Manners for Moderns, pt. 4

Here’s the fourth installment in our look at Manners for Moderns, a 1938 etiquette guide for young men.

IV

TWO BY TWO

Two by two, they go marching through,
The sweethearts on parade.
— POPULAR SONG

Whether you’re “taking your sugar to tea” or “walking your sweetie back home,” it’s a good bet that you’re hoping you are making a good impression, that she’ll be willing to go out with you again. If you’re a wise young man, you’ve taken care to learn what girls expect in the way of etiquette, and you’ve practiced it so thoroughly that your manners seem second nature instead of something put on for the occasion. Having that “easy, casual manner” that all fiction heroes seem to possess is simply knowing etiquette so well that you never have to stop and think what to do! That’s something, thank goodness, that every man can have whether he has five cents or fifty dollars in his jeans, and there are times when it’s worth more than all the money in the world. One of those times is mostly likely to be when you have that all-important first date with the lady of your choice.

How to Ask
the Lady for
a Date

 

How to go about it? Just ask her. It’s as simple as all that. Try to make your request sound a bit as though she’d be doing you a special favor (a touch of flattery), but don’t beg. And don’t demand it. Request it. There’s a world of difference between “How’d ya like to step out with me sometime, kid?” and the acceptable invitation, “I’d like to take you to the dance Saturday night if you aren’t going to be busy.”

If you’ve just met the girl, you might skirmish around until you find some interest you have in common. Maybe it’s a movie star or ping pong or dogs or hiking. She’ll help the conversation along once you get past that first feeling of being strangers. Then you can ask for your date right away or you can phone in a day or so.

When you phone don’t, for goodness’ sake, wait until the last minute. Call her up a day or so in advance. At least, make it several hours. Girls like a chance to primp for a date.

Never say, “What are you doing tonight?” (or Friday night, or any night). It would serve you right if she’d answer, “None of your business!”

Ask her if she’d like to do whatever you’ve been planning and tell her where you had thought of going. That will give her a hint on how to dress and let her decide whether she likes your plan.

You’ll go over with her better if you aren’t a mosquito. By that we mean one of those annoying chaps a girl has to slap or run away from to get rid of.

If she has turned down your first request for a date, it may very well be true that she was going to be busy that night. Wait a few days before you ask again. Then, if you want to be sure of her attitude toward you, you can ask for a date for some other time. If she tells you “No” for the night you name, you can say: “Then suppose you set the date and I’ll be there.” Her answer will tell you just how she feels.

If you have asked for a date quite a while in advance, you had better call her a day or so before time and remind her of it. Make your telephone conversations short, polite, and to the point. Then you’ll be giving yourself no time to sound asinine or stupid over the phone, as so many people do.

Be a Good
Sport About
a Blind Date.
 

Blind dates are like buying a lottery ticket. There’s always the chance that you may draw a prize. Once you’ve made a blind date you should be a good sport about it, no matter what turns up. The girl may be just as disappointed in you.

Don’t forget that Susie Churchmouse may be a bosom friend of that stunning Clarice Clever whom you’ve been dying to meet for months. Practice your good manners on Susie, no matter how it hurts, for the impression you make on her may be broadcast in unexpected circles. Do your darnedest to be interested in her and you may find, to your surprise, that your evening isn’t as black as it seemed at first.

Once You
Get a Date,
Don’t Break It.
 

Never break a date if you can help it. A date is a contract which you have made, and it should be a duty you owe yourself to carry it through no matter what has happened to make you change your mind. If you simply can’t make it, you should call her up and tell her the reason. After you have explained, you should suggest that you’ll send your chum, Homer Helpful, if she’d like. She’ll probably be disappointed, but she’ll certainly be grateful to you for arranging things so that her evening isn’t entirely spoiled. Imagine your own feelings if a girl called you at the last minute to tell you it was all off! Consideration for other people will keep you from breaking a date if you can possibly prevent it.

If circumstances change, so that you could go after all, then you can phone, ask if she has made other arrangements, and explain the change that has taken place and that you would like to keep the original date. Even if she has made other plans, she’ll think sweetly of you for your interest and will perhaps make a date with you for the future.

