Showing posts with label Etiquette. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Etiquette. Show all posts

The Complete Works of Gay Head

All right, so it's probably not the complete works--it's only the ones I own.  Hi There, High School by Gay Head (my edition is from 1968) is the first one I picked up, probably at a library sale.  Since the cover's not that engaging, I probably thought the author's name was funny--and I still do.  The following intro from Hi There, High School is a better rendition of Gay Head's style than any I could give. See image below.

Fun fact I just learned:  Gay Head is a woman!  I'm not sure why, but I always pictured Gay Head as a man.  It's kind of shaking my world.  Also, once Gay Head went on to better things, other people wrote under Gay Head's name.  The next thing you'll tell me is that Nancy Drew wasn't written by Carolyn Keene. 

Here's more of the Gay Head ouevre:

Boy Dates Girl (my edition - 1962).  From the back cover:
Those three words, BOY DATES GIRL, can run into hundreds of questions.  In this book, we tackle those you've asked most often.  We look at your individual problems:  Which is the salad fork?  Is it all right to "dutch date"?  And we dig into basic issues:  What makes a successful person  What makes a successful party?
Really?  The most compelling question that would come up in Boy Dates Girl is which is the salad fork?  And for some reason the wording "dutch date" sounds much more interesting (and dirty) than "going Dutch."  Anyhoo.  Hopefully, the letters are more compelling in Dear Gay Head (also printed in 1962), the title of which might just be my favorite non-existent band name ever. 

But the real winner, for title alone, is Etiquette for Young Moderns (1954).  My copy of this is water-stained, falling apart, probably moldy, but I could never throw anything away with so awesome a title.  From the intro:
 "Etiquette--that's just fluff!"  Hank exclaimed when his sister Sylvia, chided him for not holding open the front door for her.  "If you ask me, I'll take brains and ability--and skip the manners--to show what a person's worth."
Whoa there, Hank!  The person who has brains and ability without good manners may never get a chance to provide his worth.  His poor manners will antagonize others--both in business and social activities.
And that's straight from Gay Head!  Just to recap:  Hee, Gay Head.  And I'm six. 

Living with Others by Laurence B. Goodrich (1939)

In the foreword to Living with Others: A Book on Social Conduct, Laurence B. Goodrich writes that "the art of making and maintaining pleasant and effective human relationships is one that can be learned.  In the pages that follow, the reader will find discussion of those attitudes and techniques essential to gracious community living." 

Although this is a typically charming book of the era, even starting with an epigraph by Jonathan Swift and an anecdote about Theodore Roosevelt, for me the charm of this book is in its adorable line drawings illustrating its many salient points about conversation, hospitality, behavior and correspondence (sadly not credited to any artist--come on, American Book Company!).  See below an image from the chapter on conversation.  Learn from Merle's excellent example!

Practical Goodrich points out in the first chapter, "The Good Mixer", that "persons unskilled in the diversions which furnish activity for social get-togethers are a source of uneasiness and perplexity to those who wish them well."  What does he recommend?

"Learn to ride horses, sail and row boats, drive cars, paddle canoes, shoot guns, handle tools cook, sew, knit, build fires, and wash dishes....The more things we know how to do, the better we are likely to mix." 

Oh yes, and don't forget: "A well-dressed mind is just as essential to social success as a well-dressed body."

One more image I love:  This is actually from the "Appearance Counts" section of the book.  This image is meant to illustrate that "well-dressed means suitably dressed.  School and office are not the places for cast-off party dresses, nor are street and store the proper setting for sun suits and lounging pajamas."  However, I love this image because it's how I always imagined a lady author of a certain era dressed to write.  Being an author looks like such fun!

Although this is a fun, chatty book filled with anecdotes and quotes, the charm is all in the illustrations.  A few years ago (pre-scanner), I (probably illegally) took the book to Kinko's and made writing stationery by copying these images onto some lovely writing paper I bought an estate sale.  What part of that doesn't make me feel and sound one hundred years old?  Copy machines?  Writing paper?  Sigh.  It was adorable stationery, though.

Emily Post's Etiquette (1940)

I remember quite clearly the estate sale where I bought this book.  It was tucked away in a basement alcove, and yet in beautiful, worn but immaculate condition.  I was once told by a palm reader that I have 'psychic fingers'--that I can sense things through my hands.  I've never felt it more clearly than when I picked up this book.  This book gave me such a strong sense of calmness, of graciousness, and essential goodness.  I've always treasured this book, and it started my mild obsession with collecting vintage books on  etiquette, charm, and entertaining. 

Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage by Emily Post (Mrs. Price Post, according to the title page) was originally printed in 1922 and went through many, many printings before my little 1940 edition was published.  The contents include a plethora of fascinating topics including At the Opera, the Theater, and Other Public Gatherings, Manners for Motorists, The Well-Appointed House, The Debutante, The Vanished Chaperon and Other Lost Conventions, Modern Exactions of Courtesy, What We Contribute to the Beauty of Living, and, of course, Flat Silver--Its Choice and Usage--Condensed Table Setting. 

In the first chapter Mrs. Post explores "The True Meaning of Etiquette", and describes it beautifully:
It is hard to say why the word "etiquette" is so inevitably considered merely a synonym of the word "correct," as though it were no more than the fixed answer to a sum in arithmetic.  ... I wish that those whose minds are focused on precise obedience to every precept would ask themselves instead, "What is the purpose of the rule?  Does it help to make life pleasanter?  Does it make the social machinery run more smoothly?  Does it add to beauty? Is it essential to the code of good taste or to ethics?  If it serves any of these purposes, it is a rule to be cherished; but if it serves no essential purpose, it is certainly not worth taking very seriously.
For anyone interested in American culture of the first half of the 20th century, this is a mesmerizing look at a world that was changing in radical ways.  Although there's still a great deal of info about details like "The Well-Appointed House", butlers and other servants and all, there are chapters on situations like "The Modern Man and Girl (!)", where Mrs. Post attempts to solve the issues raised by women and men working together in professional situations.  Apart from the social and historical interest, this is also just a delightfully written reference book.  From a section entitled "The Bow of a Woman of Charm":
Nothing is so easy for any woman to acquire as a charming bow.  It is such a short and fleeting duty.  Not a bit of trouble really; just to incline your head and spontaneously smile as though you though "Why, there you are!  How glad I am to see you!"
So charming!  Should you be interested in learning more about Emily Post, and the vast empire of etiquette she founded, that continues to this very day, you may enjoy Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners by Laura Claridge.