20 Hilarious Things Girls Were Told About Dating 50 Years Ago
Go for the gold—in his pockets, that is!
There are certain old-fashioned dating rules that can—and should—still be used today. For example, we could all benefit from more dinners together during the work week, right? But, not every piece of dating advice from the middle of the 20th century is still relevant, especially for women. Old dating advice during the ’50s and ’60s assumed girls were more like property than people. As a result, the so-called rules for women focused primarily on how to please a man and how to avoid confrontation at all costs. Herein, we’ve rounded up some of the most hilarious (and heinous) dating tips that girls were actually given in decades past.
1. Girls were encouraged to lie about their lineage if their parents were overweight.
A piece of dating advice offered in a 1958 issue of McCall‘s read: “If your mother is fat, tell him you take after your father.” Yes, that’s a direct quote, and no, that’s not all. The article went on to say that if your father was overweight too, “tell him you’re adopted!”
2. The girdle was everything.
“Never underestimate the importance of your girdle,” noted a passage in 1967’s The Seventeen Book of Fashion and Beauty. This, of course, was offered alongside advice like, “You can’t expect to charm a royal ball or end up with Rex Harrison with sloppy speech habits.”
3. A woman had to let her guy cut his own steak.
Apparently, nothing says “I’m a manly man” quite like cutting your own steaks. That’s why, in the October 1965 issue of Good Housekeeping, one of the tips included in “120 Ways to Please a Man” focused on making sure that there’s always a “good, sharp knife” around.
4. Women who wanted to please their men were instructed to spruce up their veggie presentations.
The Good Housekeeping article also noted: “If vegetables are something he can usually take or leave, surprise him with imaginative ones like peas dotted with tiny white onions or golden carrots with a dash of ginger.” We’re confused: Is this your husband or your son?
5. If a girl wanted to know whether her date was rich or not, she was encouraged to skip rope with him.
Now, the suggestion to skip rope on a date isn’t all that bad on its own. What is bad, however, is Art Unger’s reason for suggesting it in The Cool Book: A Teen-Agers Guide to Survival in a Square Society. “You’ll be able to tell whether he can afford to take you out on the town by the jangling in his jeans,” he wrote.
6. The secret to a successful relationship was talking to your guy’s plants.
“He needs to be made to feel cherished, beloved, and adored to distraction, too!” wrote an article titled “Loving Gestures” in a 1977 issue of Cosmopolitan. One of the “loving gestures” the article suggests? “Say nice things to his plants.” (Yes, seriously.)
7. Girls had to accept help from their dates—even when they didn’t need it.
In Margaret Bevans’ McCall’s Book of Everyday Etiquette, the dating expert advised girls to accept help always so as to not embarrass their dates.
“It is embarrassing to your escort if you refuse his services or beat him to the punch,” she wrote. “If he offers help on the stairs or crossing the street, accept it even if you don’t need it.”
8. Women were told to “say shocking things” to avoid awkward conversation.
“Say shocking things—he’ll be too stunned to realize what a bad conversationalist you are.” Yes, this is more real advice from Unger.
9. A woman’s ultimate job was creating a relaxing environment for her man.
A home economics textbook from the 1960s suggested that when your man came home, you should “have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom” and “have a cool warm drink ready for him.”
“You may have a dozen things to tell him,” the book noted, “but the moment of his arrival is not the time.”
10. A man’s advice about perfume mattered more than a woman’s.
“Ask his advice on what kind [of perfume] you should wear,” McCall’s told women in the late 1950s. The magazine noted that men “like to think they’re authorities on perfume.”
11. Girls should make their men clothing.
When a woman wrote in to Cosmopolitan in 1967 because she needed help with her unkempt surfer boyfriend, Patrick O’Higgins responded: “Crochet him a long cardigan—with a Russian collar—and a seagull in flight on the breast pocket.”