Getting the
Girl
 

Be on time when you call for her. Grab your courage in both hands and march in manfully to meet her family. Take off your hat when someone comes to the door and say: “Good evening! Is Miss Mazuma in? I’m Jerry Goplaces, and I believe she’s expecting me.” Don’t slouch against the door frame and mumble: “Oh, hello! Is Helen ready? Tell her I’m here.” Call her by her last name and put “Miss” in front of it.

If the person who answers the door is a stranger, be sure to give your own name so you can be introduced to the family.

  How to
Behave While
You Wait
“Just a Minute”

Girls being what they say they are, it’s very likely that she won’t be quite ready when you call. Don’t be upset if you have to wait a few minutes. After you’ve been introduced, sit down and get acquainted with her family. It’s likely you may know something about her father’s work or her brother’s hobby. If so, you have a hint on which to start the conversation. If not, you should try to find a topic of interest to the members of the family who are present. It’s probable that they’ll be very interested in you and will ask you questions. Don’t fidget. Answer questions as cheerfully, interestingly, and respectfully as you can. Put a sir after your no’s and yes’s when you answer her father. If there seems absolutely nothing to talk about and there are young brothers and sisters present, you can always ask them about school.

Put on your very best manners here for it’s awfully important to register high with her family. Think how glad she’ll be to hear Dad say at the breakfast table: “I like your new young man, Helen! Seems to have a lot of sense and good manners.”

  Making a
Hit With
Her Family
Takes a Bit
of Thought.

Don’t forget to stand up when her mother enters or leaves the room and stand up when “she” comes in. Before you go, say sincerely: “I’m delighted to have met you” to her mother and father and tell them “Good night.” Open the door for your girl and let her go out ahead of you.

If you call for her in a car, whatever you do, don’t sit outside and honk! That’s one of the surest ways to “queer” yourself with her father, and maybe with her. It stamps you immediately as the schoolboy cut-up type and advertises to the neighborhood that Helen is going out with a boy who is still in short pants,—as far as he manners are concerned. Besides, lots of cities have anti-noise laws now, and a honker can get arrested.

Don’t honk! Don’t whistle! Don’t yoo-hoo from the sidewalk! Go up and ring the bell and ask for her properly. That’s the first gun in the campaign to make a hit with her, for it shows you think she’s of some importance.

When you arrive at the car with her, open the door, but don’t boost her in. She might stumble, rip a ruffle on her new dress,—and would your stock go down then!

When you arrive at your destination, get out! Run around and open the door on her side. If you’re riding in a rumble seat, the “don’t boost” rule goes here, too. Give her your hand and show her the best places to step. Steady her with your hand or let her put out a hand on your shoulder if she wishes.

  Automobile
Etiquette Is
a Lesson One
Should
Know by
Heart.

Don’t try to lift her, throw her in, or do any other “cute” little thing of that sort. Girls think about damage to shoes and clothes, and generally each has her own way of getting in and out of a rumble. You will get out first and get on the ground. Then give her your hand as a support as she steps out.

If you are going to a dance, or some place where you have to park your car far from the house, you had better let her out at the door and go alone to park your car. Party slippers aren’t helped by scrunching over gravel or hopping through mud or snow, and party clothes aren’t made for squeezing between the fenders of cars parked six inches apart. After the party is over, you will reverse this procedure. Go and get your car and come back to pick up your “date” at the door.

When you go to claim her, after the car is safely parked, she will be waiting for you, either at the door or inside the hall. If she is out of sight, she is probably making sure there’s no shine on the nose. Wait for her in a place where she can see you.

How Smooth
Are You?
 

It’s the little things that make the warm blaze to melt a lady’s heart. It’s the little things that often show how well a man knows his way around. Doing them perfectly, with such smoothness that they seem as much a part of you as your hair, will impress a girl more than taking her to the grandest café in town. Here’s a list of some that you’ll be smart never to forget:

Walking
Down the
Street
 

When with one or more girls, the man is always on the outside. If there are two men and one girl, the really correct way is for the girl to be on the inside, but in this day of easy manners it’s nice for one of you to walk on each side of her. That makes her feel awfully smart and popular. When you’re alone with your lady, and you cross the street, you will step around behind her to reach the outside again.

