An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘happiness’

It’s Not My Fault, Dammit!

George woke up in a brown funk this morning—as we all do on occasion. I shared an amusing item from a blog I’d read earlier and George attacked the writer as a trouble maker. (Over the years, he’s learned not to attack me unless he wants his life to escalate into something far worse than a brown funk). I laughed his remark off, but began silently berating myself. I shouldn’t have brought up a subject with which George might potentially disagree—something that might set him off on a tirade against a person he’s never met. I searched my mind: Had I said something last night that brought on this mood? (This event took place at breakfast, so I couldn’t distance myself from George without distancing myself from my oatmeal with blueberries and sunflower seeds—a sacrifice I was not prepared to make). I tried to tune George out, but my ears wouldn’t cooperate. I built up a fair amount of resentment before he finally released enough steam to come back to earth and say, “I don’t know why I got up feeling this way.”

Of course, I get up grouchy on occasion and take it out on George—but he has a major advantage. He never takes my bouts of irritability personally. Men are not trained from childhood to take responsibility for relationships the way women are. Are men ever told they are the “heart of the home,” that they set the tone for the family? Are little boys told, as I was in Primary, to greet the day with a song? That their smiles and cheery dispositions make everyone in the family happier—and by extension—their fits of crankiness destroy the harmony of the home?

Responsibility for the happiness of others is a tremendous burden. Just providing clean clothes and adequate nutrition strained my personal resources when our kids were small, but I still fretted over their happiness or lack thereof. Not that I had any solutions to the fact that their teachers didn’t always appreciate them and their friends didn’t always like them. Heck, I didn’t always appreciate them or like them either. But I did feel responsible—and apologetic: “Yes, I know it’s embarrassing for you to be seen in our old station wagon with the ‘Please steal me” bumper sticker, but we can’t afford to replace it now.” It was my job to make everyone in the family happy and most of the time I failed—somebody was always in a snit about something.

It’s time I and many other women realize that people are responsible for their own happiness. So, the next time George wakes up with his underwear in a knot, I’m taking my oatmeal to my desk—being careful not to dribble it onto my keyboard. That’s my own responsibility.

Feminism, Sex, and Happiness

A recent Mormon Times article about the Rockefeller Foundation/Time  survey findings that American women are less happy now than women were 30 or 40 years ago drew criticism from the feminist bloggernacle. The MT author, well aware of the biases of both her readers and her bosses at Deseret News, interpreted the survey to pretty much dismiss feminism as a factor in female happiness.

Now I don’t know that any “ism,” including feminism and Mormonism, actually creates happiness. Certainly life is much different for women now than 40 years ago when female attorneys and male nurses were as rare as Democrats in Texas. One change particularly concerns me.  Despite all the gains in legal and occupational equality, modern American women are judged by appearance much more now than before the equality gap narrowed. And by appearance, I mean a youthful, sexy physical image. Back in the ‘70s when the ERA was being discussed, exposed cleavage and see-through skirts were not appropriate business attire for women. Today we women fight the erosion of age with the dedication of Netherlands engineers building dikes to hold back the sea. Our aging bodies have become enemies to subdue rather than friends to appreciate and pamper.

Now, men’s bodies as well as women’s deteriorate with every birthday, but male power and income increase with age. In too many areas, women still access power and income via sex appeal—and nobody has to tell you that sexy good looks do not improve with age. Even Maureen Dowd, the feminist NY Times columnist, posts glamour shots of herself on her webpage. While her photos are hardly cheesecake, they show a lot more leg and chest than photos of her male colleagues.

Why do we women still define ourselves by our desirability to men? Maybe because we don’t notice the problem when we’re young. Denying reality, we think Mother Nature will treat us differently. We won’t lose our looks. But no matter how strenuously we fight the ravages of time—defending ourselves with hair color, make up, diets, and surgery—Ma Nature wins every battle. Sometimes I think Muslim women have the better deal. Hide it all under a burqa.

Maybe if woman united and demanded being valued for our brains instead of our boobs, we’d attain equality. And maybe not. Rebellion can backfire. Look at how the sexual revolution affected women. As part of the equality movement of the ‘60s and 70’s, women demanded the same right to enjoy sex as men. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that idea. Women’s sexual pleasure has been ignored for way too long in American culture  . But by demanding sex with no strings attached, women gave away their best bargaining chip. Eventually the nesting urge kicks in for most women and they want a permanent attachment and a family. Not so with all males. Does a woman have any leverage to encourage marriage if the guy she’s been living with for ten years decides it’s time to replace the old model?

According to the survey (and who would fault the RF and Time mag?), equality doesn’t equal happiness. Since even the best of intentions and plans can go awry, maybe we should be grateful the gap between gender equality has yet to be acknowledged, much less bridged in Mormondom. Maybe pushing for a larger role in the decision-making process at church would somehow result in our being judged even more by our physical attractions. Do we really want to compete with the Hot Mormon Muffin in our ward for a calling as Relief Society president?

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