The Mysterious Back Page (And a book Giveaway!)

The other day, I was cleaning out my bookshelf and came across a tattered book that was given to my mother as a teenager. (Though when I texted her just now she said she has no memory of the “Steve and Sue” whose inscription in the front cover indicates they gifted her the book. Nor does she remember the book which is now in my possession.) The book is titled Your Manners Are Showing: The Handbook of Teen-Age Know-How and is authored and illustrated by a writer and cartoonist Betty Betz. And before you correct my incorrect use of a dash, know that back in 1946 they hyphenated teenage. Or at least Betty Betz did.

Each chapter, which run the gamut from Table Manners to The Rich and The Poor to Mood Indigo, has lively illustrations and pithy verses penned by another writer named Anne Clark. As I kid, I never read Betty’s chapters, only Anne’s verses. Many are applicable today. For instance:

                        We all must wait around in vain

                        While Peggy chats with friends again.

                        Perhaps she thinks that she alone

                        Is privileged to use the phone.

Remember, this was pre-cellphone!

And I gotta say, reading Betty’s language now? In the chapters? It’s pretty hip. She talks about parents not “collaring your jive” and being “a dungaree dame by day.” Love it. Predictably, though, her illustrations show no diversity, the teenagers are white and heterosexual, and the rules of behavior the book advocates are dictated by gender. For instance:

                        If you’re outdoors and meet Joe Blake.

                        Of course, you give his hand a shake.

                        He must remove his glove, though you

                        May keep yours on (all women do).

Betty and Anne were definitely a product of their time, and I like to think if they were writing the book now, they’d cover the dos and don’ts of pronouns when talking with teens who are nonconforming, and social media etiquette. For example:

                        Naughty sexting may not go well

                        Your love for them may go to hell.

                        Your pic is shared? Then you’re to blame

                        When you lie in bed and cry in shame.

 But none of this is what prompted me to write this blog. What prompted me to write the blog is the illustration on the back page. It stands alone—apart from the rest of the book. There is no explanation for it. No reason for it. And it used to creep me and my sister out.

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Write your thoughts about the illustration. Tell me what you think Betty meant by it, or, make up your own verse for present-day teens, and I will enter your name in the book giveaway. If I pull your name from the hat, any of my five novels (e-book or paperback) can be yours! I’ll do the drawing Wednesday the 23. Good luck!

And remember to live the love! It’s all we’ve got.

10 comments

  1. Creepy pic! It is interesting, though not surprising, that the creepy person on the back cover is female and not male. Look at all of the little creepy people that are needed to help out poor “teen-age” ‘girls’.

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  2. What a drawing! It seems to show all the pain that can afflict a woman when she shows her heart. The cruelties of life? I don’t know. It’s a puzzle. And I don’t have a verse to share, but I will say that when I was a kid (age six to fifteen), I read and re-read a book we had at home that was all about etiquette, complete with line drawings. It too was heteronormative, with rules for male and female, who spoke to whom first, when to remove one’s glove, who walked on the outside, etc. I loved that book and found it endlessly fascinating. (I was a weird kid.)

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  3. Wow! Betty and Anne have some serious subversive text going on with this pic. It screams “never mind anything you’ve read here. As a woman your back is to the wall and you’ll be lucky to survive. “

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  4. Jeez, that drawing is like the female version of the scene from Gulliver’s travels with the Lilliputians but instead is showing some of the ways a girl (or woman) can or does hurt or invalidate herself emotionally or otherwise. Hardly an inspiring illustration and super creepy for sure. And the snake being let out of the cage to go up her leg (and is peering up her dress)?! So many things could be said about that alone! Yikes!
    Collectively it’s like a visual for girls to set them up for a life of disappointment because they’re girls and not boys. Sad.

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  5. That picture is creepy. I think it represents all the ways we can harm ourselves, or at least many. This’ll stick with me for awhile.

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  6. 1. The girl on her head is driving a nail in her head.
    2. The girl on her rt arm hanging a frog to her lips to kiss.
    3. The girl on her left arm has cut out her heart and is using it as a mirror.
    4. Girl on rt hip is pulling/ hanging from hair. 5. While girl on left hip is cutting her hair.
    6. Girl at rt foot is lighting a match.
    7. Girl at left foot is releasing a rodent up her leg.
    I believe that this is a picturesque representation of the seven deadly sins of etiquette, at least according to Betty or Anne!

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  7. I was thinking the images represented different things, such as wearing your heart on your sleeve for the emotions that women are often associated with. A match is being wedged under the shoe so maybe light a fire under “you”. I agree with what someone said earlier about kissing a frog. The other images not so certain about but they are strange and I would have had nightmares for sure!

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  8. Another great post Cliff! I agree that picture is way creepy. Especially the rodent being released up the girl’s leg. WTH?

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  9. Creepy is right! Think it would have made me want to learn to run really fast! And maybe learn to fight back like Grandpa told me I had to do. (He said If I came in crying one more time he would get after me with a switch – I think I was about 6 years old and he would never have hit me with anything 😊)

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