The Crushing Burden of Having a Real Life
John Hawkins talks about a little kerfuffle that emerged over remarks made by Kay Hymowitz:
“Before [today], the fact is that primarily, a 20-year-old woman would have been a wife and a mother,” author Kay Hymowitz told the crowd of about 100 for the Manhattan Institute in New York City. Men would have been mowing lawns and changing the oil in their family sedans instead of playing video games and watching television. In previous decades, adults in their 20s and 30s were too busy with real life for such empty entertainment, Hymowitz says. “They didn’t live with roommates in Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Dupont Circle in D.C.
Hey, I didn’t have a roommate when I lived in Dupont Circle. All 400 square feet of that place were entirely mine! And I’ll have Kay know that I broke up my Madden playing and television watching with at least 20-30 minutes of work on my dissertation per day. Hmmm, maybe that’s why it took me five years to finish it.
In all seriousness, this is a fairly innocuous statement, or at least it is for those of us who don’t have a secularist perspective on happiness.
Cue the angry liberals.
Amanda Marcotte, famed for a writing style that makes Maureen Dowd look like George Will, as well as for her way TMI-laden posts about her sex life, is none too pleased:
I think it’s important to remember that no matter how much huffing and puffing and rationalization goes on, a great deal of conservative ideology can be summed up as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”. Or even just the fear that someone might just be having fun, at least without clearing it with the authorities first that they’re the right race and income level to feel pleasure.
…I often find myself wondering, and today more than most days, how things can get this bad. It seems to me that if wingnuts put a tenth of much effort as they do into resenting others into improving their own home and sex lives, they’d be too busy being happy and blissful to give a f*ck what anyone else is doing. It’s just basic logic, and I wonder why not just do the math and go for it.
As Hawkins rightly points out, the irony of this statement is that studies show that “married people are happier than single people, religious people are happier than non-religious people, and conservatives are happier than liberals.” I would also point out married people have more sex than single people, so if anything conservatives are the ones pushing people to more fulfilling sex lives, an observation I heard Alan Keyes make when he was running for President in 1996 (before he lost his mind). Evidently in Marcotte’s world the only good sex to be had is when you get good and loaded at some slimy bar in the downtown DC, take some random stranger to your bed, and never see the guy again. Boy that really sounds joy-filled to me.
It also never ceases to amuse me when I hear religious conservatives derided as being uptight about sex, the implication being that we’re not getting laid enough. Yet, at the same time, we’re mocked for having such large families. Hey, geniuses – how do you think we got those large families? Biology may not be your strong point, as evidenced by Andy Sullivan’s deranged rants about Sarah Palin and the maternity of Trig, but try to put two and two together.
As dumb as Marcotte’s rebuttal is, Matt Yglesias takes the cake:
Hymowitz’s argument, essentially, is that not only has feminism opened up new doors of opportunity to women, but it’s helped contribute to the growth of a society in which young men are less crushed down with family and household obligations and are spending more time enjoying themselves. Except she means this as a bad thing! In both cases the conservative conceit seems to be that a decline in human suffering is a bad thing because it leads to a corresponding decline in admirable anti-suffering effort. John Holbo memorably dubbed this Donner Party Conservatism.
I’ve bolded the key part because it is the perfect distillation of the modern secularist mindset. According to Yglesias, having a family, owning your own home, working for a living and doing all those things that human beings have been doing for thousands of years is “crushing.” His idealized life is the very one that Hymowitz is mocking.
Well excuse me Matty boy. I’ve lived the single life in two of the hippest places to be single: New York and Washington, DC. I’ve done the going to he bar and hanging out until 2 in the morning thing. I’ve done the burden-free existence, replete with video games and other time-wasting activities. I’ve lived in the studio apartment in the center of the city. Now I live in suburbia with my wife and 2 children (one of them on the way), going to bed at ten because I have to get up at six in the morning to go to work. Okay, so I still get to play video games, but that’s only because I have a two-year old that insists on it. Only now when I’m done playing I’m going to have to change a dirty diaper and get a very hyper little girl to go to sleep. And I wouldn’t exchange my current life for my former life if you gave me an additional 400 feet for that studio apartment. Am I happier now? It’s not even close.
Maybe it’s just me, but I do not find having real responsibilities to be crushing. A crushing existence is a loveless life seeking out another lay and waking up at noon before writing a blog post that will be forgotten by the time the Jets are up 42-0 on the Pats in Madden. If that’s what you prefer, Matty, I guess you can knock yourself out. I’ll put my joy up against yours and we’ll see who the real enemy of happiness really is.