A young woman’s guide to flirtation by the use of parlor games by Miss Lydia Bennet
Flirtation is a diverting, and necessary sport for any young lady in want of a husband. So it seems quite odd that a mother who engages in much match-making and elder sisters in need of husbands would conspire together to interfere with so much with it. Even so, a great deal of flirtation can be undertaken in the presence of one’s chaperone with them being left none the wiser for it. A young lady need only be clever and in the company of like-minded companions to engage in a great deal of harmless fun with many young men all at one.
There is of course dancing as an obvious answer to this need, however, parlor games may be used to much the same effect. These are quite useful when there are no smart musicians about or they, as if oft the case with my sister, are unwilling to perform appropriate music for a dance.
Keep in mind, however, the proper choice of evening pastimes is critical. Certain games lend themselves to flirtations and conversations which might never be so easily accomplished in any other way. A girl must be well versed in these pastimes and insure her friends are likewise that they may assist one another in directing the games in the most profitable way possible.
Games which are particularly amenable for this purpose I divide into two sorts, those which allow for covert communications and those which allow interactions of a more physical nature. I myself am more fond of the later for the former demands an eloquency with words that I can be little bothered with. However, I have known girls who put them to use with great efficacy and it would not do to leave any means of flirtation untried.
Word games offer the opportunity to ask questions of someone of the opposite sex that might not be otherwise asked. Humor may easily be a front for something more serious. One favorite for this purpose is the game of Short Answers.
SHORT ANSWERS. The players are seated in a circle, with a lady and gentleman alternately. A lady commences the game by asking her right-hand neighbor a question, to which he replies with a single syllable words. Longer words will exact a penalty, one for each additional syllable. He then turns to the next lady with a question to be answered with a single syllable. The questions may be mundane as in: Pray, Sir, permit me to ask if you love dancing? Or unique as in: Pray, Madam, what wood do you think the best for making thumb-screws? The challenge comes in that neither question NOR answer may be repeated. Any player who repeats a question or answer incurs a forfeit.
Even if one is not adept at the game itself, the assignment and paying of forfeits can be quite flirtatious in and of itself. A kiss on the hand or better still, the cheek, makes an excellent forfeit.
One might speak to a potential lover even more directly under cover of the game, I Love my Love with an A. The judicious use of glances or correct choice of words accommodates any great number of flirtations.
I LOVE MY LOVE WITH AN A. Every person takes a letter in turn and completes the verse with words beginning with that letter, though the most difficult letters like X,Y, Z may be left out. Anyone who cannot fulfill their verse or who repeats what has been said by another must pay a forfeit, which of course may be a most desirable outcome.
This game may be played in a short variety or a long one. The short version the verse may be phrased as: I love my love with an A, because she is ardent: I hate her, because she is ambitious : I took her to Andover, to the sign of the Angel : I treated her with artichokes ; and her name is Anne Adair. In the longer version, much is added. The verse includes: I love my love with an S, because she is sensible; I hate her, because she is sarcastic; by way of presents, I gave her Shenstone, a squirrel, a sea-gull, and a sensitive plant; I took her to Salisbury, to the sign of the Sun, and treated her with soup, salmon, sand-larks, shaddocks, and sherry ; her name is Selina Smith, and she is dressed in sarsnet.
When one has confidences to share, The Aviary is the game of choice. Oh, so many opportunities for collusion among willing parties to allow otherwise impossible communications to occur.
THE AVIARY. The person who leads this game (the birdman) should have a very good memory to avoid blunders or a piece of paper and pencil to keep track of all the birds in the aviary. All of the players select a bird to be in the aviary and whispers their choice to the birdman. When this is done, the birdman then asks each player three questions: To which of my birds you will give your heart? To which you will confide your secret? From which will you pluck a feather?
The player will answer for example: I give my heart to the goldfinch ; my secret to the parrot; and pluck a feather from the crow. The birdman notes down these answers. Should the player select a bird not on the list, he must pay a forfeit and select another until the answers are complete. Once all the players have responded the birdman reveals the identity of each bird. Then each player kneels to the bird to whom he has given his heart; discloses something in confidence to the bird chosen for the secret; and the person from whom a feather was plucked pays a forfeit.
Word games alone can still prove dreary. It is essential that young ladies and gentlemen be able to move about. To that end, Move-all is a personal favorite of mine.
MOVE-ALL This is well suited for cold weather, and if played in a large room affords excellent exercise. Let the party separate their chairs as far from each other as possible, ranging them circularly. The player stands in the center. When he pronounces the words Move all, every person must rise and change his seat. As there is always one chair deficient, players must scramble for seats with all sorts of possible, lovely and apparently unintended consequences. There is no other opportunity so well suited for sitting on a beau’s lap, even for just a moment as this game. I heartily recommend it.
I do not mean to boast, but I have been told my rum dugs are one of my best assets and How d’ye do? How d’ye do provides as excellent means by which they may be showcased.
HOW D’YE DO? HOW D’YE DO? Let the party stand up in a circle. The first person, putting down both the hands flat, begins jumping up and down in the stiffest manner possible, holding the head up high ; going a-breast of any person of the party, crying, ” How d’ye do, How d’ye do, How d’ye do, How d’ye do?” The person thus accosted jumps in the same manner, cries, “Tell me who, Tell me who, Tell me who, Tell me who,” The first person then names another of the party, stops jumping, and resumes his place in the circle. ‘Tell me Who’ then jumps up to the person indicated, crying, ” How d’ye do?” and the game continues with great hilarity if all are quick and good humored about it.
Another favorite of mine is Musical Magic as it provides, with the assistance of one’s friends, the perfect opportunity to flirt openly under the cover of being a good sport.
MUSICAL MAGIC One, of the party is made to quit the room until the rest determined what task he shall be required to perform. The task can be as simple as snuffing a candle, for a novice player, or as complex as kneeling before another player, removing their ring and placing it on the finger of the other player, for an experienced player. The player is guided in divining his task by the playing of music from soft or loud. When the player is close to the object or action he must do next, the music becomes louder until it stops when he has gotten it right. The further away the player the softer the music. If the player in despair, gives up a forfeit must be paid and another player takes his place.
The art of flirtation is so important, a girl must never forget to plan for it. She must undertake every opportunity to enjoy herself with her beaus and keep their attention firmly focused on herself. With a little clever thinking and these parlor games in mind, a young lady may always be prepared for the oh-so-deserving of the opposite sex.~ Lydia Bennet
All these games come from Winter Evening Pastimes or The Merry Maker’s Companion by Rachel Revel, spinster, published in 1825.
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