He continued: “Sew him long Bermuda shorts in vibrant stripes that you can recognize three hundred yards away; embroider him a T-shirt with his club’s insignia; cut him an old-fashioned aviator’s cloth helmet to keep his hair out of his eyes. And, when he comes back to you… rub lanolin cream on his knee bumps.” Wow, that is very specific.
12. Women should only talk about “the things he wants to talk about.”
“Please and flatter your date by talking about the things he wants to talk about.” This was a dating tip for women in a 1938 issue of Click Photo-Parade Magazine.
Other great tidbits from the same article included things like, “Don’t drink too much, as a man expects you to keep your dignity all evening,” and “Do your dressing in your boudoir to keep your allure.”
13. Women weren’t supposed to ask too many questions.
Here’s a great piece of dating advice from Betty Allen and Mitchell Pirie Briggs’ 1964 book Mind Your Manners: “Go slow on the telephone calls and such remarks as, ‘Where have you been all this time?’ That’s a poor way to win him. Be a good companion, and he will come back for more on his own initiative.”
14. Girls couldn’t invite guys on dates, lest they wanted to seem “too eager.”
Women who invited men to a show or concert in the ’50s were seen as far too forward. As Irene Pierson wrote in her 1956 advice book Campus Cues: “The girl should not buy tickets often.”
15. Women were expected to control their urges.
“Of course sex is natural. So is eating. But would you sit down at the dinner table and pull the leg off a turkey or scoop up the mashed potatoes with your hands?” Ann Landers asked in her 1961 book Since You Ask Me. “Would you grab the fresh rolls off a bakery counter and stuff them into your mouth? Of course not, because civilized people are expected to control their natural instincts. This distinguishes men from beasts.” An unusual comparison, but it got the point across at the time, we guess?
16. A girl’s role on a date was to focus on the boy, not herself.
Does a guy like you for your wit and charm and personality? In the early ’60s, that didn’t matter at all!
“Stop thinking about the kind of image you’re presenting to him… and focus the lighting on him,” Abigail Wood suggested in a dating advice column in a 1963 issue of Seventeen. “He’ll like you for being interested; he’ll feel more confident and nothing brings out the hidden best in a person more than the feeling that someone genuinely cares to know him better.”
17. Nagging was a no-no, but modesty was paramount.
One of the 10 pieces of advice included in the 1973 “Ten Commandments For Today’s Wives” by Abigail Van Buren (aka Dear Abby) was: “Forget not the virtue of cleanliness and modest attire.”
Some of the other commandments? “Thou shalt not withhold affection from thy husband, for every man loveth to be loved,” and “Thou shalt not nag.”
18. Complimenting the guy was of utmost importance.
“Compliment him on his physical prowess, his mental acumen, his good looks, his virility… lay it on thick but subtly,” read Robert H. Loeb’s 1959 advice book She-Manners: The Teen Girls’ Book of Etiquette. “Stroke his ego. Let him think he’s king much of the time. He will love you for it, and, you know, it will make you feel extremely feminine.”
19. Wives couldn’t work without first considering how it might make their husbands feel.
Nowadays, women have the choice to work (and many do). However, that wasn’t the case in the late 1950s.
“Psychological and emotional benefits and hazards must be considered, from the point of view of both husband and wife,” wrote Clifford R. Adams, Ph.D. for an article in the May 1960 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal. “Will the husband resent his wife’s success? Will he be grateful that she, too, is glad to stay home at night after a day at the office?”
20. When a man was upset with his gal’s behavior, it was her fault.
When one woman wrote in to a 1959 issue of Ladies Home Journal about what her husband considered to be her “‘daring’ way of dressing” and “‘teasing’ behavior around men,” Adams’ advice was as follows: “To persist in mannerisms or actions distressing to your husband is to indulge yourself. It reflects lack of consideration and suggests disrespect. Ask yourself if self-discipline for his sake might not be more rewarding than self-indulgence.” And since women are free to do what they want now—thankfully—all women should check out The 25 Best Ways to Score a Promotion.
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