ITEM (1): Tables for Ladies, 1936, 4pp. $45.
ITEM (2): How Ya Doin'? 1941. 4pp. $45
I must admit that I like the first of these two “lady tests” (separate publications from The Ladies Home Journal), cautionary tales as they are, like being able to select your own villainous wardrobe for a creepy (or loud or not) 1940's version of a Brother’s Grimm fairy tale--instructive, occasionally delightful, often wincing. It seems that the dividing line between being particular and being peculiar displays its fair share of the miracle of capilary action.
For example, in Tables for Ladies (1936), the failing grades (minuses) actually look mostly like, well, problematic personality quirks. I get the “too made up”, “late all the time” and “gold digger” parts–also the character who has a forced laugh, agrees all the time, and is endlessly flattering while putting on makeup and pulling up stockings and monopolizes the conversation (simultaneously?)–and then wants to “go steady” right away while complaining about her (and his) former dates, does not make for an interesting time out.
I’m not sure what “too darned good to be human” and “occasionally have an idea” mean, nor the failing grade for having too much stuff in your pocket. A lot of the other stuff looks okay to me: intelligent, honest, friendly, genuine, good natured–basic things that translate just fine into 2010. But then there are those servile, squinty-eyed parts that just give you a coppery feeling in your mouth for how restrictive they are.
Of course there’s stuff there indicative of the time, just like the awful racism that creeps into Babar or Bugs Bunny from th 1940's, or the rank use of racial epithets that populate some regional maps of the south (I can easily attest to the very broad use of the n-word in more than a dozen places in a large 1932 map of my own Buncombe County, all gone today), or the portrayal of subservient women in 1950's common culture–but for the most part, the overall reach of this little pamphlet seems not-terrible.
The second little test, How Ya Doin’ (1941), verges more on the need for the mass produced Stepford woman, only this one comes from an earlier period, the mother of Stepford. Some number of the questions seem less significant but more important, many feeling annoying and trite--many of the graded areas are so unexpected (here in 2010) but were in 1941 thought of as being socially important and, well, marketable.
It was important to say "yes" to the questions "do you scrub your back conscientiously?", "do you walk as if you had a vase on your head?", "does your make up blend with your dress color?", "are your stocking seams always straight?", "can you talk about three sports that boys like?", "do you breathe way down in your diaphragm?", "does anything ever happen to you?", "can you play three sports?", "do you know all the songs the crowd likes?", "is it your responsibility to be entertaining?", and so on.
Not all of the questions feel so sharp and stinging--there are many good qualities (or good qualities from the 2010 mind) that are listed here as well--not to abandon your friends, believing in yourself, inspecting and supporting your opinions, knowing how to decline graciously, feeling good about where you live, being kind, expressing concern, and the like.
The quizzes are not without quality.
In the same vein you might also enjoy these earlier posts in this blog