While browsing through a used-book store recently, a friend of mine couldn't resist buying a paperback selling for 8 cents, titled "The Single Girl Goes to Town," by Jean Baer."A Knowing Guide to Men. Maneuvers, Jobs, and Just Living for Big City Women."
The book, published in 1968, listed what a single girl coming to town should know, with tangy chapter titles such as "Where to Live and With Whom," "How to Go to Parties" and much more.
"The Single Girl Goes To Town," originally selling for 95 cents, was very important to its original owner, chasing the book took the time to sign someone named Maria, who upon purher full name inside the cover in a just fresh out-of-school, nonncurotic hand.
The big city Maria chose was Washington, and the words she underlined made you feel you were reading someone's mail as you learned that Maria, bless her heart, was looking for a job, a place to live and a guy.
Concerning the latter, the author gave her a lot of choices to wade through: "The Man on His Way Up," "The Chaser," The Fusser," "The Bastard," "The Bore" and a few other types.
To find someone from this group, Maria first had to have a place to live, so her first underlining was the word "Washington" in a sentence that read, "If you are headed for Washington and have a mother who worries, you might want to start out at the Salvation Army's Evangeline Residence" (also underlined), and later "Hartnett Hall," which offered a single room with two meals a day.
The next thin line appeared under a "roomate Placement Service" that charged $20 to help find a mate.
There were rules for when you finally moved in with someone, like "Don't try to vamp her date; never, never flirt with her male caller."
"A girl is known by the apartment she keeps," was a section that caught Maria's eye, with sub-titles as "Don't get so neurotic that you can't buy anything" and Use your family."
In big capital letters on Page 64 are the word, MEN-WHERE, with such suggestions as "Break dates when a better one comes along" and "Don't be snooty, be bold."
The book was trying to whip her personality into shape by telling poor Maria that "The big city is a jungle and the survival-of-the-fittest rule applies." You can just see her, bracing herself, gritting her teeth, reading the line, "You've got lots of competition. Don't always wait to be asked."
And she must have read the cautionary example of "Joan, an assistant to an advertising agency executive on a home-furnishing account, who met a analyst who had recently completed a tall, dark, and handsome security top-secvret report on Thomasville furniture. He took her to his apartment to see his findings." Whoops.
Washington was underlined again in a paragraph listing the best dating bars: "Clyde's, Billy's 111 [now defunct], the Hawk and Dove." Also included was a quiet suggestion to help turn a country girl wayward: A good spot for a late afternoon pick-up is the Monocle, where your bar neighbor may be a high-ranking government figure."
Still searching, maybe a little homesick by page 74. Maria underlined "State societies exist in Washington," and further on, perhaps tired or riding the bar stool, she underscored a few coffee houses in Georgetown.
Writers, poets and painters must have flocked to coffee houses, but apparently it didn't work out, and the next ink marks show up at "Wahington used to an early-to-bed town. But night has started to boom."
"Best discotheques, Whiskey a Go Go (don't go alone) is underlined, along with "the Tomfoolery" [again now defunct] and the warning, "Arhtur's is for tourists."
Next "Folk Dancing" has a mark beneath it along with the "National Gallery" and Sierra Club."
In this quiet, relentless search the book advises Maria to meet new people, and she underlined "Strolling up and down Wisconsin Avenue in the Georgetown district in the Nation's Capital can produce a junior official from the State Department who is lonely too."
"How to Cope With Difficult Men" had more thumb prints than any other page as our friend through life, making you wonder about the high-ranking government officials or the lone rangers from State.
("How to Marry a Married Man," another chapter heading, could be the kind to send a girl back home again.)
She is warned about cocktail party pick-ups, told it is good to have a roommate to help with plenty of fights at the apartment door, and advised about "The Dateless Saturday Night" and "How to Act on the First Date" "Scrounge up anybody who looks good in the blue serge suit" may have given her the feeling that the city was winning, and she must have read "Improving Your IQ" and "Tricks For Tired Faces."
After dragging through the bars and coffee houses, even with long searching strolls up Wisconsin Avenue, fat can set in and diet control becomes important in the book, with lots of recipes.
To help in the search for Mr. Wonderful, there are two pages on how much dough the guy can make, with doctors, dentists and lawyers running Capitol Hill politican or the lonely first, but with no clue as to what the State Department worker can.
Near the end of this Bible for bagging boys is a chapter that might have done better up front: "Get Out Of Town - The Single Girl's Guide to Getting Away From It All."
And on wonders 10 years later, whether Maria struck it lucky or just struck out. Whether she finally got her high-ranking government figure, or went back to her home town - a sadder but wiser girl.