A great lady is gone
By Robin Abrahams
Her name was Peg Bracken, and she was best known for three books: The I Hate to Cook Book, The I Hate to Housekeep Book, and I Try to Behave Myself. She died on Saturday, at the age of 89.
She wrote those books in the 1960s, and they are just as fresh and helpful and entertaining today as they were back then. Even--especially--the etiquette one. A good friend of mine had a copy, once, that she quite literally read to death. It disintegrated. Mine is well on its way to that honorable fate, and seeing as how it is out of print, I will probably buy up as many used copies as I can find floating around Amazon.com.
If you're reading this blog, I can assume that you like me, that you find Miss Conduct worth reading for wit and perspective. I'm here to tell you I would be nothing without Peg. It was reading her books, at the age of 16 or so, that made me realize that the social world could be navigated, that sense could be made of things. That life wasn't about memorizing rules but about developing one's own intuition and common sense and humor, and then trying one's damnedest not to let those qualities get shaken out by the stresses of the moment. It's her sensibility I hark to when I'm faced with a question--or a situation in my own life--that leaves me flummoxed. I think even the word "flummoxed" I might have picked up from her. She's all the way through me, like bay leaf in beef stew.
Here are some of her quotes, pulled more or less at random from a quick flip-through of I Try to Behave Myself:
Good etiquette, for a man, is whatever makes a woman feel more like a woman, without making her feel weak-minded.
Oh, Peg. Oh, oh, Peg.