Happiness is an Unscheduled Hour

No Telling

Ilive less than a block from the local country club. Every afternoon as I drive home I juggle a to-do list in my head while the fellas out on the greens are putting and driving and such. More than once I’ve wondered how the hell they find world enough and time for such pursuits. Who’s taking the kids to practice/cooking dinner/making the Wal-Mart trip/grading their papers? Okay, maybe they don’t have any papers to grade. Maybe they’re all bachelors or widowers. Maybe they have hired help and lots of money to throw at them.

All I know is I’m really, really tired and they look completely relaxed. Happy.

There’s been a great deal of discussion lately concerning a research project by Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers. It seems they’ve discovered that in the past thirty years or so, men have become happier than women.

Well. That’s not very hopeful.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I remember watching my mother slave over dull housework and limited choices. Did the repetition of daily thankless work and the pressure of being the perfect wife and mother make her unhappy? I thought so at the time. My fist was hovering in the air and I assumed that not only had we come a Long Way, Baby, we could have our families and launch a career as well. I figured Mom was settling for half a life.

I, on the other hand, planned to have it all. A lot of us did.

It appears this research is actually telling us about our mothers and ourselves, and it’s saying we aren’t as happy as our mamas were. Is that possible? I thought diving into the career pool was supposed to change that, and now it appears all we did was dive into the deep end with heavy Power Suits dragging us down. There’s a scary Cult of Perfection we bought into along the way, so now we have to be superhuman in our relationships, jobs, and appearance.

Aunt Bee never worried about her abs, I’ll bet.

The study cites all manner of reasons for women’s waning happiness other than our leap into the office. Interestingly, they find that all women are unhappy, no matter what their days look like. To get to the bottom of it, there’s another study of women who rate themselves as whole and happy.

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/js/2.0/video/evp/module.js?loc=dom&vid=/video/bestoftv/2009/09/27/whitfield.men.happier.women.cnnCNN Video

So how do we measure happiness? Here are the five questions from the CNN video. How do you answer them?

1. How often do you do what you like to do?
2. Do you anticipate the day with joy/dread?
3. Do you get so involved that you forget time?
4. Do you feel invigorated?
5. How often do you have an emotional high?

I’m not completely sure what makes men happier than women, but I have an inkling that they don’t worry the same way we do. Men compartmentalize such things and we tend to compound them instead. I could name fifty-eleven bits I’ve planned for or scheduled or worried about just during the time it took to write this blog post. I’ve also been multitasking by doing laundry and brewing iced tea for tomorrow. For me, writing is the answer to several of those questions up there, but I’ve managed to complicate all the fun out of it tonight.

Maybe I just need to take up golf instead.

The Retro Future’s a Nice Place, But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There

No Telling

It’s 2009 and I’m feeling like an old gal now. I grew up with 2001, A Space Odyssey, 1984, the Jetsons, and the traveling Bell Telephone House of the Future. The first two still give me the willies if I think about them long enough, but my experiences with Saturday morning cartoons and the mobile House of the Future imprinted me at an early age. These would be the real day to day future. Everyone would be flying around in bubbled triangles without seat belts and using punch cards to order food our own kitchens. Mom would still be at home and her job would be infinitely easier with the help of Rosie the Robot doing all the grunt work. We’d all have picture-phones in the kitchen, a bevy of mysteriously hidden cooking implements, and switchboards full of labeled buttons to run the whole house.

Why, there might even be a color TV in every home. Hung on the wall. Like a sofa painting. Can you imagine.

I remember walking through the Bell House of the Future as it sat parked in the Kroger parking lot. I marveled at the slickness, the plastic, the fabulous array of buttons making things disappear and reappear. My mother didn’t seem nearly as impressed. She took one look at that kitchen and shook her bubble-flip hair-do and we left. I suspect she saw what I didn’t. The house of the future still required cleaning and most of it looked like something she’d have to do. A house full of gadgets to make a woman’s life easier, but it was still her life and her work.

In 1966 we could never have imagined the world as it is now. Fast food, breast implants, ten year-olds with cell phones, Smoke-Free restaurants, computers you can hold in two outstretched hands, women with careers on purpose, seat belts and airbags, more than four TV channels, a black president. What?

No, there’s no Rosie the Robot cleaning my house while I’m at work. I still own a broom and a mop and use them both, though not nearly as much as my mother did. There’s no bread-winning man coming home from the office expecting a clean house and a hot dinner either, but that’s another post for another day.

With the exception of all that flying around on invisible air highways, we’ve surpassed the Jetsons and the House of the Future. That 1984 business is a tad too close for comfort, but we haven’t yet been blown to cinders by The Bomb. There’s that.