Dear Abby

November 6, 2009 | NeW Staff

What defines how we approach romantic relationships, cultural norms or moral integrity? One hundred years ago, it was considered scandalous to be alone with a man you weren’t married to. Today, it’s the norm for a college-aged woman (or a 30-something Carrie Bradshaw) to spend the night with a guy she just met. Both scenarios are at extreme ends of the spectrum, and both influenced by cultural frameworks.

“Dear Abby” columns can be poignant (and often hilarious) social commentary about relationship norms. Here is some old advice found at the The Daily Mail:

‘Two Young Girls’ ask, Is there any harm in a young lady permitting a gentleman whom she met at the seashore, and to whom she has not been formally introduced, to see her home?

My dears, there are few graver follies committed by the thoughtless and heedless than forming the acquaintance of strangers in the way you describe.
Unfortunately, men are not labelled, informing the world at large, women in particular, of their calling.
The handsome, debonair, well-dressed, agreeable young man may be the daring thief who broke into your house last year; or the highwayman who held up your next door neighbour only the month before, leaving him for dead on the pavement from a blow from a concealed, murderous pair of brass knuckles which he usually carries with him.
Or he may be an escaped madman who has just broken his way out of some insane asylum.
Such people have a peculiar mania for making the acquaintance of young girls wherever they come across them and talk and behave so rationally that their real condition is not discovered until some terrible deed has been accomplished by them.
The girl who will flirt and talk to a stranger, honourable young men shun if they are looking for a wife. Remember that.
Girl’s Companion, 1908

Is it proper for a strange gentleman to commence a conversation with a lady he does not know in an omnibus? Mary
No gentleman would take such a liberty with a lady whose conduct showed she respected herself. Contemptuous silence is the best reproof for such impertinence.
The Weekly Magazine, 1859

So obviously, no one today would take this advice seriously. But what advice in Cosmo or Dear Abby columns do modern women allow to influence their beliefs about relating to men?

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