I've been fascinated by personality tests ever since I abandoned those quizzes where you try to find out the shape of your face. At this point in my life, I don't care what shape my face is. Or what shape my whole head is for that matter. What am I, a professor of geometry?
Personality tests, however, always extend the promise of deep and meaningful insight into what's been bothering you all these years. Even brief ones printed on bus panels are a catalyst for self-examination. One-panel versions in public transportation pose such questions as "Need Cash?" or "Want to Meet Local Singles?" If your ride is long enough, you can write a complex story combining an answer. Basically, those two questions inspired Flaubert to write Madame Bovary.
But even personality tests have their limitations. To be honest, the standard assessments have replaced organized religion for a lot of people. I have friends who treat Myers-Briggs the way others treat Warren Buffet, with a belief so profound it borders on reverence.
You've heard of the Myers-Briggs personality test, right? It's the one reassuring you that you're an introverted, feeling, intuitive perceiver. Because if you're a judgmental extrovert, then you're kind of a jerk.
I'm a judgmental extrovert if there ever was one, but I don't permit myself to mention it at parties. Not since people kept excusing themselves to fetch some cocktails and not returning.
Is it just me, or has everybody you've met recently started referring to themselves as an introvert? If she took Myers-Briggs, Joan Rivers would probably decide she's an introvert; Bette Midler would identify as an introvert. Miley Cyrus in the latex suit? Secretly an introvert.
Those with the biggest mouths, the most magnetism and least shame have suddenly all decided they are now introverts. They're making a million bucks a minute by being famous, but they're all secretly shy. There are huge bestselling books about how to love being an introvert -- not only how to love it, but how to exploit it.
And maybe I'll start believing folks are introverted and non-judgmental as soon as I stop listening to talk radio and reading stuff online.
The big news, however, is I've discovered a way to replace those personality tests clogging the self-actualization, leadership and motivation market.
From now on, deep personality structure will be catalogued by using Gina's Reality TV Matrix: In this scenario, your temperament and identity are defined by the tackiest reality shows you watch.
Participants will be divided into categories. We'll have the Hoarders, Teen Mom, Catfish category, otherwise known as the "Too Much Is Not Enough" group. We'll have a Doomsday Preppers, Duck Dynasty, Breaking Amish consortium for those who are adamant about being able to exist in multiple environments simultaneously.
A third group might fall under the Toddlers And Tiaras, Honey Boo Boo, Dance Moms aegis. Although this does not mean you are automatically put on the predator list, it does mean you need to start saving for therapy, either your own or your offspring's.
You'll assemble a startlingly accurate personality profile based on your selection from each category.
Let's say you're a Duck Dynasty, Toddlers and Tiaras, plus Pawn Stars type: you are, therefore, a Domestic Striver, a person with an eye toward putting the value in family values. You like glitter and camo.
Part of the Dance Moms, Teen Mom and Doomsday Preppers constituency? You're an Apocalypse Hipster, not only believing the world is coming to an end but sort of rooting for it. You like sweatpants and canned goods.
Is American Pickers, Breaking Amish and Honey Boo Boo your signature combo? You're a Self-Maker, ready for whatever life, or your audience, throws at you, which could be messy. You have a fondness for drama and rust.
Better yet, turn away from the screen and take your pen off the test paper. Ask the person who knows you best to describe you. Be forewarned: the conversation might not necessarily end with a hug and a kiss. Truth can be unsettling, as both reality TV and actual reality prove. Nevertheless, you'll probably learn new and surprising information about yourself. While you're at it, ask about the shape of your face.
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut, a feminist scholar who has written eight books, and a columnist for the Hartford Courant.
-- McClatchy Tribune Services