Friday, July 05, 2013

Friday Reading Assignment: Taffy's Tips to Teens

In grammar school, we had a "library" period once a week. One day, while trying to stay out of the line of sight of the notoriously cranky librarian, I spotted this book.

Even then I was attracted to vintage things and this book clearly belonged to an earlier era of bouffant hairdos, party lines and hats and gloves for shopping.  (It was published in 1964.)

A few sample pages: (Click to read the text.)

All hairstyles require rollers

Taffy and tips on door etiquette

The popular girls at my school were the opposite of this
All this was interesting, but what made me love this book, and check it out of the school library over and over and over was "Taffy's Tune-Up Test," a "self-improvement chart" with a list of tasks for each day of the week.  So, for example on "Welcome Wednesdays:"

  • Opened my eyes early, but didn't hop out of bed until I knew exactly what to wear and how to accessorize
  • Saw some dust under the bed and didn't leave my room until I chased it away.
  • Then for five minutes did push-ups, sit-ups, squat-thrust.
  • After my shower checked my weight.  Too heavy: passed up that extra piece of buttered toast.  Too thin: ate an extra piece of buttered toast.
  • Packed my lunch. Too heavy: left out that extra sandwich.  Too thin: added a banana in addition to an extra sandwich.
  • This afternoon I took part in an extra-curricular activity--or went to my music, dance, or dramatic lesson.  Learned something, helped others learn.
  • Washed my hair...pinned it up.
  • Scrubbed my nails, shaped them a bit and pushed back the cuticle.
  • Felt like watching I got ready for bed first, covered my curlers with a scarf and joined the family in a clean, neat robe.
  • Read a good book before putting out the light...had only pleasant thoughts about everything as I fell asleep.
Sounds silly, but to an impressionable pre-teen, it was like the words of Confucius. 

After grammar school, I forgot about Taffy's Tips for a while, but later, motivated by nostalgia, I searched for it fruitlessly, and recently a couple of copies appeared on Amazon.  With the exception of  paragraphs on party line etiquette and how to wear a panty girdle, and frequent references to consulting with "mother," the book isn't even all that dated, in fundamentals, anyway.  Re-reading it now, after thirty years, I'm astonished to see how many of Taffy's tips have stayed with me for life. 

Then, just the other day, my eyes just about fell out of my head when I read that a fifteen year old girl just got herself a book deal for living by the precepts of a different teen manual: Betty Cornell's Teenage Popularity Guide.  I've been living the Taffy creed since 1982 so where's my book deal?  Of course, I wouldn't have dreamed of going public with my obsession, which would have drawn ridicule from my peers and had already earned me some sharp looks from the librarian.

Did you have a favorite self-help book as a teen?


  1. I did. "If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him," by Sheldon Kopp.

  2. I still have Betty Cornell's book--it belonged to my older sisters. It's a scream! Quite similar to Taffy's (which I think I read at some point.) Corny or not, good manners are good manners, even when read with a grain of salt.

    Still, I am SO GLAD I was born when I was, and not in "those days"!

  3. What an ideal to live up to! I would have also been drawn to that book as a child--the vintage pictures and all that solid advice on growing up would have sucked me right in.

  4. I'm not sure I even knew those books existed when I was a teenager!

  5. OMWord! I LOVED this book!

    In fact, every six months or so I search Amazon and Google to find a copy! I had bought my copy at a used book store in the late 70's I think I was in 5th or 6th grade.

    Wasn't there a chapter about ....[pauses for effect].... a girls monthly time? I seem to remember it. I was also reading Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret about the same time. Thank you for bringing back this nostalgic book! I'm working right now on a post of that pivotal moment when I became a reader. Taffy came later!
    @GwynethJones - The Daring Librarian