Hilarious Dating Etiquette Rules for Boys and Girls from the 1950s
Time travel a few decades for some hilarious lingo and, perhaps, some timeless dating advice.
A few years ago, my small hometown church was clearing out books they had been storing for many years. Most of these books pre-dated me; some were even older than my mother and grandmothers, also members of this same church.
Each box was a unique time travel machine, both because of names from members long since passed as well as topics that resonated in their day, while seeming greatly old-fashioned and dated today.
During the purge, I ran across a set of books that had to come home with me. Amid the bustle of packing boxes, I stopped to read the books, often reciting passages aloud to giggles and outright guffaws.
WATCH: Modern Dating Etiquette "By Two Old People"
The books—For Girls Only and For Boys Only—were both authored by Frank Howard Richardson, MD. The 1964 edition I have appears to be a second, the first having been printed in 1952 or 1953.
Scribbled at the top of the title page, a librarian has written “sex instruction,” and while the pages definitely touch on those hairy topics, they also talk a great deal about dating, or courting as it was referred to in these pages, as well as relationships with friends and parents. You know, the stuff teenagers in any era need to know.
These rules might remind you of your courtship years or just give you a good laugh because of the comparison to modern practices. Settle in for a bit of fun.
Girls: “Think twice before you let yourself become the ‘aggressive girl.’”
For Girls Only spends a lot of time talking about courtship and dating, giving more pages to that topic than the companion book offers boys. A common theme in this volume is the things girls can do to attract more boy friends. Stay tuned for a few hilarious pointers.
But the first rule Dr. Richardson offers: “Boys don’t like to be run after, as a rule, even though some of them may act as if they didn’t mind.”
Ladies, don’t chase!
Does that mean you have to sit back, possibly letting other ladies move in on your gent? Well, absolutely not.
“I can almost promise you that if you always look your prettiest, show your interest in some boy and his hobby, yet stay in with your group, you’ll have a boy friend [sic]; and he’ll be followed by another, and maybe by still another, as it should be at your age.”
We’ll visit this hobby situation again shortly.
Boys: “Give her a break and a helping hand.”
Dr. Richardson makes perfectly clear that girls are quite peculiar, and you’ll spend much of your life wondering what’s going on in the space between their ears. Still, he calls on readers to always remember the proper way to act, no matter how the young ladies purport themselves.
“It doesn’t hurt any boy to remember once in a while that no matter how much of a tomboy a girl may be, she can’t be expected to be quite so rugged and tough as a boy,” he says. “Instead of teasing her and trying to make her feel inferior, a fellow shows himself a much better sport if he gives her a break and a helping hand once in a while.”
Indeed, Dr. Richardson says the “really tough and rugged and strong” guy doesn’t have to throw his weight around just to show people—we think he means here, a lady—how good he is.
Girls: “I hate to say it, but it’s not always the boy who is the one that suggests going out to the car. All too often it is the girl.”
Cue the blushing!
Dr. Richardson writes that at every party, there will be couples who want to slip off and go to a car and pet.
You don’t have to be that person, he says. Petting, in fact, is discouraged throughout both guides.
“But I have great faith in you girls. I really believe you have learned your lesson about petting, and what it may lead to,” he writes. “You’ll find that the boys will respect you in a way you have no idea of.”
“Is that old-fashioned, for a boy to respect a girl for doing what is right?” he asks. “No, a thousand times no! You are still the ones to lead, and set the pace, when it comes to setting up ideals and living up to them.”
Boys: “Watch your step!”
In a Q&A format, a “reader” asks the doctor, “Is there any harm in kissing a girl goodnight, or holding hands in the dark in the moving pictures, especially when they’re having pretty warm close-ups?”
As we know, Dr. Richardson isn’t a fan of petting, but he trusts young girls and boys to know when to stop.
He writes, “Well, I’d say that depends pretty much on how you feel about the girl you’re with when you’re doing it. If it makes you want to keep on and on, and to go much farther than you know you ought to, or if you find it hard to stop; or if that’s the main thing you think about when you’re planning to go out somewhere with her—then I think it’s smart to watch your step!”
You heard the good doctor: watch your step!
Girls: “Get busy and learn a little about stamps.”
After telling his dear readers that petting is not the answer to friendship or popularity (or, well, anything), he confides a secret that he wants readers to take to heart: “Suppose there is a boy you like a lot, but you can’t stand his hobby, stamp collecting. He is simply wrapped up in it. You can fool him!”
Fooling your future beau, it seems, is the way to his heart.
That’s right. Dr. Richardson says you should find ways to be interested—or at least appear to be.
“Maybe a friend who has a correspondent in some foreign country will occasionally let you have one from a letter just received. Another acquaintance who finds out that you are interested may give you a rare one,” he writes. “Before you know it, you are as excited over stamps as your boy friend is; and you are having the best time together after school going over his album with him.”
Does your intended beau like fishing? “Send for a catalog of fishing tackle and sporting equipment,” he advises. “Find out about what fish have been taken from his favorite lake or stream.”
He did not repeat similar advice to the boys, which seems peculiar.
Boys: “Why can’t they leave a fellow alone?”
That’s a really great question!
Boys, it seems, are a bit put off by those aggressive girls who call frequently and ask you to take them to the movies. Worse yet, they want you to “buy them candy and cokes, or spend a lot of money on them when you haven’t got a big allowance.”
“Why can’t they leave a fellow alone?” an exasperated reader asks the doctor.
Ladies, you’re being too forward—and it shows, Dr. Richardson says. But, he’s here to help the gents find a way forward with their small allowance but eager interests.
“Well, of course there are some girls who feel that they can’t get dates any other way,” he says. “And of course there are fellows who are grafters and like to be invited to go places, especially if they are clever enough to make the girls pay for them!”
“Some girls are willing to pay for boys who have no more pride than to be tame cats that way,” Dr. Richardson writes. “This doesn’t apply to the sensible plan of ‘going Dutch,’ which is perfectly all right, of course.”