The 1960s were revolutionary. Counterculture boomed, the gay rights movement was born, civil rights made momentous strides (the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts were passed), and hippies helped spread a message of free love throughout the nation. But even though the counterculture movement was progressive, that didn’t mean the mainstream wasn’t doing its best to spew regressive sex and dating advice to the masses. Below are some of our favorite pearls of wisdom from the likes of vintage Playboy, Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown, and more.
1. Be Sexy, but Not the Sexiest, and Look Exactly Like Everyone Else
There are many amazing things about Ellen Peck’s 1969 book, How to Get a Teen-age Boy and What to do With Him When You Get Him. The first is the title. The second is that an adult lady wrote an entire book on seducing teenage boys. The third is the advice itself. Here’s What Ms. Peck has to say about what to wear to a party in order to seduce a teenage boy, otherwise known as: You better wear a f*cking tunic!
“Wear pretty much what the other girls are wearing. If they’re wearing tunics, you wear a tunic. But look slightly sexier than most of the girls. Now hear this. This does not mean low, low necklines, long, long, lashes, body jewels, and beauty marks. This ‘sudden starlet’ bit won’t work; you’ll just end up looking like you belong somewhere else. Don’t be the sexiest girl there.”
Ms. Peck does advise girls to be the “second sexiest” girl at the party:
“Looking second sexiest gives you a couple of advantages. Especially over the girl who looks sexiest. That girl (Irene) is going to look slightly out of place. She’s going to make the boys feel slightly self-conscious about approaching her. Oh, they’re turned on by the way she looks, all right. But a guy looks at Irene and knows if he picks tonight to make-out with her, he’s going to go through a lot of ribbing all next week!”
To ensure you look second sexiest, consider making half of your face look like the Joker’s, responding to every fourth question in a made-up language, or combining flirtatious banter with sudden choreographic bursts of West Side Storydance numbers. Irene will never see it coming. And neither will Lenora Quakenbush.
It’s not surprising that 1960s Playboy magazine paid a lot of attention to women’s legs. We just didn’t expect them to create an entire pathology based on whether her shoe is dangling while she sits. And yet:
“Thanks to a unique study by clinical psychologist John A. Blazer, what was only a pleasant pastime is also a useful science. How a girl disposes her legs when seated can instantly signal your most effective approach. … According to Dr. Blazer, if [The Schemer] dangles one shoe, she’s a delightfully incurable flirt, a veritable study in come-hitherness. But keep cool — the girl doesn’t always intend to deliver. The Philanthropist [i.e., knees are four inches apart], however, digs talking and reading about sex and is apt to seek numerous love affairs, as she prefers constant sexual excitement.”
This reminds us of advice from Men’s Health that suggested men count the number of times a woman blinks to determine whether she’s into you (or on the pill, we can’t remember because neither made sense). We guess the shoe doesn’t fall far from the come-hither tree. So how does one snag the Schemer, aka the “incurable flirt”?
“Gently challenge her to a game of gin rummy and manage to lose — you’ll win the bigger game.”
The bigger game is Going Home Alone.
3. Excessive Drinking at a Party? How About a Scavenger Hunt?
“Sometimes you’re at a party that has gotten out of hand,” warns the 1967 book, Party Out of Bounds. “Perhaps there is drinking that you had not anticipated. Maybe it has turned into a petting session. Some teen-agers are disgusted, because parties so often turn into unpleasant situations.”
If there are two things teenagers hate, it’s drinking and groping. How can we stop it?
“Usually parties get out of bounds because of insufficient planning. If the activities and games are planned for a party, it is unlikely that it will degenerate.”
Hm, we did notice that the second we stop playing Boggle, Sally reaches for the bottle. So what do you suggest?
“Try to get some activity started to pull the party back in line. Suggest one that would be fun — really fun — to absorb the guests. Perhaps a game of charades will liven things up....How about a spur-of-the-moment scavenger hunt? Or maybe everyone would like to go out to the kitchen and make hamburgers or popcorn balls.”
Thanks Dad, we’d love to get our hands on some balls. Oh. Wait.
4. Naked Lips Are a Cardinal Sin
This vintage makeup tutorial video is great, if you like being belittled and condescended to in regard to your face. And who doesn’t? In it, women learn that no amount of eye makeup will save you if you’re staying up late (like a trollop!), and that only girls with black hair can pull off black eyeliner, but we’re partial to the lipstick infraction most: “If you prefer not to wear a lipstick, do wear a lip gloss.” If you prefer neither, too bad, because the eyes may be the window to the soul, but the lips are the fire escape to Don’t Be A Hideous Troll Monster.
Speaking of your naturally horrendous face, you should be touching that shit up constantly, as the book Veiled Remarks: A Curious Compendium for the Nuptially Inclined points out.
“Prepare yourself: Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. His boring day may need a lift.”
