Weird (and Wonderful) Words of Wisdom: Special Year-End Edition, Part 2

In My Opinion: The Seventeen Book of Very Important Persons, 1966
Edited by Enid Haupt

Today, we receive more wisdom from the 20th century’s cultural leaders, courtesy of Seventeen Magazine. As I told you last week, this book comprises essays from the magazine’s long-running “Talk to Teens” column. Seventeen Editor Enid Haupt edited this book. I hope you will gain some year-end inspiration–and a bit of amusement–from these quotes.

(You’ll noticed I included Joan Crawford quotes in each part of this edition. Her whole essay is a gold mine. She even starts it with a dig at one of her daughters–most likely Christina–for wanting to achieve stardom without doing all the hard work it requires.)

Next week, Weird Words of Wisdom will revert to what it does best–mocking vintage teen advice books.

Quotes from In My Opinion

Vance Packard

Vance Packard

“In my travels during the past year I have found myself talking with at least a dozen women I knew as teenage girls. Some, I must confess, have not aged very gracefully. What impresses me most is that those who were most conspicuously girls of strong-minded integrity then are the most delightfully stimulating adults today.”

Vance Packard, journalist and social critic, author of The Hidden Persuaders, a groundbreaking work about advertising

Shelley Winters

Shelley Winters

“Although I am no longer the blonde bombshell of my early career, I often find myself acting that part because I feel I won’t be accepted as an educated, intelligent woman. These feelings limit my social world considerably. The discipline of study, of developing your mind so that it wants to study and likes to and considers it fun, which I have seen in many young people, I have never acquired. These feelings of inadequacy have made me make life decisions which have proved to be terribly serious mistakes.”

Shelley Winters, Academy Award-winning actress

Artur Rubinstein

Artur Rubinstein

“American girls marry much too young. I don’t believe a girl should marry until she finds the right person, and knows it deeply. I don’t care if she doesn’t marry until she is 35.”

Artur Rubinstein, pianist

Dr. J. Roswell Gallagher

Dr. J. Roswell Gallagher

“If these are your primary concerns–amounting to something and getting high marks–if you put these first and all else subordinate to them, what may this do to your feminine feelings and attitudes and role, to your regard for what is really good and really important, and to those people who cannot achieve your sort of success?”

Dr. J Roswell Gallagher, Boston physician specializing in adolescents

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

“Most women look as if they dressed in the dark and made up in a closet. They needn’t, for the essence of chic is simplicity. Chic begins with cleanliness–that wonderful sense of being freshly bathed and powdered and perfumed.”

Joan Crawford, Academy Award-winning actress

Philip Roth

Philip Roth

“Novels do not pussyfoot around. They can leave you sulky, angry, fearful and desperate. They can leave you dissatisfied with the life you are living. Sometimes, upon finishing a book, you can’t help but dislike yourself–for being smug or narrow or callous or unambitious…Novels can make you skeptical and doubting–of your family, of your religion, of your country; they can reveal to you that the kind of person you happen to be or think you want to be isn’t really worth being.”

Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist

Rosalind Russell

Rosalind Russell

“You’ll know us (parents) by the pride in our eyes and by our outstretched arms. No, we won’t smother you. We promise. We want to stand by you, not over you. We want to talk with you, not dictate to you. We want to talk frankly, not nag you. We want to discipline you because we’re supposed to. We want your cooperation to help us be better parents. We want your respect, and most of us know we must earn that respect. We want you to forgive our mistakes or at least try to overlook them. Above all, we want to love you, and you cannot deny us this because we loved you first.”

Rosalind Russell, Tony Award-winning actress

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger

“Travel while you are young and still are free of responsibilities. See what a big, broad, beautiful land we have here, then maybe a foreign land or two. See that there are honest, hard-working people in every corner of the globe, all quite certain that their own way of living, their local geography, their music, etc, is the most beautiful.”

Pete Seeger, folk singer

Jean Dalrymple

Jean Dalrymple

“Seventeen is a darling age…It is an age to enjoy, to savor and to appreciate, especially if you are a girl, because then you are lovely. Everything about you is fresh and springlike–your body, your mind, and your soul.”

Jean Dalrymple, playwright and theatrical producer

Rod Serling

Rod Serling

“Only the Lord knows how many adults are forced into psychoanalysis at age thirty-five because of sweeping a problem under the rug at age twelve or thirteen.”

Rod Serling, television producer


“Like morality, good taste recognizes the existence of other people. Good taste requires that we care about other people’s feelings sufficiently to discipline our behavior.”

