Monica Redlich’s ‘The Nice Girl’s Guide to Good Behavior’ Re-Issued

The Nice Girl’s Guide to Good Behavior. Monica Redlich. Universe Publishing. 2004. 159 pages including index. Illustrated with line drawings and photographs circa 1935. ISBN 0789312069. Available from Amazon.com for $10.00.

This book, first published in England in 1935, is a satire on the behavior of upper class women of the day, for before ’emancipation’ a woman’s only goal was to find a man – and her competition was other women. Redlich presents a course in how to subtly put down your friends and complete strangers, and get exactly what you want out of life at the expense of others. It’s the type of book that Marie of Everybody Loves Raymond fame would love.

Redlich’s advice to those selling at a charity bazaar: “If you are selling at a charity bazaar, it is your principle duty to look as nice and attractive as you can, in order to make everyone want to buy things from you. However much you may want to help with the preparations beforehand, you must remember that two day’s hard physical labor are not likely to leave you looking your best, and you must leave all these technical details to those whose appearance does not matter.”

Her advice to those who wish to complement the features of others: “The nice girl is far above petty jealousy, and will never try to make out that her friends are not good looking. You will, I know, be anxious to say all you can in their favor, and will do your best to discount any trifling blemishes. The following remarks combine kindness with absolute honesty:
“Oh, but I think Mary’s charming. One really hardly notices those teeth.”
“Darling Cynthia – so bright. You’d never suppose that she’s ten years older than I am.”

It’s a pity that Universe Publishing didn’t see fit to include an introduction explaining why they chose to re-issue this book now, 70 years later. Since it was published in England a lot of the examples that are given are not only dated but probably unknown to the majority of readers. Horse racing at Ascot is perhaps familiar to everyone who’s seen *My Fair Lady,* and while they may not know how to play the game of cricket they’ve probably at least heard of it, but what about Henley, Hunt Balls, or The Aldershott Tattoo?

While the situations may be dated – the humor isn’t…unfortunately. It’s full of sarcasm – a sit-com writer’s dream. It’s not the kind of humor I’ve ever liked, and we really need less of it, not more.

For those who like this kind of humor, it’s all here:
Part I. The Beginning
1. The Nice Girl and Her Surroundings: What to Know and What to Say (Features, Makeup, The Rest of You, Clothes, Your Mind, Your Background.)
2. Meeting People. How to know Nice People.
3. Getting On.

Part II Public Occasions
1. A Guide to Public Appearances
2. Escorts
3. Culture. An Index to Culture. People You Ought to Know About. Politics.
4. Parties. Staying With People. Invitations. Helping With a Party.
5. Your Elders

Part III. Private Occasions
1. Conversations. Range. Politeness. Taxis. The Telephone. Grace. Terms of Endearment. Adjectives. Jokes. Language. Insults.
2. Kindness. To men. To Women. To Dependents. To Others.
3. Presents. Receiving. Giving.
4. Love. True. Friendship. Affection. Minor Complications.

Part IV. Advanced Instruction
1. Sympathy.
2. Situations.
3. Unpleasantness.
4. Scandal.

Part V. Cause and Effect
1. Engagements.
2. Weddings.
3. Other Contingencies. (Looking after one’s parents. Going for a cruise. Going Abroad. Marrying Quietly. Social Work.. Living Alone. )

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