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Women’s Home Companion magazine
Discovered at: Just laying around at the old Voice offices.
“It is natural and right for a single girl to be more repressed than a marred woman.” (From “How Inhibited Is Your Love?”)
“I’m doing something I never thought I could or would do. I’m letting my wife support me.” (From “I Let My Wife Support Me”)
Here’s a puzzler. Who’s better at hooking up? That one friend of yours who’s afraid to talk on the phone and sing-songs “Awk-ward!” or “Ruh-roh!” whenever faced with having to speak to a stranger?
Or your grandparents?
Chief among the fusty treasures of this 1946 issue of Women’s Home Companion is the brief, mad quiz “How Inhibited Is Your Love?” It purported to reveal to women whether they were too nervous and repressed to find success in love. Its actual questions include:
“Do you dread making social calls?”
“Do some people make you feel quite inferior?”
“Do you find it hard to have fun at parties?”
“Are you afraid of both cats and dogs?”
“Do you find it hard to talk to five-year-olds?”
The scoring scheme reveals something of the pressures that may have made many of ’46’s single women anxious:
“If you are unmarried and answered yes to more than thirteen, you are so full of anxieties in your relations with men that your chances of marriage are below average.”
So get out there and friend some five-year-olds, ladies!
Of course, what’s fascinating about the quiz today is that almost every person I know under the age of thirty would fail this quiz but good. Try for yourself:
And then call up your grandma and ask her how to get laid! (Clicking on the quiz will make it larger.)
But let’s say you (or your forebears) actually made it to the altar, presumably after training to stop fleeing from cats and dogs. What is there to look forward to? Women’s Home Companion turned to their readers to dish the truth about American marriage in this poll:
The editors polled their “Reader-Reporters” and discovered that husbands are “apt to be bossy, refuse to plan money matters, are stingy, belittle their wives, are stubborn, impatient, selfish.” But at least they were loyal: “On the whole, though, they seem to be faithful because a scant one percent said husbands pay attention to other women.”
But who would want them to be? Here’s the choicest comments from readers:
“Men,” says one wife disgustedly, “resent marriage because they say it will tie them down and prevent them from seeing the world. Yet after marriage it’s a good wife who can get the husband to take an adventurous stroll around the block!”
“If men gave just a modicum of thought to the intricate wheels of marriage and didn’t accept it as a kind of perpetual Be Kind to Dumb Animals week, well, they would be less irritating as husbands.”
“I’d like to feel that I’m not just another gadget that runs efficiently.”
“I hate that I-put-in-eight-hours-at-the-office attitude that keeps them from helping with dishes or any household chore. I put in eight hours too, yet shop, cook, and keep house besides.”
“The trait I consider most annoying in men is when a husband calls his wife ‘mamma.'”
Seriously, those women don’t sound repressed to me. Male readers, too, were invited to carp about their marriages, but somehow their complaints stir less sympathy. What did the men of ’46 find annoying about their wives?
“Seeing my wife with the seams of her stockings crooked.”
“They butt in during a conversation. And they have too much little talk. They should remember the famous general who could ‘remain silent in seven languages.'”
“I’m irked by the apparent inability of most women to understand a number of simple things, such as maps, football, chess, their husband’s work, and which way is north.”
One fellow actually codes one complaint in the language of one of those “simple things” he thought wives couldn’t understand:
“If talk were a baseball, any three women could make our old ball heroes, Tinker to Evers to Chance, look like boys on a sandlot.”
For all that, Companion still insists that marriage was worth fighting for. One “reader-reporter” gets credited with summing up the “general attitude,” which somehow is more depressing even than all the earlier grievances:
“He is bald-headed and I’m fat and we just silently put up with each other. Truly I wouldn’t change him if I could.”
As we can see elsewhere in the Women’s Home Companion, putting up with each other and never daring to change seemed, to the editors, preferable to the shame of any marriage that found its own unique shape. Note that this next article is credited to “Anonymous.”
There is some fun stuff in these pages. Here’s a terrifying ’40s corn-based mating ritual:
The idea is that teenagers gathered at farms at harvest time to shuck corn — with the curious proviso that any boy who found a red ear was entitled to his prick of much riper produce:
What happens next is what that preacher in Footloose was trying to warn us about:
Of course, all Women’s Home Companion‘s advice, quizzes, and corn-based erotica was assembled in service of one larger belief still prevalent today: that women should be subjected to advertisements that make them feel terrible about themselves.
This one reminded readers that the reason they’re unpopular is that they never shut up about their laxatives:
This one performed the public service of teaching women what it feels like to be lied to:
And this one suggests one of the reasons readers might have been interested in that absurd music-based weight-loss program to begin with:
Hey, you could do worse than following @studiesincrap on the Twitter thing.
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