Take her arm only when you’re in a terrific crowd dodging traffic, and when helping her up some tall steps or a steep bank. Don’t walk down the street hanging on to her. She isn’t going to run away. Offer her your arm for crossing streets or going up dark stairs or walking on icy pavements.

Try to get tickets for a show in advance. If not, you may have to stand in line while she waits around in the lobby. The usher leads the way down the aisle, then comes your girl, and you bring up the rear. If there’s no usher, you go first. Once you’ve found your seats, you go in first.

When you leave the theater, she goes first up the aisle. If you have to squeeze by a lot of people to reach your seats, face the screen and try to keep your coat from bumping the heads of all the people in front. Get into your seat as quickly and quietly as you can, with as little annoyance as possible to other people.

Silence is the rule at the movie. She won’t expect you to talk and may be very annoyed if you do! Don’t forget that people around you can hear what you say. It’s supposed that you go to a movie to see the pictures, not to hold a private conversation.

Don’t tell the plot of the story (if you happen to know it) or comment on the actors. You may be spoiling her fun. Don’t rustle candy boxes or peanut bags! It’s nice, anyhow, to do your eating before or after the show.

  Public
Petting

As for petting in public, it just isn’t done. You don’t have to have your hands on a girl all the time to show her you like her. Watch your behavior in public, no matter how you feel.

It would be wise for every young man to learn the following quotation from the West Point Manual of Courtesies and Customs of the Service:

Nothing so quickly discloses the presence or absence of breeding in a man as does his attitude toward women. In polite society a lady’s person is inviolate. To touch her except in dancing or other entirely acceptable purposes is inexcusable rudeness.

Girl don’t like actions which make them feel conspicuous and which reflect on their reputations.

  Eating After
the Show

If you can afford it, it make a nice impression if you suggest having a bite to eat. Take her to a hamburger stand if you can’t afford anything else. Don’t pretend you can, if you can’t.

It’s much better, and more fun for the girl, if you come right out bravely with the state of your pocketbook. If she suggests the most expensive place in town, you can laugh and say, “I’d like to be a millionaire, but I’m not one yet! We’d better pretend we’re the idle rich seeing how the other half lives.”

It’s no disgrace, in these times, to have to watch the pennies, so be honest. She’ll like you a lot better, and if you can make a joke of it, it will be fun for her. Most girls don’t care how much money you have to spend if you can pass with high honors in the good manners and personality tests.

 

  Ladies first:
When you’re introducing people.
Sitting down at a table.
Getting into an automobile.
Going into a theater behind an usher.
Entering and leaving a restaurant.
Going through doors and up stairs, except when the stairs are very dark or the door is very heavy and you have to go through first to hold it open for her.
 
  You go first:
In the exceptions we just mentioned above.
At the theater, if there’s no usher.
Down any dark and narrow hall, or alley, or path.
Into street cars (so you can pay the fares and will be a guard against people pushing around her).
If the street car steps are very high, so that you can turn around and offer her your hand.
 
  Saying It
with Flowers

It isn’t necessary to send her flowers, but you may if you wish. Send them the afternoon of your date. If you can’t afford expensive ones, she’ll like it if you take her a single rose, a gardenia, or a small bouquet of other flowers.

If you like, you can send flowers (or a plant) at any time after your date. Sometimes it’s a very nice gesture if you can afford it and want her to remember you.

  The Green-
Eyed
Monster

What to do when competition looms on the horizon? Act as though you don’t notice it! Maybe she’s just trying to see how you will react. Change your tactics! If you’ve been hovering around her and agreeing to her every whim, you can suddenly become indifferent.

Don’t forget your manners! If anything, you should be more polite. Don’t act jealous and neglected—and don’t sit in a corner scowling. Get another girl and pretend to be interested in her. You won’t be able to do anything about it if your girl has really gone off the deep end about some other fellow.

If it’s all a game, she’ll come back as soon as she thinks you aren’t upset.

What About
the Dutch
Treat?
 

If you should meet a girl you know who is on a shopping and you’re invited along, you aren’t expected to pay for her purchases. Let her pay, but you carry her packages. If you meet her on a street car, you are not expected to pay her fare. If you meet her at a soda fountain, you aren’t expected to pay her check. You may offer to if you like, but if she says, “Oh, no! This is mine,” then let her pay it, without staging a minor quarrel.