Rosemary Park, president of Barnard College at the time this book was written

Eileen Farrell

Eileen Farrell

“The successful human being, as I see him, is willing, even eager, to expose himself to new experiences and ideas. He welcomes contact not only with those who agree with him, but with those who don’t–not necessarily to persuade them to his way of thinking (though that’s always a possibility) but to learn something about theirs. That’s the only way to replace prejudices that create fear–with the knowledge born of conviction that gives courage. And with courage, everything is possible!”

Eileen Farrell, concert and opera soprano

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy

Attending to Our Bodily Housekeeping Edition

Betty Betz and Vintage Teen Etiquette That Rhymes Edition

Big Splendid Manhood Edition


Weird (and Wonderful) Words of Wisdom: Special Year-End Edition, Part 1

in my opinionIn My Opinion: The Seventeen Book of Very Important Persons, 1966
Edited by Enid Haupt

Today, in the holiday spirit, I’m offering something a little bit different than a typical Weird Words of Wisdom post making fun of a vintage teen advice book. (Don’t worry, we’ll get back to those in the new year.)

About This Book: For many years, Seventeen Magazine featured a regular column called “Talk to Teens.” In this space, celebrities and leaders from various fields gave advice to young readers. In My Opinion is a collection of 43 such columns.

Our old friend Enid Haupt writes in her introduction, “Opening this book is rather like walking into a large party with every guest a celebrity, and all of them eager to talk just to you.”

Actually, it reads more like a series of college commencement speeches.

Many of the authors offer good advice—and, of course, a few offer weird advice. I have to wonder how 1960s teens would have received even the best advice in this book, however, considering that most featured authors came from their parents’ generation.

Many of these essays mention the generation gap, and my impression is that the gap was widening rapidly in 1966. My mother graduated from high school in 1965, and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have found relevance in advice from people like Bennett Cerf, Burl Ives, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Crawford. (Actually, taking advice from Joan Crawford is probably a bad idea, no matter what your age.)

As we prepare to enter a new year, may these quotes provide inspiration (or, in some cases, amusement).

Quotes from In My Opinion

Jan Peerce

Jan Peerce

“…it’s so important to be flexible and to try to develop a number of interests, whether you use them for a cushion or a steppingstone. History books are full of people who stumbled onto the right path by sheer accident. And sometimes the best way to find your ultimate destination is simply to change your course.”

Jan Peerce, opera singer

kenneth tynan

Kenneth Tynan

“Nonsense is part of our birthright; and the more we are allowed to indulge in it—the more we are encouraged to make our own mistakes—the healthier we grow up to be.”

Kenneth Tynan, theater critic

sj perelman

S.J. Perelman

“My vocation, it may have leaked out to you, is that of a writer, which means that I sit in a hot little room stringing words together like beads at so many cents per bead. It’s shabby-genteel work and, on the whole, poorly paid, but I’m too fragile to drive a brewery truck and I’m too nervous to steal…In the poolrooms I frequent, it has often reached my ears that the chief advantage of being a writer is that it allows you to sleep late in the morning. Don’t believe it. You can enjoy the same privilege as a night counterman in a cafeteria, and, what’s more, in that job you can always bring home stale Danish pastries for the kiddies.”

S.J. Perelman, humorist

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

“Though a career girl must often think like a man, she must always act like a lady…A woman in business has an enormous advantage: the fact that men are courteous. They will treat you with respect, listen when you talk and give your opinions priority. This is wonderful, of course, but don’t abuse their gallantry.”

Joan Crawford, actress

chet huntley

Chet Huntley

“The American girl is aware of most of the ingredients of beauty: posture, coiffure, make-up, costume and the rest. But she frequently quite overlooks voice and diction…To be beautiful, a girl must sound so.”

Chet Huntley, newscaster

Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S. Buck

“Sometimes talent is insufficient for earning a living and yet enough to provide for happiness. It is then worth the effort of pursuit. You will enjoy art more if you pursue it without thought of money. Pursue it for pleasure, for release, for enrichment of the mind and spirit, for simple happiness.”

Pearl S. Buck, author

Next week–advice from Shelley Winters, Pete Seeger, Rosalind Russell, Philip Roth, and others!

Other Weird Words of Wisdom posts you might enjoy:

Spanking New Edition

Where the Boys Are (You’d Better Wear a Skirt) Edition

Speak Softly and  Carry a Hot Breakfast Edition

Weird Words of Wisdom: Prettily Bewildered Edition

“We all say marriage is a partnership and, for the most part, we mean it in the sense of sharing the fun, the joys, the responsibilities, the highs and lows of any family’s life. But just as there can be only one skipper to a boat, one driver to a car, or one president of a company, so there can be only one head of a happy house—and that is, by law, by taxes, by census, and by woman’s intuition, the husband. It’s a pleasant thought to remember that if a man’s home is his castle, he must be the lord and master; and you, therefore, are the chatelaine, the mistress of the castle and keeper of the keys to a very happy existence as a wedded wife.”

