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Author: Dr. George W. Crane
Date: The early ’50s
Publisher: Dr. George W. Crane
The Cover Promises: “100 Point Rating Scales”! A “Blueprint for Happiness”! And that cutting out photos of the human head was tricky before Photoshop, especially when dealing with the lenses of glasses, which here make it look as if poor Dr. Crane had a small breastlike loaf of flesh growing from his eye socket.
Back before the godawful tyranny of “That’s what she said,” people who are incapable of making actual jokes yet who still wanted to be considered funny shared the habit of adding a spirited “In bed!” after a friend or authority figure or fortune cookie said something that maybe sounded a little bit dirty. Here’s the perfect opposite of that trend: The first three words of the first entry on Dr. George W. Crane’s fifty item list of possible wifely “demerits” are “Slow in coming.” The the next two words are “to bed.”
Here is the rare case in which adding bed actually cleans up a statement. Dr. Crane purports in this absurd, nasty pamphlet to have polled 600 husbands [in bed] about the merits and demerits of their wives; the most common of these responses he assigned a point value and then organized into two lists of 50 items each. None of these approach the frankness of that first entry’s first words, but wifely “merit” #23 suggests that that phrasing was not a fluke:
“23. Reacts with pleasure and delight to marital congress. (10)”
That “10” afterwards is how many points that question is worth. Note that this is twice as important as merit #17 (“A good cook — serves balanced meals”) and ten times as #37 (“Gives husband shampoo or manicure”) or #29 (“Writes to husband’s parents regularly”).
The demerits never state so directly that it is a woman’s job to get off at her husband’s behest. But if they ignore the receipt of pleasure, they’re strident about the giving of it. A wife loses points if she:
8. Goes to bed with curlers in her hair or much face cream.
23. Eats onions, radishes, or garlic before a date or going to bed.
25. Wears pajamas while cooking.
27. Is more than 15 pounds overweight.
30. Shoulder straps hang over arms or slip is uneven and shows.
50. Walks around house in stocking feet.
But she can’t be too sexy, as demerit #5 is “Wears red nail polish.” (If all those complaints about what women should and shouldn’t look like sound familiar to you, that’s because dumbasses repeat them every single week in comment threads on recaps of Girls.)
The cover of another of George W. Crane’s pamphlets offers all the evidence you might need that he is not impartial in the battle of the sexes.
As you might expect, the husband’s demand a higher standard of conduct from their wives than they themselves are willing to live up to. From the list of “merits”:
11. Religious — sends children to church or Sunday School and goes herself.
12. Lets husband sleep late on Sunday and holidays.
And from the demerits:
11. Flirts with other men at parties or in restaurants.
12. Is suspicious and jealous.
One demerit suggests that we should give less credence than ever to the myth of a single-income1950s America ruled by high wage-earning fathers. Minus five points for the wife who:
17. Reminds husband it is her money they are living on.
Other choice demerits:
14. Smokes, drinks, gambles, or uses dope.
15. Squeezes toothpaste at the top.
32. Corrects husband’s speech or actions before others.
44. Insists on driving the car when the husband is along.
And the most alarming/hilarious merit:
49. Praises marriage before young women contemplating it.
Why would a woman ever want to do anything other than that?
Anyway, the complete quiz is on the next page. Why not score yourself? (I would add “in bed,” but there’s a chance you might just have eaten an onion.)
Hey, you could do worse than following @studiesincrap on the Twitter thing.
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