly polished or shaped like swords. Fat women with bobbed hair. Hair that is ‘doctored’ in any way. Cheap perfumes. Whiney voices. Giggling. Earrings like chandeliers. Knickers in the city.

This should be enough to start you thinking along the right lines."

― from This Passion Called Love, by Elinor Glyn (1925)

2. Be dainty... very, very dainty

"There is a feminine charm which goes beyond mere cleanliness ~ it is daintiness. Or, if you prefer, femininity.

A buxom lass in overalls, with a mannish haircut, rolling a cigarette and handling sacks of fertilizer may be scrupulously scrubbed and as clean as a freshly bathed infant. But is she dainty? Is she 'feminine?' Definitely not ...

Let me go on record right at this point that men do not desire masculine women. Does an effeminate, powdered, rouged, delicately scented man appeal to the woman in you? You may feel an urge to mother him, or to be a sister to him, but he does not appeal to you as a mate.

There is no better way for me to describe how a masculine woman affects a man than to say that the appeal is similar; he may think that such a woman is a 'heck of a swell fellow, or a 'darn good sport,' but she does not arouse the male in him to desire her!"

― from Lady, Be Loved! by Lelord Kordel (1953)

3. Don’t make the wrong impression by hanging out at questionable places

"There are certain places a girl should never go alone, or even with another girl — certain hangouts, bowling alleys, bars, and other places where boys tend to gather and girls don’t.

Don’t ever stand near a bar and talk. Never drink at a bar, even if you’re drinking ginger ale.

Never wear slacks on a date, unless it’s a rugged outdoor picnic or an evening at an amusement park. Otherwise, I think slacks are an insult to a boy."

―from For Every Young Heart, by Connie Francis (1963)

4. Be modest and cover up!

"The more of your flesh that you expose the more blatant is your announcement that you are a guinea pig — free experiments! Among Christian women, bare midriffs should be private property: covered the sign is 'hands off,' exposed the sign reads, 'O.K., but don’t tickle.'"

—from So! You Want to Get Married!, by Dorothy Fremont Grant (1947)

5. End a first or second date the right way

"There is nothing wrong about a brief, affectionate goodnight kiss which will not arouse passion. Do not feel, however, that he won’t ask you out again unless you kiss him the first night or that you must repay him for the coke and hamburger he bought you. This is too high a price to pay, even if you had a large Coke."

― from Charm for Young Women, by Anne Culkin (developer of the Anne Culkin Course of Personality and owner of the Anne Culkin Boutique) (1963)

6. Remind men how impressive they are

"Don’t feed men flattery in hunks, with a shovel. They resent this ... Get the idea across to him in other ways ~ by your air of adoration; by the awe with which you listen to his opinions; by the rapt expression on your face when you listen to him monologing along about himself.

Ask him why he has never gone into the pictures. Implore him to write to the President and tell him just how to settle the farm-relief problem and how to deal with the Japanese situation. No girl who is an A-1 incense burner ever lacks for dates."

― from How to Win and Hold a Husband, by Dorothy Dix (1939)

7. Try this time-honored trick to look good and get his attention at the same time

"Tell him his shoulders look tense. And... he should move them in a circle. You demonstrate this, of course, because when your shoulders are back, your chest looks good."

―from How To Get a Teen-Age Boy and What To Do With Him When You Get Him by Ellen Peck (1969)

8. Before you let him “explore your body,” take this helpful quiz entitled “The 7 Tests of Petting”

  1. Sensual or Spiritual? How far is the petting a matter of sheer sensual gratification, without any particular respect for the person concerned, and how far is it a natural expression of an understanding which has grown up in the realm of the spirit, and which has become something rarely beautiful and respected?
  2. After-Taste? What sort of a taste is left in the mind as one looks back upon the experience?
  3. Mutual? Is the relationship honestly shared by both?
  4. Habit-Forming? Is the petting so light or temporary that is could hardly result in the fixing of a habit, or is it intense and prolonged and oft-repeated?
  5. Further Effects? Is the petting likely to lead to a loss of rational controls and to an indulgence in sex intercourse which one or both will later regret?
  6. Socially Acceptable? What is the social status of the person who pets, or who refuses to pet?
  7. Exclude Other Activities? What other type of enjoyment is petting preventing?

―from The Sex Life of Youth, by Grace Loucks Elliott and Harry Bone (1929)

9. Know how to deal with Mr. Pushy...

"The more mature girl knows that she doesn’t need to resort to either slapping or running in order to deal with the too amorous boyfriend. She wards off unwelcome behavior with a firm refusal to cooperate, accompanied by a knowing smile and a suggestion of some alternate activity. She may say, 'Not now, Ambrose — let’s go get a hamburger; I’m hungry.'"

―from The Art of Dating, by Evelyn Millis Duvall (1967)

9a. ...and when to get firm with him

"In an extreme case, where physical duress is involved, meet force with force. A right uppercut is unladylike, so you’d best settle for a stereophonic slap in lover boy’s fresh face … When he recovers from his chagrin, your best line is a brusque 'Home James!' He won’t trouble you again."

―from Dear Teen-Ager, by Abigal Van Buren (Dear Abby) (1959)

10. Don't ever smoke marijuana with your guy

  • No aphrodisiac, marijuana removes normal inhibitions. After one half of one cigarette, the novice smoker is open to almost any suggestion
  • After half a dozen “reefers” ... sex repressions are forgotten.
  • Love takes weird turns forms when marijuana is pounding through their brains. Subtlety disappears and the most depraved brutalities are indulged in.
  • Erotic pain seems unusually thrilling to drug-sodden senses.
  • Man turns brute under the deadly influence.

― from Click Parade magazine (1938) in an article about “the perils of the roadside weed that has become a national menace”

11. Always wear the right undergarments

"...[I]f anything in a woman's toilet should be immaculately fresh and clean it is, I emphasize, her underwear. Silk and lace and delicate batiste should be preferred, if they can be afforded, and attention should be paid to the color. As a rule, a delicate pink is the color that most men prefer. The sex act with some men requires the most delicate adjustments, and the condition of the underwear may determine the man's desire and ability or inability to accomplish the act. I therefore repeat: whether you are newly married or have been married a quarter of a century, be sure that your underwear is the very best that your means will allow you, and that it is always sweet, fresh and dainty."

―from Woman: Her Sex and Love Life, by Dr. William Josephus Robinson (1917)

Images: David Zellaby, Michael Coté, Swing Candy, turn off your computer and go outside, Chris Warren, emma.buckley Crafty Dogma, Jhayne, humberama, BLUETIGER64, sinfonie ashton Mo/flickr