the pressures of appearing happy

i came across some articles that seemed to all touch on this theme, so i decided to put them together. 

sweeping generalization: we are compelled by societal norms to act a certain way, convinced that certain things should be satisfying, that things should be perfect.  a fair amount of judgment (capital J) is involved.

in actuality, different people are fulfilled by different things, things are never as perfect as they seem, and other people’s lives, goals, accomplishments, etc. should never be used as a measuring stick for the quality of your own life. 

1) relationship bliss source

Still, no matter how fairytale-esque their relationship might appear, Harris and Burtka are quick to point out that it’s far from perfect.

“I don’t want to paint our relationship like we met and it’s been happy family fantastic-ness ever since,” Harris admits. “What defines a relationship is the work that’s involved to maintain it, and it’s constantly changing. Sometimes I’m deeply in love with David and head-over-heels, and sometimes I question whether it’s going to work out and is meant to be.”

Burtka adds, “A relationship is work and it changes. And you go with the changes. It’s more good times than bad times, but it’s not always good. You have to overcome those issues and move on. We have a really great recipe for a wonderful relationship, but we don’t want to be the poster boys for gay relationships. We’re not trying to pretend that we are perfect. We’re just trying — in a good, positive, loving way — to live our lives.”

(the article overall was very cute; showed how they met, how nph was quite nervous about everything. as gawker points out, they are quite the gay couple role model.)



2) parental bliss source

I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.

And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers — “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” — those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.

My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Double failure. I felt guilty because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.

love the everest analogy. 

3) being asexual.  in contrast of the above. (where society tells us we need to be really happy but may not be, a situation where society tells us that we should not be happy when we may be.)

jezebel – i am asexual and it’s awesome

There’s an assumption that I must be missing something in my life if I’m not playing backseat bingo, but I actually have a pretty rich, complex, full and interesting life. Not having sex or being interested in romance doesn’t mean I live a lonely and tragic existence!

Nor does it mean that I have any interest in pushing asexuality on anyone else; as we like to say, it’s an identity you should use if it works for you. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t use it. I don’t hate people who have sex or think that sex is gross and bad. It just doesn’t interest me.

the idea of asexuality is also really intriguing to me.  article provided an interesting window into that. i also really love that “ace” (short/slang for asexual) also means “awesome” within the community.  unfortunately cannot be said for “gay”. 

tim gunn

Style guru Tim Gunn raised some eyebrows this week when he told TV viewers that he hadn’t had sex in 29 years.

He said: “Do I feel like less of a person because of it? No… I’m a perfectly happy, fulfilled individual.”

more generally, nytimes has done pieces (here and here) on how society is moving towards living alone.


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