1943's Your Life Magazine: Personality Quizes, Popularity Hints, & How to Get Married This June
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Your Life magazine
Date: January, 1943 Publisher: The Kingsway press, Concord, NH Discovered at: Sunnyside Thrift, Queens
The Cover Promises: "The Popular Guide to Desirable Living." Also, "Overcoming Inferiority," "How to Get Out of that Rut," and all sorts of other buck-up messages fitting for a nation finally getting it together after a decade of depression.
Once she discovered what she wanted, the most significant thing Hazel did was to subordinate everything else to her single objective of getting married ...If you can't quickly list at least fifteen eligible men by name, follow Hazel's example. (From "How to Get Married Next June"
Every man needs to make an honest effort to be popular. (From "popularity Hints for Young Men")
You know how The Secret is supposed to link your personal success with the whims of the cosmos, or how the prosperity gospel insists that Jesus weeps over fluctuations in your APR?
Turns out that once upon a time America's self-help industry was comparatively humble, promising only that the readers who shelled out for How to Win Friends and Influence People might, with a little work, find within themselves the faculty for friend-winning and people-influencing-- an achievable goal compared to what Deepak Chopra is peddling in his current bestseller Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well Being.
(That "explosive power" is why Chopra is not allowed to take his brain on airplanes.)
There's no promise of such mind-grenade superheroics in Your Life magazine, a cheery, digest-sized publication from war-ear America that specialized in smaller-scaled self-help articles like "Six Ways to Banish Loneliness" or "I'm Glad I Had a Nervous Breakdown." (That promising title, sadly, is from the February '43 issue, which I haven't been able to track down.)
The advice in Your Life is practical, limited, and unlikely to have left readers with that existential weariness that's likely when Chopra or The Secret fails people today-- that feeling that "Hey, maybe it's the universe that thinks I shouldn't have a prom date."
We'll look at some articles in a moment. First, though, let's relish a couple early examples of one of the few things magazines do better than any other medium: Asinine, utterly un-scientific quizzes that purport to reveal human truth!
This one proves with its first question that Gandhi and Martin Luther King were more anti-social than Hitler.
The eighth question on this next one proves you're a terrible person if you prefer Fred Astaire to Gene Kelly.
Another thing only showoffs do: Tip worth a damn:
Like all self-help tracts, Your Life is often contradictory. Many of the qualities that make a show-off so awful are encouraged a couple pages later in articles like "The Life of the Party" or "Personality Hints for Young Men," which is amusingly frank about why boys shouldn't be wallflowers:
If the shy young man doesn't snap out of his backwardness and do some choosing for himself, he is apt to find himself "stuck," maybe even for life, with a feminine partner that none of the other men wanted.
So, it's up to that shy young man to do some showing off. Author Priscilla Wayne suggests striking up a platonic friendship with a woman who will tell you what's wrong with you, all in the service of answering one great question:
How then to rate, how to be popular, how to amount to so much socially that a date with a "queen" is an easy feat to achieve?
Unfortunately, she offers little concrete advice for queen-hunting, other than to talk at girls until they like you-- and these sad tips:
If your clothes must be shabby, they can be immaculately clean and correctly pressed.
I've never yet met a young woman who enjoyed dancing with a partner whose teeth were discolored or whose breath reminder her of rumshops [sic] or stale tobacco or garlic.
Your Life doesn't seem to think to highly of its rum-stinking male readers-- maybe all the good ones were off stomping the Axis Powers. The editors had higher hopes for the women in the audience, as we can see in Jon Ruson's optimistic "How to Get Married Next June," a piece for the bride who hasn't yet met a groom. Ruson writes,
Look around for a lonely man. If you can find one who is lovable, you can set the date practically anytime you want.
If he really wanted to be helpful, he might have added "And don't let that lonely man read the 'Personality Hints' that might keep him from being trapped with the first 'feminine partner' who happens along!"
According to Ruson, step one of marrying some man you've never met is to throw away your entire life. He explains, using the example of a young woman named Hazel, who failed to get married in college:
Hazel did the only sensible thing left open to her, which was to move into a new community and to accept a job which would insure her meeting new men continually.
(Prospective Hazels might also benefit from this piece of Your Life advice, from Helen Hover Weller's "How to Get a Raise Without Asking": "It may mean handling the switchboard during the operator's lunch hour, even though you do sport a B.A. from Wellesley.")
Despite that talk of how easy it is to land a lonely man, Ruson advises young women to marry aspirationally, even when working on a next-June deadline:
Don't make the mistake of trying to marry a man less able than yourself. On the contrary, aim high! Recent studies show that men do not marry girls more capable, or better educated, than themselves. That's one of the reasons, incidentally, why you find so many teachers, and college women, unmarried. There are not enough really superior men available for them to mate with!
Once a woman managed to trap-marry a lonely man who was in every way her superior, there's only one thing left to worry about-- the fruit of that mating, bringing another anxious wallflower into this world.
Your Life is on that, too. Here's some absurd and impossible names given to babies in Georgia in the 1940s. I swear this is real and not some proto-McSweeney's list:
Everyone of those kids grew up to be either a hobo (Fuller Booze!) or an indie band (The Patience Mules!).
Shocking Detail: Here's a fun wordgame!
Remember, in the 1940s it was considered appropriate to scribble the word "chesty" on paper you might leave around the office. it was even appropriate to include that word in help-wanted ads.
Other Studies in Crap columns you might enjoy: Woman's Day's 1964 Gallery of Cat Portraits Broke the Internet Before There Was One
Hey, you could do worse than following @studiesincrap on the Twitter thing.
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