The Seventeen Book of Young Living by Enid Haupt, 1959

About the Book: This book, purchased at a library book sale two decades ago, started me collecting advice manuals aimed at teenagers. I wasn’t so far past my own teenage years then, and the book’s quaint advice on dating, friendship, fashion, and school amused and sometimes charmed me. As I added more advice books to my collection, I became fascinated by what the books reveal about the past. Reading what a given era’s adults felt young people should know tells you a lot what a society valued.

(Reading what previous owners wrote or left in these books can be interesting, too. The previous owner of my book recorded her first name as “Twinkle.” This suggests she was a careful student, indeed, of The Seventeen Book of Young Living.)

This book strives to introduce budding Betty Drapers to gracious living, mid-century style, from party planning to the art of conversation (“Books, plays, and movies are always welcome subjects”); from bedroom decorating to managing men (she recommends that a girl develop “a very feminine ability to look prettily bewildered and helpless while plotting and achieving a goal she thinks is really important.”)

More than many such books, this one encourages girls to develop their minds as well as their manners. The author recommends exploring the arts and expresses unusual ardor when the subject turns to books.

Haupt, who edited and published Seventeen for 15 years beginning in 1955, strove for an elevating tone. She accepted the editorship from her brother, legendary publisher Walter H. Annenberg.  “I knew nothing about running a magazine,” she told the New York Times in 1992, “but my brother said, ‘You can bring culture to the average working person who has not had your advantages.’ ”

I used to laugh at the back-cover photo of Haupt, all prim and pearled—and her Times obit’s revelation that she led Seventeen “from a pink swiveled throne in a large office dominated by pink curtains and pink flowers” supports my initial impression of her.

Actually, Haupt exuded true graciousness. She donated much of her publishing-dynasty fortune to worthwhile causes, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the New York Public Library, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her love of gardening inspired her largest philanthropic gifts, including $34 million to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.

(“Nature is my religion” was apparently one of her favorite sayings—and to that I say, “Amen!”)

“I suppose I have an exaggerated sense of the beauty of the world, rather than the ugliness,” Haupt told the Times.

In The Seventeen Book of Young Living, Haupt does avoid most controversial subjects. Even for the era, her treatment of sex is vague: “The major responsibility for any romance disintegrating into an affair—that can only lead to reproaches—is the girl’s. Your chances of causing the boy you love, or yourself, anything but unhappiness are fairly slim if you fail to conform to the generally approved standards of behavior.”

On at least one issue, however, she takes a firm stand—she spends an entire chapter trying to squelch prejudice in her young readers.

Final Fun Fact: Haupt, who died at age 99 in 2005, lived for many years in a penthouse at 740 Park Avenue. Author Michael Gross wrote an entire book about that address, home to what he calls the “world’s richest apartment building.”  Haupt’s penthouse, which she bought for $350,000 in 1967, sold for $27.5 million in 2006, according to the Times.

Other Quotes from The Seventeen Book of Young Living:

“In dealing with any male, the art of saving face is essential. Traditionally, he is the head of the family, the dominant partner, the man in the situation. Even on those occasions when you both know his decision is wrong, more often than not you will be wise to go along with his decision—temporarily—until you can find a face-saving solution.”

“If you’ve ever watched your brother’s grimaces when he’s been haunted by telephone calls from a love-smitten young lady, you would better understand the embarrassment the boy suffers and the blow you are dealing your relationship by being aggressive.”

“Flirting is probably inevitable at youth, because at this age it’s almost second nature for a bright pretty girl to sparkle at the men and boys she meets.”

“If you are going out with one boy on an exclusive basis, the temptation to offer to share expenses for movies, tennis balls, and so on will be very great. Resist it…trying to pay your way can only be awkward and damaging to you both.”

“Prejudice shows up in many ways, all indicating flaws in the structure of a personality. It indicates ignorance, fear of new things, inability to meet the challenge of the unknown.”

“You, the young in spirit and in years, have no place in your hearts for prejudice against anybody or anything. It’s a big world you’re going out into, and you need an open mind and an open heart to take advantage of the all the friendships, knowledge, and beauty that await you.”

“The better born and bred a person is, the less prejudiced he is.”