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She's Got People All Figured Out, Right Down to the Letter


Your valentine card is signed with love and kisses--but you might want to look between the lines before you leap. Mr. or Ms. Right may not have the write stuff.

The first time Sheila Lowe went out with engineer Bill McElroy, she looked deep into his eyes--and analyzed his handwriting. The signs were good. "It was a lot like mine," she said. Today, they're happily married.

Lowe is a professional graphologist. Since 1989, when it became her full-time job, she's screened hundreds of job-seekers for companies and headhunters. And, just for fun, she scrutinizes others' love letters (by request) and the handwriting of the famous and infamous.

Right off, Lowe sets the record straight. "A lot of people think this has to do with the occult--some palm reading kind of thing." Not so, Lowe says, producing a four-page list of scientific studies.

Is handwriting analysis art or is it science? "It's an art and a science," she says. "I'm not a psychic, but I have good intuition. Handwriting can tell a lot about your past, but it can't tell the future."

Lowe opens a file drawer at her Valencia home. "Let's look at Bill Clinton. . . ." An interesting hand, almost vertical. She zeros in on the loops below the line on his y's, f's and g's. Some are sharply angled, which could indicate aggression toward women, but others are nicely rounded. "He's adaptable," she concludes--though not, as some think, too adaptable.

And what of his honesty factor? No double or triple loops here, no missing letters or other classic indicators of a liar. She does mention, "If a person doesn't feel guilty when they're doing something, it doesn't always show." Still, the president's big picture doesn't indicate dishonesty.

We move on to Hillary Clinton. "Very intelligent," Lowe says. "No extra strokes." Her B in "Bill" bridges right over to the i. Self-confident, but not egotistical--no huge capital I. And those wide spaces between words and lines are a sign of objectivity. Her signature style is consistent. "What you see is what you get."

Lowe, 46, didn't set out to be a graphologist. As a shy teenager, she happened to read a book on the subject. If she could do this, she reasoned, she'd be the life of the party. While raising three children in a first marriage, she honed her skills.

Her credentials? Certification by the nonprofit San Jose-based American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, which tests candidates on theory and skills. "There is no government standard, unfortunately," laments Lowe, who wishes graphology could shed its fortuneteller image.

She is explaining the three elements of handwriting analysis--the upper, middle and lower zones. The upper zone, where the upward loops of those b's, g's and h's land, represents the abstract, the imagination. The middle zone, where letters rest on a line or invisible line, represents day-to-day functioning, relationships. The lower zone, where bottom loops go, represents the past, the subconscious, dreams. What counts, Lowe says, is the interaction of all.

Now, about that valentine. . . . One characteristic does not a bad romantic risk make, but there are signs that you may be looking for love in all the wrong places:

* Inconsistent handwriting, with letters of different sizes or a changing slant, may signal an inability to commit, unreliability. Failure to connect the last letter in a word also signals "difficulty in making a final commitment."

* Wide spaces between words indicate emotional isolation or a need for space. Lowe's examples: Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson.

* Short loops at the bottom of letters? Possibly a lack of interest in sex. Extra-wide loops? More sexual fantasy than prowess. "They talk, they don't act."

* Peculiar loops, with curlicues or knots, could mean your lover's a bit kinky. Bottom loops drifting to the left? Mr. Right may be "looking for mothering."

* Big circles dotting those i's? Walt Disney did it. In him it was probably a sign of imagination, but circle-makers are usually immature people seeking attention.

* Does the object of your affections print, not write in script? "Printing covers up emotions," Lowe says. This person may be hard to get close to.

* If you're a party person seeking same, look for a right slanter. A left slanter's apt to be more of a recluse. "Handwriting is like body language," Lowe says. When a person leans toward you while shaking your hand, you've just met a right slanter.

Lowe's file yields a sample of mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer's writing. What one notices first is that his a's and o's are open at the bottom. To Lowe, that indicates "a real inability to relate to people." A loner. No graphologist could have predicted his criminal behavior, she emphasizes--handwriting analysis is an imperfect science--but it does provide clues to psychological makeup.

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