In the late ‘70s, it was hard to pick up a magazine that didn’t have a story about testing your sexual IQ - or your boyfriend’s. And for a while it seemed that one best-selling book after another was a sexual textbook. “The Hite Report” and Masters and Johnson’s books were huge best sellers. For a while, it seemed as if sex had just been discovered. Before, there was no mention of sex, at least not in respectable magazines, and it was very rarely discussed in books, either. Today, the average sixth grader can get a higher score on one of those old sexual IQ tests than I can.
By the ‘80s, magazines and afternoon talk shows had printed and yakked so much about sex that they’d made it boring. Articles like “How to Have Better Sex in Seven Days” weren’t making magazines jump off the newsstands anymore, so the word “sex” was changed to “health”, and publications ran the same tests and stories as before. “How’s Your Health IQ?” “Better Health in Seven Days.” “Is Your Partner Uninterested in Health?” “Has Health Spoiled Your Marriage?” “Let’s Get Physical” was a single entendre hit.
By the ‘90s, they had made health and sex boring. Besides, they were saying things on prime time television that you couldn’t even say in magazines. So the buzzword changed again. This time they replaced the words “sex” and “health” with the word “stress” and reran the same IQ tests and stories once again.
Like sex, at first people were embarrassed to talk about stress. It did seem silly to hear a guy who worked in a turnpike tollbooth complain about his “stressful” job with a straight face because after all, what does he do all day but make change. If that’s stressful, what would the guys who landed on Omaha Beach call stressful? But now that I’ve become sensitized to the plight of the stressed, I can see that work itself is causing the problem. So I quit my job. But the stress of not working was killing me. Where was my next dollar going to come from? Who is going to feed the kids? I went back to work and felt better right away. It turned out that the pressure of trying to get a high score on the “Do You Know Your Stress IQ Test” was stressing me out. But now the stress obsession has disappeared, having fallen into the topic graveyard along with sex and health.
This morning I just took the “What’s Your Stock IQ Test?” It turns out, I’m a stock moron. But I bet if I run to the book store I’ll be able to buy some books like “The Joy of Stocks,” “Stocks Over 60,” “Stocks for Married Couples” and “Stocks and the Single Girl”
Suze Orman’s financial advice books sell better than any bodice ripper. There are three stock market channels that run 24/7. They say money is the best aphrodisiac in the world. I’m not quite sure what that means. I think it was one of the questions I missed long ago on the “What’s Your Sexual IQ?” test.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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