If a girl suggests that you two might go to lunch or the movies on a “Dutch-treat” basis, then let the arrangement stand at that. Perhaps she likes to be with you but doesn’t want to feel that she is being a strain on your pocketbook. If you are embarrassed by such an arrangement, you can suggest that you pay both check or buy both tickets. You can accept her share before or after. Be casual about it and let her know that you appreciate her thoughtfulness. If you haven’t much money, and she knows it, don’t let a girl’s suggestion of “Dutch treat” keep you from a pleasant evening.

Lots of girls,—especially those who work,—like the feeling of independence they get from paying their own way and suggesting things to do.

Don’t argue over the check. Straighten out the situation later.

  Taking Her
Friend Along

If her girlfriend is at the house when you call, you don’t have to suggest taking her along. If you want to, however, you may ask your date if it would please her. Then you’re expected to pay the way of the other girl. Or, you can suggest getting another boy for her.

 

  Hats, Off
When?

Take off your hat when you meet a girl on the street. Keep it off while you are talking to her. (You shouldn’t stop her to talk but should turn and walk with her in the direction she is going.) Lift your hat when you speak to someone on the street, or if the girl with you speaks to someone.

Take your hat off in the house or at the movies or in a café. In an elevator with ladies present, take it off if the elevator isn’t too crowded. Leave your hat on in street cars, busses, department stores, and office buildings.

Off with it when you are being introduced! And off with it when you are calling on business folks in an office!

  To Give or
Not to Give
Presents

Never send a girl an expensive present. Presents are for birthdays and Christmas, but if you are especially anxious to make a hit, you can take her some small trinket any time you wish. But be sure it’s a very small trinket and is more in the nature of a surprise than a present. Presents that girls will like are: flowers, books, gloves, handkerchiefs, scarfs, perfume, compacts, powder boxes or jewel boxes, candy (if you’re sure she likes it and isn’t on a diet), handbags, clips or fancy pins for her dress, tricky little gadgets, or carved toy animals for her room. Any small thing you’ve made should please her.

Carry her packages.

Tie her shoelace.

Little Favors
That Are
Gratefully
Received
 

If you like her so much you want to do extra things, you can offer to run small errands that you know she has to do.

If you’ve been on a long shopping tour with her, yo can suggest a visit to the ice-cream parlor.

Offer to help with the dishes if you’ve been at her home for a meal.

If she breaks her necklace, pick up the beads with a nonchalant air.

In All Sports
Be a Good
Sport.
 

You can be good at sports and not be a good sport. Watch your manners here. Girls like to play out-of-door games and don’t mind being beaten by someone who is better than they are.

Don’t brag! If you are good at something, it will speak for itself.

Play as hard as you can when you’re playing with a girl and be good-natured if she wins. Never take the patronizing attitude that no girl could be as good as a man at an outdoor game. Don’t forget that a man would have to be awfully good to beat Helen Wills Morgan at tennis!

Don’t “play down” when you’re playing with a girl. Don’t loaf and don’t let her feel that you’re babying her. Make her think that she’s giving you a good game. Treat her as an equal on the tennis court or golf links.

If you don’t play a game well, don’t be bashful about admitting it. Grin cheerfully and say, “I guess that’s not my best point.” In that way you hint that you might be awfully good at something else. Lots of big, husky athletes are terrible on the dance floor and absolutely dumb at conversation. No one ever lived who was good at everything.

If you lose, be cheerful and congratulate the winner. You can say, “Seems I’ll have to practice a lot more before I can beat you!” (Something like that.)

  Be a Good
Loser and a
Good Winner.

If you win, be modest about it. Say, “You’re off your game today!” Or,”If you could put in more practice, you’d be a whizz!’ Then forget it. Don’t keep talking about how you won! Don’t make alibis for losing. Cheerfully admit that your opponent was the better man, then drop the subject.

When you take her to a football game, you might want to suggest warm clothes and take along a rug or blanket. If you act as though you care about her comfort, she’ll feel especially warm toward you.

Manners at
a Beach
Party
 

A day at the beach or a swimming party calls for special remembering of manners. If you’ve taken along a blanket, spread it out on a spot she likes. Try to make her comfortable in every way. Don’t be too rough in your games on the sand or in the water. Girls don’t like to be treated as though they are made of iron! And don’t, for goodness sake, duck a girl or push her in the water.

