Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.
How to Improve Your Personality,
Plus the Formula for Being an Interesting Conversationalist
Author: George W. Crane, PhD, MD
Date: Not given, but its a-bomb fear and belief that psychology is magic suggests the early 1950s
The Cover Promises: You bore people.
One of dozens of similar titles once rush-mailed to America’s most hapless souls, this twenty-cent guide to exploiting social situations so that you might take advantage of others marks a signal development in the history of the think-yourself-awesome industry pioneered by visionaries like Norman Vincent Peale and Professor Harold Hill, Dr. George W. Crane, PhD, MD, super-powered his self-help with science, which, fifty years ago, was still something that Americans liked.
That means this grubby rip-off describes the ego, recommends textbooks Dr. Crane has written, and distinguishes itself with that most important self-help book standby: reducing the endless complexities of personality into a quick, science-flavored list-ettes.
For example, Crane breaks down the self like Stereo Review evaluates speakers, proposing your personality is the result of how you rank in (1) Physical Appearance; (2) Tact or Social Intelligence; (3) Aggressiveness or Assurance; (4) Emotionality; (5) Morality.
Since Physical Appearance is number one, science itself compels Dr. Crane to spend a quarter of the pamphlet picking on your weight. “Remember, you can’t feel like a sports roadster with the chassis of a truck,” he writes. His best advice for “the corpulent person”:
“Even the rings on a fat person’s fingers accentuate obesity, so try to reduce your hand jewelry if you wish to shun those things that advertise your fatness. And eliminate B.O., as well as halitosis, dandruff and blackheads.”
Fortunately, even a tubby stinkbug like you has a chance at love. This confounds the good doctor, who observes that anyone who hangs out at the marriage license window of the courthouse will notice “that many girls aren’t even average in their physical beauty, yet they have won sweethearts and are soon to enter matrimony.”
How could this be? Dr. Crane discovers his answer by harnessing the power of science.
“How did they attain their engagement rings? Well, because they had attractive personalities and had learned to too the other fellow’s horn.”
Remember, ladies: if all you do with a horn is toot it, Jesus doesn’t mind if you wear white.
A caring lover, Dr. Crane adds,
“You can have many physical defects, yet be popular if you will just remember to toot the other fellow’s horn instead of your own.”
Because every moment of your life is a test you must forever cram for, Dr. Crane includes acronyms whose memorization will make you a better conversationalist.
One of those is HELP, whose letters stand for Hobbies, Entertainment, Literature and Politics, topics that could never upset a family dinner (On “Politics,” Dr. Crane explains, “Older people will probably pick up this cue, especially as regards taxes or foreign aid.”).
The second is the epic headscratcher DEAR HOME PALS, where the D stands for the conversation topic Drama, “including movies and the legitimate stage,” the E “for engineering, in the broad sense, especially modern automobiles,” and the rest going on and on from there.
Dr. Crane proposes that once a girl talking to a boy exhausts the possibility of one letter, she move on to the next, which could bring her to A, “Athletics” and this curious advice: “Commend the broad shoulders and height or strength of your male escort.”
This advice has dated. Remember, ladies: etiquette now frowns on you boasting about your gigolo.
The point of all this?
“Tactfully carried out, a girl can get her male companion talking on one of these subjects and get him to ask her for a date to go horseback riding, hiking, etc.”
Her “male companion”? Oh, honey, I wish Dr. Crane had the heart to tell you this isn’t likely to go anywhere!
Anyway, all this cynical sweet-talk brings us to this:
The Compliment Club
Calling all manipulative bastards!
Like Google Wave or Pay it Forward, the Compliment Club (cost: twenty cents) started as a psychology class prank. Then it quickly grew to be both an opportunity to “brighten the little corner of the world where you circulate socially” and another bid to keep Dr. Crane in shiny, shiny dimes.
To join The Compliment Club, all you have to do is give one compliment– or “verbal bouquet”– a day to at least three different people, for a minimum of one month.
Here, he makes it official:
Once that’s filled in, mail it (and another twenty cents) to Crane, and you’ll soon have a signed diploma that’s “suitable for framing.” Better still, just as your compliments convince the people around you that you’re not motivated entirely by self-interest, Dr. Crane insists that it’s selfless and grand of you to join.
The Club, he insists, “if faithfully applied on an international basis, would soon show rich dividends in in better world relations, plus smaller appropriations for armies and Atomic Bombs!”
So, what distinguishes a Club-sanctioned compliment? Probably that it accuses acquaintances of being whores.
Dr. C explains:
“Most men preen themselves on being called a Don Juan or a Romeo, and rarely will a woman seriously resent the title of Cleopatra. On the other hand, the surest way to incur lasting enmity is to lower a person’s sex vanity.”
Compliments also can express your deepest desires. Here’s one to use if you hate being a dentist.
Here’s one to imply you are sleeping with a fellow’s wife.
Your Crap Archivist can’t help but wonder what compliments Dr. Crane would dole out to the purchasers of some of his other pamphlets.
Compliment: “For a while, you really had me thinking we might get through this.”
Compliment: “Not you, honey! Your nags are substantive.
Compliment: “Some day, you’re going to be the awesomest at sex! Now, it’s time for potty!”
[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice‘s sister paper, The Pitch.]
The mighty Studies in Crap e-mail list updates you whenever a new SiC post hits. Sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org.