The Mating Game, 1938
01/08/2011 § 3 Comments
This coming weekend I am headed up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to attend the wedding of two very special friends. They are amazing people and a doubly amazing couple and I can’t wait to celebrate them.
Apropos of the impending nuptials, I wanted to share a charming little article from my LIFE Magazine collection on the very subject. It seems in Detroit in 1938, young couples like Robert Cannell and Dorothy Frances Stark (pictured above), attended lectures and courses in order to figure out if they were suited to marry. (When Robert wasn’t hitting Dorothy in the face with his badminton racquet, that is). The main motivation for attending the classes? “…the experience of two out of ten married friends who a few years ago were wed in a shower of glory, love and rice, and now are divorced, separated or miserable.”
Catch that? The “two out of ten” part? Wonder what they would think about our five or six out of ten situation today…?
The would-be couples attended group sessions with doctors, social workers and budget experts, and had private consultations with a priest, all in the pursuit of a “successful” marriage. It seems the attitude in 1938 was that any problem could be solved, if you threw the right combination of scientists and religion at it. The article is full of amusing euphemisms, as you might expect from a family magazine from the 1930s — my favorite example: “A great percentage of divorces are due to physical maladjustment often resulting from lack of knowledge or training,” under a picture of a gynecologist pointing to a large medical diagram of a uterus. Sexy.
Now, for readers who didn’t happen to be in Detroit (and for those of us living in 2011), LIFE generously included a questionnaire used in the classes that was supposed to give a clear indication of whether or not a couple would “make it.” Some of my favorites:
- Do you believe sexual harmony is necessary to happy marriage?
- Do you love your fiancee more than your mother?
- Will you live with your parents?
- Do you attend church regularly?
- Do you show your fiancee little courtesies?
If any couples out there are itching to take the full length quiz, I’d be happy to send it along. I’m not sure on the shelf life, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that living with your parents is always a bad move. Oh, and physical maladjustment. Avoid that one at all costs.