Abigail Grotke was born in Auburn in 1967 and lived here until the age of 9. She was a shy child and afraid of school. She fondly remembers her teachers, especially Mrs. Zechman at Herman Avenue School, who awarded Abigail a “kindness” award ribbon dated Dec. 4, 1973, that she still has up on a bulletin board at her home in Tacoma Park, Md.
She credits Auburn schools with teaching her to play the French horn, which she still plays to this day. Another memory of Auburn is her brother making her stick berries up her nose in front of Seymour Library. (She doesn't know why she did it, but they stuck!)
When Abigail was in college in North Carolina, she and her roommate found a book in a used book store by Evelyn Millis Duvall, “The Art of Dating,” written in 1967. Abigail and her friend roared with laughter at the old-fashioned advice, such as how to handle a “fellow who gets fresh.” (Evelyn's advice: suggest going out for a hamburger to distract him.)
Abigail began to collect these classic advice books, and now her collection numbers more than 1,000 books, dating from 1882 to 1978. She used these books to create a Web site, www.missabigail.com, which led to writing an advice column in the London Times Magazine which in turn led to a book called “Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage: Classic Advice for Contemporary Dilemmas.”
Her full-time job is as a digital media project coordinator for the Library of Congress, which means that Abigail archives Web sites related to various themes or events, such as the Supreme Court and the Iraq War. She wanted to use her skills to do something fun, so she came up with the Miss Abigail Web site.
She started out by answering questions about dating that her friends submitted, using advice from her classic advice books. The Web site really took off when she was mentioned on Yahoo.com and in the Cybercsope column in Newsweek magazine in 2001.
A London Times Magazine editor saw the Newsweek mention and contacted Abigail about writing a weekly advice column, answering two questions a week. This lasted for two years and “Miss Abigail” has quite a large fan base in England.
The Miss Abigail site is very well done, with brightly colored graphics making it easy to navigate. The best part is the blog, where Abigail shares her life and thoughts with her fans.
Now Miss Abigail has compiled her best advice in book form. When I first heard about “Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage,” I thought “how quaint!,” but when I started reading the book, I found it very interesting.
The book has chapters such as “Becoming Dateable” and “The Fine Art of Flirtation” and advance through “Going Steady,” “Falling in Love,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Here Comes the Bride” and ending up at “Getting Along as Husband and Wife.” Each chapter has questions written to Miss Abigail about the topic with pertinent advice relevant to today's reader offered by Miss Abigail's classic advice book collection.
It was enlightening to read the advice given by authors, who were doctors, etiquette experts and even “Password” game show host Allen Ludden, who wrote a book called “Plain Talk! For Men Under 21!” Some of the advice is antiquated and amusing, but much of the advice is timeless, such as wedding day advice from J.R. Miller's 1912 book, “The Wedded Life,” that advises couples to have only their true friends in attendance at their wedding, people whom they wish to maintain close relationships with after the wedding.
Abigail said that her book has become a popular bridal shower gift and after reading it, I agree that it would make a wonderful little extra to give a special bride. It also has some wonderful advice for teenagers, and although they might think it corny at first, if they take the time to read it, they could really learn from it. The advice book reinforces the values that we try to teach our children about being respectful of others. And for the married person, it's also got some helpful reminders about treating your spouse with kindness.
Miss Abigail says that hands-down, the question she gets asked the most is “I like this boy/girl, but don't know how to tell them. What should I do?” Chapter 4 of the book, “I Like This Boy, But Don't Know How to Tell Him” shares advice from the experts on just how to do that.
“Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage” is a humorous look at classic advice for everyone who will date and marry, sprinkled with helpful tips relevant for today's man and woman. Abigail's personal advice for a perfect date: “Put away the cell phone and converse with the person in front of you.” Words to live by, Miss Abigail.
Auburn native Diane La Rue's
lifelong goal is to read a book a week. If you have suggestions, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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