Marriage is a gift, ladies! Prove it by wrapping that shit up like a present with a ribbon.
A Ribbon and Dinner, That Is
In addition to lipstick, you should also have a hot meal ready when your husband comes home, even if that means preparing it the night before. Apparently they don’t realize the importance of sleep, like the makeup tutorials. Also from Veiled Remarks:
“Have dinner ready: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal—on time. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.”
6. If You Don’t Learn to Cook, You Will Kill Your Husband and Yourself
Lest you still not be convinced of the direness that is learning to cook, the 1965 book, Cooking for Two, should set you straight:
“THE HONEYMOON IS OVER; the die is cast. You and you only stand between your husband’s and your own starvation. Either you surrender to the can-opener method of cooking, to allow you more time at the beauty parlor, or you make up your mind to follow a more rewarding path.”
And what does that rewarding path involve? Floating flowers, colorful napkins, and symbols invoking imprisonment:
“There should be some special touch — a single flower floating in a glass saucer, a colorful napkin tied in a knot, a pretty china figurine — just to remind your husband how lucky he is to have ‘caught’ you.”
Following that solid advice is this worthless recipe for frozen Brussel sprouts: “Cook Brussel sprouts according to package directions. Drain, toss lightly with butter and salt and pepper.”
You seriously made us leave the beauty parlor for that?
7. Pregnancy Tips (Or, Don’t Listen to Moms)
"Once your friends and relatives become aware of the fact that you are pregnant, you will be the recipient of all sorts of advice and suggestions from them,” writes Frederick H. Goodrich inPreparing for Childbirth: A Manual for Expectant Parents. “While this advice will be offered with the best of intentions and from the kindliest of motives, pay no attention to it at all. No matter how many babies your Aunt Minnie had, this has no bearing on you nor does it establish her as an authority. It is often difficult not to listen, but you should politely indicate that you get your advice from your doctor. Listening to the horrendous tales of your friends' obstetrical experiences is apt to be an upsetting pastime."
What do women who have given birth a bunch of times know about pregnancy, anyway? Better listen to the male doctors urging pregnant women to smoke cigarettes.
8. Won’t Someone Think of the Husbands?
Sure, you may be busy preparing to birth a child and all, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect your precious husband’s laundry, as Marcia Morton reminds us in Pregnancy Notebook: A Month-by-Month Guide Covering All Those Non-Medical Things the Doctor Doesn't Tell You. "Just make sure that, from now on, he always has a sufficient supply of clean laundry to see him through your absence. And if he's going to be home alone, stock the larder now with the kinds of foods he's able to manage."
9. Screw Your Boss, Literally
The late Helen Gurley Brown, the editor who made Cosmo what it is today, also wrote a book called Sex and the Single Girl, espousing all the advice single girls might need to make it as midcentury women. Perhaps predictably, a lot of makeup was involved, as well as the occasional affair with a married man. Here are a few of our favorite tidbits from the book Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner recommended all of his female cast members read.
HGB notes that seducing a beau at the workplace is a “marvelous time to sink into a man.” And while she writes that sleeping with the boss to get a head is “precarious,” she does think it’s good for a woman’s work ethic:
“A girl in love with her boss will knock herself out seven days a week and wish there were more days. Tough on her but fabulous for business!”
10. Eat Your Heart Out (But Not Too Much!)
Like other advice of the day, HGB was an advocate for the whole “way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” line of thought, and devotes 13 pages of recipes the single gal should have at her disposal (some of which are seven or eight course-dinners!). However, the gals themselves should avoid eating too much lest they appear piggish, or you know, too much like those wacky people who require edible sustenance to survive. On entertaining guests, she writes:
"What you feed him and them bears no resemblance to what you should be feeding you when they aren’t around—to keep you sexy, vibrant and unmorose about being single.”
11. “Entertaining” a Married Man
“Are married men off limits?” asks HGB. “Not always.” While she cautions single gals not to make married men a habit or to have many expectations, she does think that boning a married dude is a kind of rite of passage: Married men “have a definite place in the life of a single woman—as friends and confidants, occasionally as dates and once in a great while as lovers (if they live thousands of miles from you and promise only to visit once or twice a year!)”
Yeah girl, get that long-distance booty call. Then you only have to “look fresh” twice a year, and you can eat all the Velveeta you want in peace.
12. Hot Girls Are Overrated
While there are many things a single gal needs to succeed, according to Brown, one that’s overrated is “great beauty.” You don’t need to be Beyonce in order to snare a man: “What you do have to do is work with the raw material you have, namely you, and never let up.”
That’s pretty solid advice, actually. But then she kind of “Mean Girls” it by noting that banging hot girls can be, well, like Saran Wrap.
“[P]lumbing the depths of a raving beauty may be like plumbing the depths of Saran Wrap.”
Plumbing the depths of Saran Wrap curiously sounds like something modern-day Cosmo would suggest its readers try, does it not?