If you’re not a good swimmer, don’t try to compete with the good ones. You won’t shine in her eyes if you have to be dragged out like a baby. Splash around for a while, then get out and pretend you’re more interested in getting a good tan. You can sneak out between dates and practice your swimming with the help of an instructor.

If you are a good swimmer, you can give her some points on improving her stroke. Girls don’t mind being helped by an expert. If you’re very encouraging about her progress, she’ll be asking you to take her out often.

If you find that she’s one of those too-too-helpless creatures who’ll never learn, but who just likes to hang on and pretend she’s interested, you can let her slip into the water by accident, or suggest that she has too delicate a heart for swimming and that sitting in the sun will be more heathful.

  Picnicking
Manners.

Watching out for her comfort is the rule at picnics. Find a good place for her to sit and put the rug or pillow there. See that her plate is kept filled with her favorite foods.

Don’t try to be funny by scaring her with snakes, mice, spiders, or anything else. Don’t laugh at her if she’s afraid of thunderstorms. Be the big, masterful, protecting male! Make her feel she can rely on you to take care of her.

Don’t drag her over miles of rough country unless she is dressed for a hike. Act as though you care whether she spoils her dress, shoes, or stockings. If you want to go hiking, suggest that she wear the right sort of clothing. Don’t take her too far. Help her over logs, big rocks, and rough places, but if she says she wants to “go it alone,” then let her. Some girls don’t want to be babied too much. If you’re climbing a mountain, stop occasionally to rest. And act as though you needed it once in a while. Don’t ever let her feel that she’s a drag on you. But be considerate of her strength.

Wear that grin all the time! Don’t be grouchy because she’s late, or it rain. A good-natured man will rate highest in a girl’s heart.

Whatever you do, don’t boast about how good you are at anything.

Putting It
on Paper
Party
 

Love letters are funny things! They sound grand and moving while you’re making them up, but most of them sound so silly when they’re read aloud. Don’t let your pen get out of control. It’s a lot smoother to sort of hint at your grand passion than to blurt it out on paper. If you’ve written a really good letter, your girl is likely to show it around to her friends. She doesn’t mean to give away your secrets, but she’s proud of having inspired so many fine thoughts.

Make your letter neat and easy to read. Use a pen, trying to find some decent stationery, and keep a dictionary handy. Think about what you’re going to write before you begin. Keep that same old stuff (that everyone has been writing since the year one) out of your letters. Such lines are: “I’m sorry I took so long to write.” “Having a good time. Wish you were here.” “Well, I guess there isn’t much to write about. I’ll have to close now.”

Say what you have to say in as original a fashion as you can and then tell her “good-by for now.” It’s much better to make your letters short and sweet—and leave her wishing they were longer—than to struggle with trying to write a lot and have her yawning before she’s half through reading it.

Don’t write too often. On the other hand, don’t wait too long to answer a letter from her. Don’t put it all on paper. Save something to say when you see her.

Keep what she writes you a secret. If you must save her letters, then put them where they’ll be safe from prying eyes. Never show around a letter a girl has sent to you.

If you can’t be clever, try to think of the news items which might interest her. Good practice is to try writing a letter without once using any of the words “I—Me—Mine—Myself.” If you can do that, and still make the message interesting, you have nothing to worry about. You’re a champion with the pen and ink.

Think twice before you use any sort of “line” on a girl. Did you say the same thing to one of her friends night before last? Girls do compare notes and you’re bound to be found out if you go around “dishing out” the same old thing to each and every one of them. Try to change it a little to fit every girl. This shouldn’t be hard, for every girl is different.

Don’t make your compliments sound as though you were just talking to hear y our own voice. Make a special effort to find why she looks so nice, and comment on that! It sounds so much more original to say “That shade of pink looks adorable on you!” than “Gee, Babe, you look swell tonight!”

Do you want her to be interested in you? Then you’d better show you are interested in her! The world is full of fellows who think all girls are only waiting to hear what big shots they are.

Be different! Don’t talk about yourself too much. Get her to talking about the things which interest her and act as though you found those things terribly interesting important. If she’s an expert on something you don’t know much about, you can ask questions and show her that you’d like to learn.

