I promised details of some of the books I bought in Paddington the other weekend. As a warning for the sensitive, this post starts with cars and then gets a little more feminine, but I’ve saved the worst till last.
The first is a guide on car holidays from BP – the artwork is hilariously exuberant, but the advice is sometimes just as enthralling. Note the panel of advice for ladies (a larger version is here), “the easiest way to change the wheel is to find the nearest male”.
It also helpfully begins its “What to do now you’re bogged” section by telling you everything you probably did wrong to get into that situation.
More advice for ladies comes in the form of the following books on, hem, becoming a woman. The first is You’re a Young Lady Now, a really rather sweet book from Kotex (copyright 1952-3). This copy was printed in Australia, but when my (American) mother saw it she said that it was exactly the same as the one her mother gave her in the ’50s, so we had a nostalgia/feminine bonding session while my father looked on from the sidelines. But… belts? pins? Ladies of my era, be grateful you grew up when you did!
Inside, the illustrations are of a cheerful and rather robust girl who doesn’t seem to give up her tomboyish ways altogether in spite of the vicissitudes of impending adulthood. I am intrigued by the perspective in this picture, however. I think it is just so rigorous and yet… something’s missing.
However, for all its charm, it does contain such words of wisdom as “You see, many girls imagine they feel worse than they actually do. They get in a dither just by thinking too much about themselves”. (I recently heard PMS explained as follows (I don’t recall where): if men knew that every 27 days someone was going to hit them in the groin with a sledgehammer and there was nothing they could do about it, they would start getting pretty uptight around day 24 too).
Then there is the blue book put out by Modess (“rhymes with Oh Yes”) which contains pictures of girls dancing (not too energetically), riding and washing their hair (not dangerous, but don’t let the water be too hot or cold) and helpfully explains that “one of the main purposes in life of every human being – man or woman – is to create, produce and bring up the next generation”.
But the real horror lies below…