No Always Means No

Advice Column Sub Deb Ladies Home Journal May 1955

No, no doesn’t mean yes. No does not even mean convince me.

Reluctance doesn’t mean consent. Being drunk doesn’t mean consent. Being passed out doesn’t mean consent.

Not now. Not ever.


vintage illustration couple in car

Before the  MeToo movement pushed up the conversation around consent, women and girls often sought out dating and sexual guidance from advice columns for this age-old dilemma.

A jittery mid-century gal might well consult the popular Sub Deb Column in her mother’s Ladies Home Journal which offered sound advice about going steady, petting, and avoiding the dangers of peer pressure.

In a clear-cut voice chock full of easy to follow pointers they tackled the tricky problems we are still wrestling with today.

In one May 1955 column they counseled the confused miss on … How to Say No to Unwanted Advances. Even the smoothest gal could use a tip or two to make an evening real dream-diary stuff.  Figuring out how to say “good night but not goodbye” and maintain her reputation, caused many a bobby soxer plenty of headaches.

If it were only this easy….

Advice Column Sub Deb Ladies Home Journal May 1955

What do you mean NO?

“A girl can refuse anything from a kiss to a cream puff- and not be a wet blanket, a goody-goody or  drag- if she’s sure of her answer before she must make her choice.

If a girl says no– and means maybe – she can expect an argument.

But if her no really means NO, even the tone of her voice rings with decisiveness.

Secret 1 of the successful no is acknowledgement of the kind of person you want to be and how that person stands on crucial choices. Secret 2 is ready to answer to give before a decision must be reached. To say no without words – just a meaningful shake of the head – is difficult but ideal.

Second best is the brief and direct no.”

I Mean I Like You But…


Ladies Home Journal May 1955 The Sub Deb column

Ladies Home Journal May 1955 The Sub Deb column

“I mean “Don’t Tempt Me.” As for big spur of the moment tempations…If you do not want a drink, for instance, the best way is to avoid going around with people who do. But if it comes to your turn to order, have your answer ready: “Make mine a root beer please.” This is not the time to hesitate or to apologize or mention that your family disapproves.”

Though most  of the advice is as corny as high fructose corn syrup and woefully dated, this next nugget is timeless and is as true then as it is now:

“ Any person who makes it horribly awkward for you to refuse is a no-person for you. No elaborate explanations are ever necessary.”


 © Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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