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Sex and the Single Girl, Helen Gurley Brown, Bernard Geis Associates, 1962, 220 pp
This was the #9 non-fiction bestseller in 1962. That year I completed my freshman year of high school and started my sophomore year. Pretty much all I thought about was boys, how to get a boyfriend, my hair, my clothes, my horniness. I had convinced my mom to pick up each month's copy of Seventeen magazine and read every single page. (In those days they published short stories, my first exposure to what is now called Young Adult lit.)
But I did not read Sex and the Single Girl. The title alone would have given my mom the vapors; she would have snatched it our of my hands had she caught me with it. I was so curious to see how it held up after 54 years and you know what? It held up pretty well.
Some of the advice was a bit cringe-inducing though totally similar to tips I'd read in Seventeen. How to be what boys want in terms of body weight (low) and make up (definitely!), hanging on their every word, and being at least somewhat knowledgeable about sports.
But the stuff about sex as a single woman? Guilt free and encouraged. Having a career? Yes, indeed. And though Ms Brown found a good husband eventually, though she gives unlimited advice on how to snag one, she also fully supports a woman who chooses to remain single, not have children, but still have plenty of sex. She even gives a nod to lesbians though she forwards the old cliche about having gay men as friends because they are so good at fashion and decorating.
The book is a complete, almost schizophrenic, look at how it was for professional or working women just at the cusp of the "sexual revolution," feminism, and the great divide between hippies and straights. Next year, 1963, will come The Feminine Mystique. By 1970, The Female Eunuch, 1971 Ms Magazine, and away we go.
(Sex and the Single Girl is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)