Modern-day magazines and websites are filled with tips on how to make a relationship last or how to fall in love. But swapping tips on love and dating isn't a new phenomenon or interest. People have been trying to figure out how to up their flirting game for centuries. Literally.
In her new book Ask the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice from Yesteryear , Elizabeth Archibald, who currently teaches at the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University and got her Ph.D. from Yale University in history with a research focus in medieval education, offers a broad selection of tips and how-tos from the past. She looked back at the books and texts of the past, many decades before the advent of Google, and a surprising (or perhaps unsurprising, depending on your point of view) number of them are about falling in love and dating, which I think was referred to as "courtship" back in the 17th century.
There's no guarantee that this advice on falling in love will work, and some of it does seem pretty outdated. But as Archibald writes, "How-to manuals offer possibility," and really, as we navigate through the complicated waters of relationships, all we want is a little bit of hope that the love of our lives is out there. All we need is a little bit of instruction to make it happen. Here are 11 tips from the past on dating and love for you to try.
How to Attract a Lover (1699)
To enchant your lover, you've got to make an Enchanted Ring, of course. Start by getting ring, then take some hair off of the chin of a goat and soak it in "the juice of Night Shade, or Wake Robin, an herb so called." Pull the soaked goat hair through the ring, and the person who you trick into wearing it will fall in love with you.
How to Chat with a Woman (c. 1180s)
Now, once you've attracted your lover, you've got to talk with her, which can be surprisingly complicated, according to these instructions from the 12th century. You should greet the lady, let a moment pass before saying anything, and then pray that she starts talking first "because her comment will give you plenty of topics for discussion." If she doesn't say anything, you should "cleverly break into conversation" by making "some casual observation with an amusing point." You see? Casual.
How to Compliment a Lady (1663)
If you're striking out by trying to chat with your lady friend, you can throw any one of these compliments at her. Like "Her Cheeks are spread with Spices and Flowers," or "Her breasts are soft and tender as the Pelican's." Nothing gets a girl going quite like being told she resembles a maritime bird!
How to Impress Girls at a Dance (1538)
A gentleman doesn't have to do much to impress a lady at a dance. The first step is to not burp when you're dancing, "for if you belch then you will be a real pig. Furthermore never fart when you are dancing; grit your teeth and compel your arse to hold back the fart... " It's also a good idea to avoid leeks or onions "because they leave an unpleasant odour in the mouth."
How to Dress to Impress (1632)
A man also doesn't have to do much to dress to impress, either. As long as his clothes are neat, it doesn't matter if they're gorgeous. Keep your teeth clean, your hair dry, your beard in order, and your breath fresh. It doesn't matter if you've got the nicest or most expensive clothes, "at the least it must not bee old nor filthy." Oh, and make sure your hat's new, too.
How to Charm a Man (1896)
As Jay-Z would say, "Ladies is pimps, too," so there's also advice from the past for women looking for a mate. To seduce a man, "at the first opportunity grasp his hand in an earnest, sincere, and affectionate manner ... As you take his bare hand in yours, press your thumb gently, thought firmly between the bones of the thumb and the forefinger of his hand." Then, stare at him "earnestly and lovingly in the eyes," sending all of your love to him. Nothing says "true love" quite like mind tricks, and Archibald also points out that this is a great way to check his resting heart rate.
How to Put the Moves on a Man (c. 1250)
This is a slightly more subtle technique than checking your love interest's pulse, but it is perhaps less effective to determine if he's dead or alive. If a lady loves a gentleman, and he doesn't yet know it, she "must call his attention to herself in any number of ways: by speaking to him of some vague concern; by feigning love in obvious jest..." The list goes on. But the one thing a lady can never do is give "a frank and open entreaty." Stare as much as you want and drop as many hints as you can, but never admit you're into him.
How to Turn Down Your Lord's Wife (c. 1200)
Sometimes, a lady might be coming on too strong. This is a particularly bad problem if the lady is your lord's wife. If you're trying to make a graceful exit from a lady who might be speaking of some vague concern, "the best plan is to pretend you are ill, fake some pains, and leave wisely and prudently."
How to Kiss (1777)
The metrics you use to determine whether a kiss is good or not are as follow: "the circumstances, the degree of warmth, the part, the time, and other particulars needless to enumerate." If you really want to turn up the heat, you should consider "turtle-billing," which is "one of the most emphatic, but rarely used, where there is not full liberty to use every thing else." So if you can figure out what it means to "turtle-bill," do that.
How to Increase Lust (11th Century)
Turtle-billing sometimes just isn't enough to get that lust going. (I know — hard to imagine!) So you can try making a potion using some of the following ingredients: "seed of white onions, rag-wort, the brains of sparrows, flowers of male palm, and white incense." (Rag-wort is a fancy word for "wolf testicles," in case you needed the clarification.) Turn that potion into some pills, and "Give seven in the morning, with wine — and no more, because if you give more, the woman will faint beneath him."
How to Cure Lovesickness (11th Century)
Not every relationship works out in the end, not even ones that happened in the eleventh century. The best course of action is to drink "temperate and fragrant wine," listen to music, "[converse] with dearest friends," read poetry, look "at bright, sweet-smelling and fruitful gardens having clear running water," and, perhaps most importantly, amuse yourself with other good-looking women and men. It's kind of refreshing to know that even after 1,000 years, we still have the same cure for a broken heart.
Images: Hachette Book Group; Giphy (6)