Before Savage Love, There Was Gay Head: Studies In Crap Gets Advice From You're Asking Me?
You're Asking Me?
Author: Gay Head
Publisher: TAB Books
Discovered at: Garage sale
The Cover Promises: That even in 1958 there was something odd about teenagers seeking advice from Gay Head.
"If you're thinking of inviting your girl friend's girl friend to the dance because you'd really like to go with her, and honestly believe that you can give her a good time, go ahead." (page 66).
"There are several deodorants, prepared especially for boys and men - with a good, clean, outdoorsy smell, which isn't even remotely 'sissy.'" (page 95)
Way back in the third-ever Study in Crap, your Crap Archivist scored a cheap laugh with a scan of the teen-advice column "Ask Gay Head," one of the many delights in 1955's World Week magazine. After reading a full book by Ms. Head, I now appreciate that I was wrong to present her work as something inadvertently hilarious.
That isn't to say I'm above presenting the innocent as filthy. Consider this 1938 cookbook.
"The Bible states that Job was the greatest of all men of the east. Part of his wealth was the possession of five hundred she asses."
"The colour of the ass is usually drab, but there are white ones. When we read 'ye that ride on white asses,' this refers to noblemen, who greatly valued these animals. Owning white asses was a sign of wealth."
No, I was wrong to present Gay Head's work as inadvertently hilarious. Now I think she knew. How else to explain the way she closes this letter to her young readers with the single filthiest sign-off she could possibly pair with the name "Gay Head"?
You're Asking Me? presents dating and grooming questions from teens, followed by Gay Head's answers - answers often riddled with impish sexual/textual games. When a boy asks if it would be foolish to ask out a girl his friends call a "square," Gay Head assails his masculinity in a code we would only apprehend today:
"Changing your mind just because a couple of the fellows said she's a 'square' isn't straight thinking at all!"
She also confounds the girl who asks "Is there any way to avoid necking at a party?"
"If there's a ping pong table in the vicinity or plenty of records around, you and your date have a perfect right to 'make your own party.'"
In short, Gay Head was almost certainly some future-looking comedian of cruelty, pranking, punking, and corrupting the youth of the Eisenhower era.
To that end, she offers two types of advice: the terrible and the dirty.
To the boy who is called "Shorty" and "Half-pint" by bullies:
"The way you take their jokes will prove how big you really are. The next time the giant in your history class yells 'Hey, Shorty,' reply with a grin and 'What's on your mind, Tiny?' You'll find the gang is laughing with you, not at you."
To a girl who asked "Is it proper for my steady boy friend to give me a watch for my birthday?"
"No, it isn't proper unless you're officially engaged. Your steady's gift to you should be relatively impersonal."
To a boy who doesn't know what to say when alone with a girl:
"Sometimes a statement spoken halfway in jest, on your part, can lead to an animated discussion. For example, you might say, 'I don't think Jerry Lewis is funny' or 'Pat Boone may be able to sing, but he certainly isn't good-looking.'
- "The who-goes-first problem confuses a lot of fellows - and girls, too - but once you get the system down pat, knowing when to lead and when to follow becomes almost second nature . . . it's usually ladies first, coming and going."
- "So, set out for the prom with your gayest conversation and your most gallant escort service! If you're really determined, you won't be acting as through you're enjoying yourself; you'll be having a great time."
Gay Head pads the book with quizzes on dating and grooming. While most of these are innocuous, this one is frank -- and surprisingly practical.
Jerusalem ass party!
[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice's sister paper, The Pitch.]
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