Weird Finds: Puberty Books of the Damned

Last weekend, I went to an estate sale with my mom.  Between disappointing the host by not needing baby stuff and disappointing the host by not being able to cook, I managed to find a real gem: two ancient TEEN WORKS puberty books gathering dust on a book shelf.  The host gave them to me for free, which just proves that she doesn’t know a good thing when she sees one.

The TEEN WORKS books were first written in the 1960’s and were sporadically updated through the mid-1980’s.  They are outstanding–and by “outstanding,” I mean “alternately hilarious and deeply depressing.”  In this post, the first of an occasional series, I’ll examine why.

What If You Fall for a Nerd?
Some of the “information” in these books is legitimately heinous, but I thought I’d kick things off with a funny one.  Geek culture is so hip these days, it’s hard to remember a time where nerds were feared and shunned.  Thankfully, TEEN WORKS is here to remind us.


“I’m the amateur philatelist your mother warned you about.”

Sweet Jesus, look at that nerd!  He’s got a book!  And a pen!  And you just know his shirt was buttoned all the way up three seconds ago!  That young lady better run before he uses his magnifying glass to, um…examine…something.

Lest you think that picture is just an empty hypothetical, TEEN WORKS hastens to provide you with the narrative behind the image.

ImageLook there, behind you!  It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a guy who pays fractionally more attention to necklace clasps than might be considered typical by mainstream society!

Nothing about the bus stop scenario seems particularly shriek-worthy to me, unless Horace Stevens (fantastic name, by the way) was carving a crude effigy of Tom Selleck into his bare thigh at the time.  The only thing about poor Horace that makes my skin crawl is this:


I try not to swear on this blog, but a “jaunty little salute”?  Horace–what the fuck, man?

Anyway, now that you’re thoroughly smitten with this salute-throwing maniac, you need to figure out how to proceed.  And thank God, TEEN WORKS has your back on this one, too.

ImageI love that you’re supposed to ask yourself if your friend has a point, as if “green plaid shirts” might just be a valid reason to reconsider a relationship.  Also: radio-controlled airplanes and bugs are objectively great.  If your friend can’t understand that, it’s time to sever, dude.  You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.Image“Settling” is a real thing that happens, but the notion that dating a nerd is the ultimate compromise of your personal ambition is pure 1980’s.  Glorious.

All right, enough about Horace Stevens.  Let’s get into the really vile stuff.

Can Mixed-Race Relationships Work?

ImageI can’t be the only one whose gag reflex is set into overdrive by the title of this section.  The thought that someone in the 60’s and/or 80’s sat down and honestly pondered the okay-ness of mixed-raced relationships is really creepy.  Almost as creepy as that white guy inexplicably photo bombing the two interracial couples in the picture.


“I’m so alone.”

The most offensive thing about this article is that it urges young women to treat the pro and anti-interracial viewpoints as equally valid.  Like, “Hey, some folks are okay with mixed-race relationships, and some hate brown people.  It takes all kinds.”  No, TEEN WORKS, it doesn’t.  That’s gross.

ImageAlison, babe, listen–I know your parents seem old-fashioned, what with their traditional morals, their obsession with Lawrence Welk, and those funny white hoods they sometimes wear to bonfires, but you’ve got to understand where they’re coming from.  They’re older and more experienced than you.  They know the ins and outs of mixed-race relationships like only two people who have never been in a mixed-race relationship can.  Also, don’t call them bigots–that is mean word that hurt the feeling of the peoples who is called that.

ImageWe adults know how it goes.  The children misbehave; your African-American husband wants to ground them, while your Caucasian social mores demand that you tie them down and play “Ya Mo Be There” on loop until their resolve weakens.  Modern life is so complicated!

Are You a Tease?
There are many disturbingly sexist articles in these books, but none bring home the “written-by-a-disgruntled-MRA-goon” bacon like this one.

Image“But wait,” you say. “What exactly is a tease?”  Let’s take a closer look.

ImageBoy, TEEN WORKS, that’s a pretty broad definition.  A tease is a person who has something (a vagina?) that another person (a straight boy?) wants and so has the power to manipulate that person.  By those standards, anyone with a vagina automatically has “the power to manipulate” and is thus automatically “a tease.”  That’s some rum luck right there!

But wait: there’s more.  TEEN WORKS slapped together a little quiz to help girls figure out if they’re teases.


Also, whoever filled out this quiz in a bygone era routinely picked B, indicating that she was not a tease.  Good to know.Image

The fixation on nerds continues.

Oops, guess I spoke too soon.  Shame on you, Mystery Quiz-Filler-Outer.

Anywho, in case you couldn’t tell, picking “C” on these questions makes you a tease.  Oh, but I’ve already forgotten.  TEENS WORKS–what’s a tease again?

ImageWait, what?

ImageSorry, I see the words, but my brain refuses to parse them.  Could you repeat that one more time?

ImageAh, gotcha.  All this time, I thought I was a human being–turns out I’m actually more like a billboard, or a shady pizza delivery company.  The men keep ordering pepperoni, but all they get from me is a friendly handshake.  Poor lambs!


2 thoughts on “Weird Finds: Puberty Books of the Damned

    1. joannalesher Post author

      Wallace Stevens, the American Modernist poet? I suppose he does have a certain craggy, dead-for-sixty-years charm. But can he throw jaunty salutes?


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