Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Happy Woman

Geraldine Bedell’s essay on what makes the modern woman happy makes for very interesting reading. There are a million ways for women to find short term happiness in today's world but finding true and long term happiness is not as easy. As Bedell says :

Most Indo-European languages make some distinction between short-term pleasure and more persistent happiness (so in Italian, for example, between gioa and felicita) and it is the latter - not the passing moments, but a single and lasting state - that seems so elusive.

Choice overload causes both fatigue and confusion. When taking a multiple choice test, it is easy to pick one out of three and have a fair chance of getting it right. With fifteen options it is much harder. Likewise with several hundred channels to choose among when you want to watch TV for a half an hour. Women want to keep their choices, retrogression to an earlier, simpler, choice-less time is not even an option. Just like going back to one hour a day of state run TV programming is not.

The comparison between journal entries of two teenagers, one from 1892 and the other from 1982 tells a lot about the shift in women's priorities and what that means for her ability to find true happiness and be at peace with herself.

A typical diary entry from 1892 reads: 'Resolved not to talk about myself or feelings. To think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self-restrained in conversation and action. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself in others.'

By 1982, this was a typical teenager: 'I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can with the help of my budget and my babysitting money. I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got new haircut, good make-up, clothes and accessories.'

Whereas the goals of the 1892 teen did not require resources that she did not have access to, the 1982 girl is no longer in control of what it would take to make her happier. It will take a lot of external agencies to fulfill her goals and in that the stage is set for disappointment and unhappiness.

And finally, there is the identikit of a happy woman in today's world :

So what does a happy woman look like? She's probably in a romantic, generous relationship; is surrounded by family she is fond of, or by friends; works part-time or for herself and has plenty of autonomy and control over her time; is involved in the community; has activities or projects outside herself which are consuming and which provide her with a sense of flow; is physically active and has a more or less spiritual sense of something valuable beyond herself.


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