The scene was a swanky party in a hotel suite, given by a firm interviewing at my law school. The liquor and small talk were flowing smoothly.
My husband and I stood in a small group clustered around one of the firm's most important partners. We had listened to him talk about the lucrative business, prestigious contacts, the advantages of working for them.
Then the partner decided he wanted to hear about each of us, the law students. What were our career plans? Our achievements? One by one, the law students began to talk about themselves. The partner approached my husband. What about him?
Actually, my husband explained, he was not a law student. He was only married to one.
The partner asked my husband what he did.
A graduate student in psychology, he was told.
The partner looked at my husband suspiciously. A psychologist? The usual jokes followed: Where's your couch? What does a snake symbolize, according to Freud? What could my husband tell about the partner, merely by observing him?
The group laughed uneasily.
I watched my husband. He kept smiling through much of this. He even laughed briefly. Then he had clearly had enough.
"That's right," he told the partner. "I can see right through you. And don't think you can fool me about anything?"
The man paled. He mumbled that he had to get a refill on his drink, and left quickly. The group fell apart.
I crossed off that particular job long before I got an official letter of rejection.
So there you are. The truth is that psychologists make people nervous. They are thought to have an X-ray eye.
"Tell him to watch me while I peel an orange," said the mother in a French family I lived with one summer. "I've read that a psychologist can tell everything about a person by the way he peels an orange."
I translated the request into English while she carefully peeled an orange.
"Tell her she's a paranoid schizophrenic," my husband said.
"He says you're perfectly well-adjusted," I told her in French.
She beamed and ate the orange.
But don't think that being married to a psychologist is all fun and games. Take the experiments, for example.
"It's going to be a modeling experiment," he told me, "and a real money-maker." He was to sit and play his clarinet in the London underground while a confederate passed by occasionally to drop money into a box which I was to hold. The idea was that other passers-by would be influenced by the confederate's behavior and they would also give money.
A dazzling array of tunes followed, from "Stars and Stripes Forever" to Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. Money was dropped into the box from time to time.
During the fifth rendition of the Stars and Stripes, we were evicted; the experiment had not taken into account the London Police Department.
But we did manage to pocket a few pounds.
Other experiments followed. There was the blood-pressure machine which accompanied us to a bar. Everyone at the table was to check his blood pressure reading every few minutes. The waitress stoically ignored us as we wrapped the armband and a beeper loudly recorded our heartbeats. Beer, it was solemnly and soddenly announced several hours later, is good for blood pressure.
And psychosomatic research. Getting sick at our house these days elicits so many questions that it's difficult to enjoy a good cold. Are you under stress? What are your symptoms? How high is your fever? Have you checked it in the last five minutes?
Worse, I find myself wondering just why I am sick at this particular time. It's too much trouble to feel bad, easier to stay healthy.
And jogging. What conditions produce a faster running speed? Treadmills versus cross-country courses are tested.
A sleepless night. The weather bureau is called to check changes in barometric pressure.
And group size. For several weeks, at parties and restaurants, the sizes of groups were duly reported on cocktail napkins.
Experiments, it seems, flourish everywhere. And so does suspicion. Last summer a drunk in the Dallas airport asked if I would help him to the next terminal so that he wouldn't miss his plane.
It occurred to me that this was probably an experiment set up by a psychologist waiting around the corner: How many people would help an intoxicated man under these circumstances?
Science marches on, and so did I.