Time magazine says I’m unhappy. And if you’re a woman, according to them, so are you.
Sometimes, I think I ought to chuck the whole writing thing and become a researcher investigating the myriad reasons women’s lives are so shitty. Magazines and universities seem to be working around the clock to inform us dames how depressed we are. How infertile we become each day. How gaining too much weight during pregnancy will make us fat for the rest of our lives. How men don’t like smart chicks and are intimidated by successful ones.
How females are more likely to die by violence in the home. How we need to behave like men to be taken seriously in the work place. And if you’re a black woman, sorry, but you’re more apt to be single all your life and get breast cancer.
Good times. And they wonder why we get a bit crabby.
In “The State of American Women,” Time lists poll results showing the great strides women have made in education, business and government, and the mostly encouraging numbers of men and women who are glad about it. Still, we’ve never been more miserable and Time can’t figure out why.
In search of an answer, I propose researchers attempt to prove one of the following theses:
- women have discovered how much it blows to work seventy hours a week for a company that’d lay you off at the drop of a hat, steal your retirement and buy their CEO a jet, or
- trying to fit a family, fulfilling career and happy marriage into a 24-hour day is actually quite challenging, or
- good luck actualizing your true self and relating healthily to a man in a culture that values competition, emotional distance and unbridled self-interest, or
- forced to look at a relentless stream of American Apparel ads, women feel bad about their bums, or
- being in a loveless marriage or remaining single when you don’t want to be is isolating and heartbreaking, no matter how often people tell you to “embrace your aloneness,”
- life, turns out, is hard.
My first response to the article, after reading similar reports in other magazines, was “screw you, Time! I’m so happy, I’ve got blue birds flying out of my ears!” But then I reconsidered. Am I unhappy? Actually, kinda…maybe?
See, I don’t think happiness means every moment of your life is free of difficulty and everything you want falls at your feet. And I believe people who say, “I’ll be happy when I have a partner, a snazzier office, a six-figure paycheck,” etc., might achieve their goals then still want to take a flying leap off the Sears Tower.
About five years ago, I was sitting in bed crying my eyes out over a love affair going through a rough patch. At the time, I was living in Europe and so enjoying lots of adventure and self-discovery, I had a job I found energizing because it used every corner of my brain and connected me with cool people, I had great friends and was jazzed by a book I was writing.
Thus, in the midst of my agonized cries, I was only slightly surprised to hear myself say, “I am so happy.” I was in love and feeling intensely. My work fulfilled me and left time to enjoy the rest of life. I was nurturing loving friendships and savoring my own creative juices. Though I still hoped certain things would evolve in certain directions, nothing I had any control over would I have changed. I was walking the path I wanted to be on.
But life changes, things happen and, well, I don’t know if I can say that anymore. But really, how many people can? No matter how educated we are, how financially stable we try to be, no matter how many ladies are in our government, why is it so hard to stay on the path?
Rather than wondering if we’re happy, I wonder if we might want to ask whether the lives we’ve created for ourselves are even conducive to happiness. How is it possible to feel connected or cared about by a culture that’s often so heartless? How can we experience love when it’s considered something to pin down rather than work at? Where do we find the time to get to know who we really are? And how are we supposed to even afford life nowadays, let alone enjoy it? These are the questions I want Harvard researchers to answer.
Man, we haven’t made things easy. Mere survival is expensive enough. But happiness? Truly priceless.