For as long as I can remember, I've had atrocious handwriting. My own father once called my signature "despicable." For decades, I've wondered, Does my terrible handwriting make me a terrible person? To find out, I decided to get myself analyzed by a professional.
Let's be clear: I've never believed that a person's handwriting can tell us a whole lot about them. But reading up on handwriting analysis, I learned experts in the field know it as "graphology."
Graphologists believe the details of your handwriting reveal hidden truths about you. For instance, graphologists might notice that your handwriting slopes upward, which suggests you may be an optimist. Or they might observe that the loops of your cursive Ls are extra wide, which they could take to mean you're an extrovert. You can even find graphology websites that claim Hitler's handwriting reveals both his "extreme concentration and ability to focus intently" (Wow, that sounds good!) and his "megalomaniacal psychopathy (hmm, that sounds less good.). Overall, graphologists seem to have a pretty intense focus on the writing of serial killers or, as they call it, "graphic signs of the schizoid."
It is clearly a very specialized skill.
And that's what's scary about the whole process. Are there hidden parts of my brain that my handwriting will bring to light? Am I a subconscious arsonist? Is there a deep part of my amygdala that's like, "YOU. ARE. EVIL. Start stealing. KILL. Lie about your height on dating apps."? It was time to find out.
For just $40, I found an online test that promised to provide a three-to-six page analysis "that examines integrity, energy, depth and speed of thinking, level of goals, and determination among 80-plus evaluated traits." This same company links to its 2012 report on TV news vet Diane Sawyer, which revealed a shocking finding: "[Her] handwriting indicates varied responses to stress." Oh shit, I thought: That sounds exactly like Dianne Sawyer.
Despite my reservations regarding its accuracy, I got into test mode: I gathered my pens, stacked a stack of paper, grabbed a glass of water, put my phone on "do not disturb," and set aside an entire afternoon for the exam. Then I clicked on the test, and it was… two sentences long. TWO SENTENCES LONG. All I had to do was write a handful of clauses about the power of handwriting to reveal subconscious truths about myself. I was expecting an SAT-level assessment with numerous sub-sections like, "How you wrote about your family shows that you're a loving son," or, "This section about your career reveals you tried to have sex with a couch when you were 15."
At the very least I was expecting some sort of "quick brown fox"-style situation, but the test didn't even include all the letters of the alphabet! There were no Zs, no Xs, and no Qs! What if how I write my Qs shows that I'm actually not a sad idiot, but instead a cool, collected genius who values friendship?
Nevertheless, I snapped a photo of my test, emailed it in, and prepared to wait a few days as it was "examined and evaluated by a certified graphologist (with computer assistance)." The results came back exactly 36 minutes later.
I'll be blunt: Right off the bat, this thing was not particularly precise. The six-page report was broken down into several sections including Communication, Stress Level, and Thinking Patterns, each filled with vague guesstimates and pleasant tautologies that could apply to anybody.
For instance, "the short t and d stems in [my] script," revealed that I am "independent and make up [my] own mind." Sure! I guess that's true.
Under Thinking Patterns, they wrote, "The rounded arch formation of your m's and n's indicate your methodical, logical thinking," and, "The wedge formations in your m's and n's are a strong indication of your investigative thinking process." What a compliment! Is it even possible for my M's and N's to have both "rounded arch formations" and "wedge formations"? I have no idea, but I like to think that I'm logical and investigative!
Under Goals, the experts noticed that my "t bars cross the t stem near the bottom, a sign that indicates you may set low goals for yourself," and that's just straight-up wrong. I have only one goal, and it's to be a deposed king, which I think is tremendously ambitious considering I'm not even a regular king at the moment.
For the first 90 percent of the report, all of its findings were innocuous, mostly quasi-astrological blather. It was nice to read but not especially insightful. And then came the final section, Emotional Structure. It devastated me:
"It appears you had built a wall of coolness, privacy and disassociation around yourself to guard against any heartfelt hurts to which you may have been exposed." END OF REPORT. All the rest of the results were like, "You always take your time, except when you rush," and "You are organized." Then, at the very end, they were like, Hey, also, you're an icy nerd who's too scared to love.
I was shocked because… that part seemed spot-on. They nailed me.
To see if I really am an emotionally immature monster, I texted the results to my ex-girlfriends. Not a single one got back to me, which seemed like sure-fire confirmation.
I was not happy to be laid bare by a handwriting analysis. Not happy at all.
Test No. 2
I couldn't trust another impersonal, online exam. So I did some searching and found a graphologist who would complete an in-person analysis. The study of handwriting must be extraordinarily time-consuming, because none of the graphologists, I googled have had time to update their websites since 1996.
In fact, the professional website of the very first graphologist listed in the online Yellow Pages somehow redirected to McDonalds.com. Eventually, I found Dr. B (who asked that I not use her full name after checking out VICE and discovering we use profanity in some articles), an experienced Israeli woman who agreed to do a full, hourlong handwriting analysis for just $200. It was on.
We met at Graphology HQ, a.k.a. a Le Pain Quotidien near Grand Central Station.
Now, did my graphologist size me up like a storefront psychic? Maybe. Did she tell me exactly what I wanted to hear? Maybe. Did I believe every single word she said about me anyway? I absolutely fucking did.
She'd asked me to bring some old writing with me. As soon as she saw my chicken scratch, she said, "Very unique. One-of-a-kind! In my last 30 years, I've never seen anything like it. And I've seen it all." Of course I wanted to believe that I'm unique. Everyone does!
While she examined my notebook with a magnifying glass, she had me fill out another short exam. This one was also about the hidden power of handwriting, but Dr. B. quickly admitted that I could just write whatever I wanted. "Very interesting," she said several times as she decoded my writing. That's right! I knew I was interesting!
She began her analysis on a strong note: "You're a nonconformist. You don't go by the rules." Hell yeah! I do hate rules!
Then she pointed to the strong top and bottom bars of my uppercase Is, which indicate "an extreme level of confidence." RIGHT AGAIN. In fact, some would even call it "overconfidence" because I've never actually accomplished anything and have very few skills.
She continued, "You live in your own world; you're an original thinker."
"You're a creative problem solver, and you're extremely bright."
"You have a very unique way of looking at reality and looking at other people."
Now, look, I recognize lots of people want to believe these things about themselves. But I can't help that I believe them about myself, too! So far, we were in Compliment City, population: This One-of-a-Kind Rulebreaker. But without warning, my handwriting yet again sold me out.
"The other thing that stands out is that you keep a distance from people… a fear of intimacy. You won't let people into your world." I wouldn't admit that to my closest friends. If a girlfriend tried to say that about me, I'd argue with her. But one look at my unreadable scrawl, and Dr. B. found me out. "There's something extreme about your writing. You're trying to hide. You're trying to be invisible… You trust your brain more than you trust your emotions."
I was flabbergasted. I couldn't argue with her.
It's safe to say I'm not thrilled that two separate handwriting analyses suggest I'm an emotional tomb from which no love shall ever escape. But I am pretty shocked both tests pointed to the same tendency to keep a safe emotional distance from the people around me. Before I left I Le Pain Quotidien, I asked Dr. B if she could tell what people's handwriting will look like by the way they act. She said no. "A person can hide. But their handwriting reveals the truth."
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