Monday, January 22, 2007

Cup Overfloweth?

Yesterday morning while outside did its best immitation of a Wisconsin winter (net 6 inches of snow and one SUV in the ditch down the road), our house filled up with friends for brunch. Afterwards, my cousin (also in attendance) remarked that she thought it was so interesting that I and the other women in attendance seem to have made similar decisions. That is, having married highly-educated husbands and being highly-educated ourselves, we are all stay-at-home moms.

That made me sort of scratch my head. Mostly because I think that staying at home with children is no longer a sign of inequality in marriage, nor is it a thing most women are doing because "that's what we do" or "I don't have anything else to do, so I might as well do this." I guess that's why we are thinking moms. We take our job seriously. Not that it is our only job, but it's definitely a calling. And that's not meant to dis any woman who decides to continue to work. It's just another principled option.

So I was reading this article which was the #1 most emailed on the NYTimes called "Why Are There So Many Single Americans?" mostly out of curiosity. For me, it elucidated why people who are married are and stay married. It's apparently because, more than ever, like is marrying like. Not in the sense of beautiful people marrying beautiful people or the bald marrying the bald, but in the sense that educated people are marrying each other.

What's so interesting is that a generation ago, oftentimes educated, highly-successful men were married to less-educated women. It's the old stereotype of the doctor marrying the nurse or the businessman marrying the secretary. Now the trend is: the more educated you are, the more likely you are to be married, period. From the article:

“The way we used to look at marriage was that if women were highly educated, they had higher earning power, they were more culturally liberal and people might have predicted less marriage among them,” Mr. Martin said. “What’s becoming more powerful is the idea that economic resources are conducive to stable marriages.”

So perhaps there goes the stereotype of the bitchy intellectual woman with the chip on her shoulder and no one in her bed? Naaaah... that one's just too fun to do away with.


Are you positive about the future? Does tomorrow look brighter than today? No, this is not the introduction to some free Scientology personality test. These are the perennial questions of whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.

If you're like me, your answer is probably: "Well, that depends." On the day, what my mood is, whether we're talking about the world at large or what my personal life is like.

Are you better off having high expectations and therefore creating a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or are you better off having low expectations and being surprised and excited when things in your life are even a modicum better than you had feared?

I've always sort of thought that I'd be better off being more of an optimist than I am, though sometimes I purposefully lower or dissolve my expectations so as to not be disappointed. Apparently, so do many people. In this short, fascinating NYT article it talks about how we human beings balance our optimism and pessimism. From the article:

...when it comes to the still bigger picture — the fate of civilization, of the planet, of the cosmos — pessimism has historically been the rule. A sense that things are heading downhill is common to nearly every culture, as Arthur Herman observes in “The Idea of Decline in Western History.” The golden age always lies in the past, never in the future.
and yet...
Research shows that we systematically exaggerate our chances of success, believing ourselves to be more competent and more in control than we actually are. Some 80 percent of drivers, for example, think they are better at the wheel than the typical motorist and thus less likely to have an accident.

A couple of decades ago, the psychologist Shelley Taylor proposed that “positive illusions” like excessive optimism were critical to mental health. People who saw their abilities and chances realistically, she noted, tended to be in a state of depression.

I really like the conclusion of the article, though, for its synthesis: "The Viennese satirist Karl Kraus came up with a formula nearly a century ago that remains the perfect blend of optimism and pessimism: Things are hopeless but not serious."

Get annoyed globally. Get drunk locally.


And FINALLY... to steal something from the article I just quoted, “Progress might have been all right once,” Ogden Nash said, “but it has gone on too long.”

When we were in Chicago over New Year's, my husband and I tried hard to not be seduced by our friends' HD tv. We found ourselves sitting in front of it for hours on end, mouths agog at the sheer beauty of it. We would pretty much watch anything, as long as it was in HD. We reveled in the little dewdrops you could see on a tiny fist of a crocus. You could veritably see each little fern-blade of moss growing atop the old thatch on the church-steeple!

Apparently, though, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Take for instance, porn. Not just your average porn: Porn in HD.

While one might think that porn in HD would be "even more of a good thing", bringing one "closer to the action", there are definitely some things that are even in this medium a little too close for comfort. Now you can see the unfortunate razorburn which heretofore had been just distorted enough by the limits of media so as to not interrupt your enjoyment of the carnal romp. Directors are having to be creative with angles so as not to feature the faint ripple of cellulite. Not to mention the advances in lighting and liposuction which will have to be invented to cover up the most human failures of the flesh...


The upshot of all of this-- the marital bliss, the optimism and pessimism, the porn: You can have your cake and eat it, too. Just look at it from the right angle.

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