Talk about her family, her hobbies, her work, her school, her favorite movie stars, the books and magazines she likes. Find out if she has an opinion on politics, or how to trap gangsters, or women in business, or what makes the stars twinkle. Women like to have their opinions asked, and they think a man is a very deep thinker who listens to them respectfully. (We might add that a wise man will pay some attention to the viewpoint of the other sex.)

Of course, you’ll be doing some talking about yourself. Girls are interested in a man’s world and his work. They like to listen to a man talk about his real enthusiasms.

Try to cultivate the light touch when telling her about you. Don’t be too serious about your troubles. She’ll think you’re very strong and brave if you take the attitude that the world may have you once or twice but it hasn’t got you licked.

Be up-to-date! Be interested in a lot of things. Girls like a man who knows about many things, and they expect to be told about them.

If you want to be popular with the women, you should treat every girl you take out as though she were “the tops.” Every girl, be she waitress, school teacher, or business executive like to think that she’s worthy of the respect you would give a queen. Treat ’em all in that manner. There’s nothing on earth you could do to put you higher in a girls’ favor.

There has never been a woman of any type who didn’t appreciate and respond gratefully to a man’s gestures and attitude of respect toward her. So watch your language and the stories you tell, whether you’re out with Orphan Annie, who earns her living at odd jobs, or with the daughter of a minister.

Swearing doesn’t sound he-mannish as much as it sounds like a kid showing off. It is true that a girl will sometimes say nothing about swearing and rough language because she likes a fellow for the good qualities he has. But such talk isn’t making her think any more of you, and she will appreciate it very much if you treat her as though she deserves the finest manners in the world. You’ll get a lot further, with a lot more women, if you use judgment in your conversations.

Watch everything you do and say, when you’re out with a girl. It’s all part of your “line.” And it’s the basis on which she will form her opinion of you.

“Home,
James!”
 

Getting your lady home at a reasonable hour may not be very popular with either of you, but it’s bound to make a hit with her parents. If, when you call for her, her father gave you strict instructions, “Now, young man, I expect you to have Henrietta back here by twelve o’clock,” why your problem is solved. You simply must have her home by the hour her father stated. Henrietta may screech and wail and declare that she simply will not leave the lovely party! No matter. You must be firm and masterful and get her home on time. She may be tearful when she leaves you and go in the house pouting, but you will profit by your firmness. In the future she will know that y you are a man of your word.

If no one said anything about the hour you were to return her, you will have to leave it up to her, or, if she’s too much of a night owl, you can suggest very tactfully that you have an early morning duty.

Take her home at the first suggestion that she’d like to go and say “Good night” with a pleasant voice. Ask for another date, if you like, and tell her what a marvelous time you’ve had.

If she asks you in for a raid on the icebox, and you think it isn’t too late, you may go. But keep your voice down so that you won’t be disturbing the family. Don’t stay long after you’ve had your snack.

There is one more delicate situation in which you’ll need every bit of poise and tact you possess. That is when you introduce Henrietta for the first time to your gang. You think she’s perfect, and you want them to agree with your judgment. You’d better make up your mind that it’s all up to you.

Don’t give her quantities of advance publicity, then just dump her on the crowd and expect her to give a knock-out performance. She’ll want your friends to like her, but maybe she’ll be shy and uncertain and afraid of going at thing too strong. Help her out. Trying working the conversation around to things she’s interested in, then see that she gets the chance to express her opinion. Don’t hover around too fondly. See that she meets the right girls and let her talk to some of the others. Don’t be critical. Don’t laugh at her. Don’t tease her in front of of the gang until you know she’s so much at home with ’em she won’t mind. Just suppose this was her gang and you were the new one!

Maybe you’ve worried about those silent gaps that seem to come in any conversation with a girl. Well, don’t! They won’t be total blanks unless you make them so by fidgeting, yawning, looking at your watch, or otherwise indicating that you’re nervous. Good companionship means being with someone to whom you don’t have to talk unless you feel like it. If your Henrietta is a truly smart young lady, she’ll be darn proud if you feel that way about her.

Just using your nicest manners all the time is a guarantee that nine girls out of ten will be sure you’re a prince among men.

<< Read Part 3 of Manners for Moderns | Read Part 5 of Manners for Moderns >>

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