Here's the 1954 Quiz That Confirms You Need to See a Psychiatrist
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Date: December 1954 Publisher: Esquire Inc. Discovered at: The Second Best Thrift Shop, Astoria
The Table of Contents Promises: "Do You Need a Psychiatrist?"; "What Is Hypnotism?"; "John Wayne: Star of Iron"; "My Father's Harem" by Nigeria's Prince Okechukwu Ikejiani; "Loser at Love" by the Betty White; and "Mature Women Are the Best" by Liberace.
"Considering that all share one husband, Nigerian harem women are remarkably free of jealousy." (page 37)
"In time, [John] Wayne says, he may make pictures for television because he believes that some kind of pay-as-you-see TV will reward producers with five times the revenue they now get from movie houses." (page 118)
"My friends -- and more recently my fans -- seem eager to see me married." (from Liberace's "Mature Women Are the Best," page 83)
Before we get to the quiz, here's that Liberace article, which, yes, is completely real, if you take "real" to mean "ghostwritten as damage control." Note the delicious subhead: "TV's top pianist reveals the kind of woman he'd marry."
(Note that the top pianist is only 29 keys tall.)
And this ghostwritten nonsense by Betty White, then a soap star, isn't especially interesting, but note the wonderful layout trick in the first two lines: If you pause at the break, the single-page piece seems like it will be much feistier than it actually is.
Anyway, 60 years ago this month, two dispiriting trends in magazine publishing Voltron-ed together to form up a feature of towering and irresponsible terriblenes. The general-interest digest Coronet's "Do You Need a Psychiatrist?" combined reader-flattering personality quizzes with the most alarmist of pop psychology: Here's the only magazine in history that, in its time-killing filler, insisted its readers seek professional help.
The full daft quiz is on the next page of this post, but here are some highlights. First, some yes-or-no questions, many of which seem crafted to suss out your secret gayness -- and your fear of wait staffs:
Do you enjoy eating alone?
Are you ever unexplainably uncomfortable with people you like of your own sex?
Do you usually wake up before the alarm rings?
Do you enjoy your own cooking?
When you're with your love partner, do you ever like to imagine that he or she is someone else?
Could you refuse well-done meat in a restaurant if you ordered it rare?
Does open affection from either of your parents make you uncomfortable?
Have you had more than a two-week spell of hating either of your parents since you were 20?
Are you usually afraid of household pets you have just met?
Do you or did you ever enjoy dancing?
Do you enjoy dressing up?
After 37 such questions, the quiz somehow gets more ridiculous. (Check the scoring below to see which of those yeses prove that you're troubled.) Part II involves math, blank-filling, riddles, and the composition of mad lists: Question four is "In what way are a pencil and a typewriter alike?" Weirder still, the next is "Name nine birds."
Coronet declares that anyone scoring fewer than 60 points on this section of the quiz may "have problems that a psychiatrist could help you solve." (The questions in Part I count for one to five points.) But that bird question is worth a take-all twenty points -- if you list nine birds, you're a third of the way to sanity; if you don't, you had better call HR to see whether your plan covers mental health.
Then comes the bonus round. In Part III, each question counts for a full twenty, which means that "Have strangers ever influenced your brain or body with electricity, or with atom rays?" is as much an indication that you need therapy as the number of birds you can rattle off while reading a magazine.
For all my complaints, if you've answered "yes" a couple times in that last section, please arrange to talk someone -- maybe a psychiatrist, or maybe a tutor who can teach you basic test-taking skills.
Try the full quiz on the next page. And don't ever believe that the folks tasked with writing space-filling junk in magazines know any more than you do about who you are!
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