Friday, June 05, 2009

The Happiness Question: A Conversation

I have a confession to make: I am a happy woman.

Career-wise, as I have admitted below, my life is less than successful. Financially speaking, I am circling the drain. But in terms of simple, minute-by minute, silly joy, I have nothing whatsoever to complain about.

It would be an oversimplification to say that I am happy because I am in a stable relationship with someone wonderful, who suits me. It would be an equal oversimplification to blame my happiness on having a wonderful little girl, when for most of my life I honestly didn't believe I'd ever have children.

But I do think there is something to be said about every human being's profound need for connection--deep, stable, and unbreakable--and my little family provides that. I lacked it for so long that just the simple fact of its existence is like a long drink of cold water after a marathon.

I bring this up because of a small flap about a recent Ross Douthat column about women, happiness and the lack of it, in which he brings up statistics which suggest that women are less happy these days then formerly, and suggests that more stigmatizing ought to make them happier:
They should also be able to agree that the steady advance of single motherhood threatens the interests and happiness of women. Here the public-policy options are limited; some kind of social stigma is a necessity. But a new-model stigma shouldn’t (and couldn’t) look like the old sexism. There’s no necessary reason why feminists and cultural conservatives can’t join forces — in the same way that they made common cause during the pornography wars of the 1980s — behind a social revolution that ostracizes serial baby-daddies and trophy-wife collectors as thoroughly as the “fallen women” of a more patriarchal age.
Actually, I'm all for ostracizing serial baby-daddies and trophy-wife collectors, but I'm with Ross--it will never happen. Not because modern society won't accept 'sexual stigma,' as he tut-tuts, but simply because high-testosterone, high-earning males will always invoke placation before ostracism. It's hard-wired into our brains and our culture. We're going to have to undergo a few more millennia of evolution before that changes.

But enough of my opinion! The reason this post is entitled 'A Conversation' is that I'm proposing just that. My time is fragmented these days; I can't fit all my thoughts into a single post, nor a post into a single day. So I pose you this question: are you happy? Why or why not? What do you think of Ross's article, and the subject it discusses? Let's take it from there.


Chris Rywalt said...

I think I'm happy. I think this is what happiness looks like. This one grandfather, whose son is joining our Boy Scout troop, with whom I spent more than one Cub Scout hike, this grandfather told me he passed me on the street a little while back. I was waiting for the bus, he said, and I looked so happy there with my little backpack and everything. I'm sure he means my Bratz pack.

And I realized, he's right: I'm happy. There are a lot of things little and big I'll complain about, but there are a lot of really great moments: Afternoon delight with Dawn as a spring breeze comes through the window; seeing William as happy as I've ever seen him taking his bow as half of the stage crew for his school's production of Annie; knowing that Corinne went to a school dance and told me she danced, which she can do because of seven years of dance lessons. The scent of honeysuckle and the Empire State Building through the rain; a nap at 3 o'clock and a painting done by noon.

Yeah, it's pretty okay. Why? I don't know why. It just is.

Chris Rywalt said...

As to whether women in general are more or less happy than they used to be: Who can say? How could one say, if one could? What a dumb thing to even think of asking, if women are more happy than they were last year, or ten years ago, or whatever. Which women? How long ago? Happy about what? The whole concept is absurd on its face!

Kate said...

Sleep deprived today, so I shouldn't be commenting, but I will point to film characters, as I often do when thinking about these things.

I am thinking of the end of The Heidi Chronicles, and the speech where the protagonist talks about how feminism was supposed to help women support each other, not become more competitive with each other.

Then I thought about the housewife than Sandra Bullock plays in the film "Crash"... I have met so many women who seem to be as terminally unhappy as that character, and in much the same way.

Oops, baby crying..... gotta go!

badgermama said...

I'm generally happy, bobbing up and down in mood but always re-setting to a baseline of enjoying & savoring things. When I feel especially horrible I think of my friends and people I love and how awesome they are.

Spatula said...

I am not just happy, I'm FREAKING happy. I am happy for "room of her own" reasons that are long overdue and that I fought for and I am very glad I did.

In fact, I wrote a whole dang post about it :-D

Pretty Lady said...

Hooray, Spatch! This topic to be continued...