Back in the early 1990s, I was contacted by a university about participating in an interview survey. The survey was about sex. I didn’t believe the letter was genuine. So I dialed information and called the University of Chicago directly. I actually believed that I would be reporting some sort of outrageous scam to them. Imagine my surprise to learn it was legitimate. I had majored in psychology in college and was both familiar with and appreciated the importance of all kinds of research. I talked it over with Chuck and then I agreed to be interviewed.
The female interviewer came to our home, set up an audio tape recorder and proceeded to ask me lots of questions. I felt it was much easier to be answering the questions than it would have been for me to ask a total stranger such detailed, personal and truly intimate questions! Right near the end of the process, the interviewer handed me an envelope. I had to open it up and answer just a few more personal questions in writing and slide my responses back into the envelope. What, pray tell, after all those sexually explicit questions, could they have asked me which would require such secrecy? Money. They wanted me to spell out what my financial circumstances were! Apparently, money was the only topic deemed so personal, that a sealed envelope was necessary to guarantee truthful and accurate answers.
Growing up, I had no clue what my parents earned. I knew we weren’t millionaires and I knew we weren’t poor. But dollars and cents on a pay stub? No way on God’s green Earth would that have ever been revealed. It wasn’t until my Dad was approaching retirement and I still had a couple of years to go in college, that my Mom pulled out her stenographer’s notebook. In it she had all the monthly bills written down, one page for every month. Mom quickly summarized what flowed in and what flowed out for our family. The next day I went down to the bank and signed on the dotted line for a college loan. For my mother, that conversation about money was second in anxiety only to the “birds and the bees” talk we had many years earlier!
I really threw her for a loop on that one. I came home one day to announce that my parochial school had taken all the girls in my class into the auditorium to watch a film strip. I immediately heard the strain in her voice. After dinner that evening, Mom wrestled through her own version of “the talk”, which distantly echoed parts of the filmstrip. At the very end, she asked if I had any questions. “Yes” I replied, “what about the pituitary gland?” Mom was nonplussed. “Pitui-what?” she asked. You see, in the filmstrip, they illustrated the pituitary gland as a little dot in the brain which sent out what looked like radio waves. It was those radio waves which somehow told the body that all these interesting and mysterious things should start happening. Clearly, the pituitary gland was the key to all the excitement and I wanted to learn more.
Funny, I don’t think the University of Chicago asked me a single question about radio waves and my pituitary gland.