Last semester, Olivia and I discovered the Enneagram Personality Test, which doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. According to the “Enneagram Institute” website, the test is “one of the most powerful tools for understanding ourselves” as well as an “ancient symbol of unity and diversity.” I don’t really know what that means. Neither did Olivia. I do know, however, that I took a free version of the quiz one Wednesday night. I checked a lot of boxes, clicked SUBMIT, and watched the Internet puke up my results — a webpage with some clip art and some flashing, pornographic advertising.
I read, “You are a 4/5, nicknamed The Individualist.” And at first I thought, “Not bad, that actually sounds an awful lot like my Myers-Briggs Personality Type, The Idealist.” The two pseudopsychological tests offered similar results: Jane is a shy perfectionist who likes her friends a lot. She even has a “creative” streak. The same platitudes hold true for a lot of Yale kids but, still, I don’t object. After all, the Myers-Briggs quiz is popular because it’s so goddamned flattering; every personality type is a long-winded compliment. Idealists are dominated by a strict moral code and deep compassion! Shakespeare was an idealist!
But I’m not very good at moving on or letting things go. I don’t Facebook stalk people — I Google them. I don’t watch one episode — I watch the whole season. And so I didn’t let my Enneagram results go either.
Spend a few minutes researching “4/5 Enneagram” and you’ll end up in the dark, swampy wasteland of Internet forums. You’ll be knee-deep in bad grammar and long usernames. And on personalitycafe.com, you’ll read that an “unbalanced 4/5 can move into the extreme withdrawal of depression, then, with still further disintegration, into a sort of dark impulsiveness.” Great. Skip a few lines and you’ll get: “Servility and self-abasement provide a … very temporary relief from the constant torment of self-hatred.” And finally, you’ll find: “As life becomes less and less tolerable, suicide becomes increasingly likely … in some unusually gruesome way.”
I started writing at 15. I sat down one evening, opened my sister’s old laptop, and typed three neat pages about a girl named Mary. Mary (also 15) has two friends named Laura and Shelly, polar opposites, each a particular adolescent archetype. Laura is clean and cute and polite. She has a “plaid skirt and ironed hair.” Shelly, on the other hand, likes “the feeling of leather against her naked skin.” Anyway, Mary struggles to find a happy medium. She doesn’t quite know who to be.
The first line was: “When presented with a personality quiz, Mary often let the cursor blink endlessly.” As I typed up the next three pages — never once stopping to edit or reread — I scattered a few of the questions that had stumped Mary. It seemed like a clever technique.
“How do you react to social situations? Poor – Decent – Exceptional”
“Are you outgoing? Poor – Decent – Exceptional”
“Do you enjoy life? Poor – Decent – Exceptional”
At the end of the story, Mary makes a new friend, Ida, who’s read “The Republic” and who knows how to flirt. With Ida’s help, Mary gives up personality tests once and for all. The two girls click “the little red x at the top right hand corner of the window” and go to the movies.
I’ve been taking a lot of Buzzfeed quizzes lately, spending time among cute GIFs and far from the foreboding prophecies of personalitycafe.com. After dinner, before heading to Sterling, I sit in my room and scroll through the options, experiencing a fair amount of self-loathing. Last week, Buzzfeed answered the question “What Should [Jane] Actually eat for lunch?” Monday, it answered “What Font [is Jane]?”
Today, after lecture, I scrolled through the options and clicked “What Arbitrary Thing are You?” I spent a good 10 minutes on the quiz, thinking over each question. If I could bathe in any liquid, I’d bathe in a tub full of mayonnaise. (Whiskey’s a close second.) If I had to fight a hell beast, I’d use a sock full of coins. Finally: What would I do with a time machine? I stared at the screen. and considered my personality. I wouldn’t take my mom to prom or re-eat lunch. I would watch my own death.
Buzzfeed didn’t falter. It just spit up an answer: “You’re a Big Rusty Hook!”