Thursday, November 01, 2007

Forward-Compatible.

Not long after a commenter at Verbungle posed the question, "Is marriage really worth it?" I came across a book at my parents' house entitled How to Measure Your Powers and Increase Your Income by Harry H. Balkin, published in 1938. Mr. Balkin, a "consulting character analyst and vocational advisor," has many curious theories about human personality.

Much like self-improvement books today, Balkin's offers "laws of success" (his "triple recipe for greater happiness and greater understanding" is to know yourself, know your right work and know your fellow people), tips on analyzing oneself, ways to improve memory and develop concentration, etc.

The author also gives advice on coupling in the chapter "How to Be Happy Though Married," (emphasis mine) which features some surprisingly modern comments on the institution.

Have you ever realized that human beings almost never show their true selves in courtship? ... This snare -- this trap that courtship has set for us -- complicates our lives more than almost any other factor in living. What it amounts to is this: We are told, and we believe, that marriage should be a lifetime affair. Naturally, we want to know what sort of person we are selecting for this long, long partnership. And yet we never really meet that person until after the contract has been signed.

I think my poor husband would probably agree with that one. Mr. Balkin has another passage on marriage that I like:

The most heart-breakingly beautiful thing about a sunset is that it happens every day. And real marriage is a blending -- a colorful but harmonious balance -- a dish that contains spice but is still pleasant to taste. What you really want in mating is not just temporary excitement -- not the thrill of an occasional ecstasy -- but someone to fortify you at your weak points, and intensify your good points. Someone with the qualities that you need -- not just for a month, or a year -- but for ever [sic].

Not bad for contemporary wisdom that's nearly 70 years old. Just when I'm thinking I should settle in and read this book cover to cover, I find more advice on selecting a spouse:

Speaking of specifications, here's a list of quality marks to file away in your mental shopping bag when looking for a mate.

Do you like them domestic, home-loving, loyal? Well, the most domestic type, the best "father and mother type" I know of, is a person with a long, round, full back head. This person is always faithful, home-loving and loves children.

Do you want a financial type, girls -- a money-maker? Take a peep at the head-shape of your boy friends in the region one inch above and one inch in front of the ears -- in other words, look at the temples. The wider the head is in the temple region, the greater the financial acumen.

The clinging vine type is characterized by soft consistency of flesh; and the wanderer, the kind that will go anywhere with you and share your adventures, well, she's a blonde, motive type with a short head from front to back.

Single folks on the prowl, don't forget your tape measures!