As a general rule, self-help books should only be read when they're over a century old and for amusement, lest you become one of those creepy cult-like evangelizers of The Secret, or something. Haydn Brown's Advice to a Single Woman, originally penned in 1899, fits the bill — it was recently unearthed by the British Library, and is currently on sale in its republished form. As The Telegraph discovered, it contains the machinations of an OG mansplainer, calmly delivering his best tips and tricks for being a single lady in the Victorian Era.
And although the book contains plenty of horrific advice (like that women belong in skirts and not in the workplace), it's also remarkably feminist in its support of independence, spinsters, and self-care. Here are seven recommendations that were pleasantly surprising.
1. Child Brides Are Not Cool
Brown advises that 21-25 is the ideal age range for a woman to marry, for "if she marry young, before her body be properly developed, there would be the danger of an abnormal child-birth." HOW SENSIBLE.
2. Aim for Singledom; Then Even If You Fall, You'll Land a Man
"The best plan for women to adopt, therefore, is to aim for singleness if they wish to double themselves — whether with capabilities, riches, or marriage. And a single life is not so bad after all, even if it does go on to the end. By itself, and still more by the thought and expectation of it, it leads to useful occupation and healthy industry." Single women can be useful and are not so bad after all! Who knew?
3. "Old Maids" Rule
"Old maids are not given credit for having the very best of tempers on all occasions." Word.
4. Foundational Garments Are a Pain
"There is everything that is lithe and dainty, something femininely fetching, about a pretty little waist; but when it is fashioned with such difficulty, and under so much agony, one loses interest in it to a great extent." Can someone please explain this to members of the Real Housewives franchise as a metaphor for plastic surgery?
5. Personality Counts
"Men do not fall in love with a tiny waist, unless the owner happens to have several other points of beauty to carry it off. The human male likes proportion and artistic beauty, with ease and grace of movement, and all bound together not by a corset but by ineffable manner of charm." Personally, I self-identify as a proportionate, artistic beauty bound by yoga pants, scathing crankiness, and a love of nineties kitsch. Any takers?
6. Muscles Are Sexy
"All women would be healthier and none the less beautiful if they possessed firm muscles and strong limbs; this scarcely any one could controvert." Scarcely anyone! Someone discover time-travel and get those wispy Victorians some kettle bells. Maybe all those 19th century literary figures would be less depressed if they got some exercise.
7. Know Your Body and Seek Care If Something Feels Wrong
"And if a girl never intends to marry she should be none the less mindful of her health...Secondly, they should appreciate the fact that, though they may get very little sympathy from either the other sex or their own, there is no excuse for not taking their complaint boldly and sensibly to that quarter made for them, namely, their doctor." Go. To. The. Doctor. Go to the doctor. Bonus: if you're a Victorian woman, the cure for whatever ails you might be medicinal vibrators!