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What Every Girl Must Learn: Advice for Balls and Sex

Masked Ball in Palace of High Nobility, 1740

Masked Ball in Palace of High Nobility, 1740

If my puddle jumper plane ever touched down on a green patch in the middle of nowhere and Mr. Roarke and Tattoo stood welcoming me with open arms and lifted glasses, I would request tea and crumpets with the well-versed etiquette author, Emily Post, and candid tip giver, never one to withhold her opinion, sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer .

Mr. Roarke may raise an eyebrow in concern but you won’t because admit it. You’re intrigued. Still reading. You’d come too if invited. Or beg to be a fly on the wall, if we were uncouth enough to allow flies to attend. Because you know it’d be an interesting afternoon. Particularly if the hour drew late and tea and crumpets turned to tequila and tapas.

Emily Post may look all prim and proper, but her seemingly innocent nuggets of advice for young debutantes attending a ball could have just as easily come from Dr. Ruth giving very different advice for different firsts.

But I paused, I admit. Like you’re doing now. Emily Post and Dr. Ruth? Really, KC? Really? Sure you’re not indulging in a bit too many schnaps while typing away at that blog of yours? Could the lady once considered the Mistress of American Manners exchange pleasant banter with the woman who the Wall Street Journal described as a “cross between Henry Kissinger and Minnie Mouse?”

Truly. I believe the two would have had a ball together!

Sorry. Not funny– squeezing the ball thing in there but you know what a mean. Both ladies gave men and women advice on how to act, and not act in order to have a good time and be successful at the venture at hand. Albeit, often very different ventures, but with a little tweaking here and there, the advice of one could have easily been advice by the other. And I’m sure Dr. Ruth would agree that a good time at one could lead to the other. (Although I think this might make Ms. Post choke a bit on her crumpet).

“There is one thing every girl … must learn—self-unconsciousness! The best advice might be to follow somewhat the precepts of mental science and make herself believe that a good time exists in her own mind. If she can become possessed with the idea that she is having a good time and look as though she were, the psychological effect is astonishing…”

I can see Dr. Ruth slapping down her tea cup in agreement. “Ms. Post, I’ve been saying the same exact things for years.” Then she might continue to talk about how she always says a woman has to take responsibility for own or—… well – suffice to say, she’s referring to her pinnacle of good time. So here we see how the two ladies are basically saying, it is up to the woman to make her own good time – in the ballroom and in the bedroom.

Add to that, Dr. Ruth’s, “When it comes to [the activity], the most important six inches are the ones between the ears.” Now with that, I think both ladies would agree full-heartedly.

Dr. Ruth continues her good advice, which I am sure Emily Post would second that, “Say to yourself, you know, I’m not going to be afraid of a little work, or a little challenge. I’m not going to take the easy way out.”

In a very similar strain, Ms. Post explains, “…for…success… especial talents are needed just as they are for art or sport or any other accomplishment,” and “do not drag through [the activity] as if you found [it] wearisome, it is an insult to your partner, but while you are cheerful and animated; be lady-like and dignified in your deportment.”

Dr. Ruth realizes that comparison is never a good thing and I think Emily Post would agree that such actions are not conducive to a good time for anyone.

Kaffeesiederball Vienna Palace

Kaffeesiederball Vienna Palace

So when engaging in the activity, “Don’t criticize…. Discuss constructively later” because “If you tell a partner about past [partners], he or she is automatically going to make comparisons with them. That’s not going to be helpful.”

As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango so Dr. Ruth advises and Ms. Post would not object that couples need to, “…be attuned to their partner, recognizing that he or she is sending a signal that should be respected.”

And Dr. Ruth would certainly not argue with Ms. Post’s 1922 words of wisdom that “. ..the old idea also has passed that measure a girl’s popular success by the number of trousered figures around her. It is quality, not quantity that counts.”

But I do worry a little, and it might explain Mr. Roarke’s initial show of concern that as the tequila drains, things could get a bit out of hand. Afterall, Roarke’s fantasies were not without peril and he always made it quite clear that he was powerless to stop a fantasy once it had begun. So the three of us are forced to play out our soirée to its conclusion.

So when Ms. Post sighs and explains that the “… gilded youth likes to [engage in the activity] when the impulse moves him; he also likes to be able to stay or leave when he pleases,” Dr. Ruth sees this as an open invitation to add her own two cents on the matter.

“Some things belong in the privacy of the bedroom,” Dr. Ruth will say. Ms. Post will be in the midst of a full on nod of agreement, when Dr. Ruth will add, “or living room or kitchen floor.”

How long will Ms. Post retain her perfectly balanced consummate grace? Particularly when Dr. Ruth starts talking about how the time has come for women to pay for young beautiful men (taxi dancers, anyone?) and asks, “Why should only rich men have young, beautiful women?”

But if I am any kind of judge of people based on their writing, tidbits like, some of the greatest belles ever known have been as stupid as sheep, but they have had happy dispositions and charming and un-self-conscious manners evidence Emily Post’s spunk. So when Dr. Ruth comes right out and claims, “Skiers make the best lovers because they don’t sit in front of a television like couch potatoes. They take a risk and they wiggle their behinds. They also meet new people on the ski lift.” I’m expecting Ms. Post, her words no longer so measured, might just answer, “But my good Dr. Ruth, you obviously never met a dancer. They not only wiggle their own behind but force you to wiggle yours as well.”

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Delve into further Reading:

Post, Emily. Etiquette; New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1922. Print. – available online via the Gutenberg Project under:

Dr. Ruth Interview in Esquire, January 2011 “meaning of Life” issue available online under

Dr. Ruth’s Website