Unmarried, child-free women are the happiest people of all — science says so.
Sometimes, research comes along that just blows our minds and makes us see the world in a new way. This is not that story. Sometimes, research proves what we’ve known all along, providing grim sustenance for that gnawing, desperate ache at our very core. This is, in fact, that cheerless story, folks. We didn’t want to keep you in the dark, sorry.
Behavioral science researcher Paul Dolan of the London School of Economics has surfaced from a deep, deadly, dream-crushing dive into the data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), according to the Guardian. The ATUS dared to compare happiness and total abject misery levels in unmarried and married people. The studies researched male-female marriages. Want to venture a guess who was happier? No, we didn’t either, but it’s our job, dammit, so there you have it.
Dolan presented his findings — which he’s used to write a book, Happy Ever After — at the Hay Festival recently. He spoke about escaping the myth of the “perfect life” — and he didn’t pull any punches either.
“Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they’re asked how happy they are,” Dolan said to the crowd, immediately challenging the idea of marriage equaling #goals. “When the spouse is not present: fucking miserable,” he added.
Whoa. Is that because we put on brave faces when our spouse is around — or we’re actually just relieved they’re around so someone else can take out the goddamn garbage, wipe the toddler’s poop-smeared butt, and smile at the nice scientist who’s probing into our marriage? The mind reels. What’s really going on here?
“We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: If you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother,” he continued.
— Happy Ever After (@profpauldolan) May 28, 2019
This is great news for those of us who are single and tired of the haranguing that goes with it at Thanksgiving dinner. But if you’re twisting your wedding band nervously and chewing your lip, well, hey — at least you’re not alone. Many women have chosen the “married with children” approach to happiness. Unfortunately, it seems to be benefiting our male counterparts more than it’s benefiting us.
Why? Well, Dolan says men do well in marriage because they’ve “calmed down.” Dolan said of men, “You take less risks, you earn more money at work, and you live a little longer.”
What about us, the ones who — vocal feminist or nay — still occasionally wind up ass-deep in cold toilet water at 3 a.m. because somebody left the seat up?
Dolan’s words ain’t gonna make your day, married (hetero) womenfolk: “She [married hetero woman], on the other hand, has to put up with that [men living longer], and dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children.”
Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee and the three thousand Lego bits strewn across the floor and awaiting your tender feet. Yes, married women with children, life is one big Choose Your Own Adventure paperback, and by saying “I do” to some bloke and getting knocked up, it’s likely you’ve skipped over chapters of fleeting sexy paramours, G-spot body-twisting climaxes, exotic travel involving wildebeests and glamping, and satisfying vertical career moves. Somehow you’ve wound up on page 125 with your once-perky tush immersed in a germtastic toilet bowl while a baby wails distantly down the hall, unheard by your hubby, who has been rendered deaf by his CPAP machine.
Now, Dolan didn’t offer info or speculation on the happiness of women who are partnered with other women, or on anything but boring-old basic cisgendered straight marriages (we have a hunch our married lesbian pals might be doing just fine). But for those of us living that traditional hetero married-with-children life, welp, we’re not surprised our single, child-free sisters are the ones actually living the dream. In fact, here are seven reasons we’re pretty sure those sisters are the happiest (and possibly healthiest) creatures on the planet.
They pee in private — and on their own schedule
To our knowledge, no one has done scientific studies on the psychological hit points incurred by only being allowed to use the bathroom with constant scrutiny and/or companionship. To those who have small children, the act of peeing alone takes on a luxurious prestige — and becomes a thing of the distant past. No privacy whilst peeing, pooing, showering, shaving or changing tampons, it could be argued, may be the waterboarding of motherhood. They get away with it, the little devils, but we age at double the rate while it’s happening. It is torture.
Not to mention all the times the bathrooms are all occupied (or the toilets are all plugged) thanks to husbands and children, and we’re the ones growing UTIs and kidney stones. Meanwhile, in clean, serene homes on the other side of town, single, child-free people are releasing their bladders and bowels unobserved and at their splendid leisure. Though unstudied as of yet (Paul Dolan, get on this), we venture a guess that this joy adds at least a dozen years to any life.
Far less germ action
The TV remote. The refrigerator handle. The doorknobs. The light switches. How often are you spraying those down with Lysol? If you’re not, and you signed up for the kids-and-husband menu option, you’re probably occasionally humbled by Dysentery Lite or at least the common cold or flu. If you’re the only one touching those objects on the regular? Imagine how much healthier you get to be.
And imagine how much happier you’d get to be, controlling those objects on your own. Game of Thrones re-watch, all the way up to the last disastrous season? ALL YOUR CALL. Leave the light on, because ghosts and demon vortices? YOU PAY YOUR OWN DAMN ENERGY BILL SO GO AHEAD. It all adds up to less stress and wear on your chassis, and more time luxuriating in your gorgeous, gorgeous freedom on this planet.
What makes us moms ugly-cry? Our spouses and our kids. Because they can be beastly. Don’t even get us started on the preteen and teen years. If you think the toddler era made you cry, you ain’t seen nothing like the engorged tear ducts and busted eye capillaries that await you in the medicine cabinet mirror when your middle schooler refuses to walk next to you for the first time in public because ew you are so not lit. No spouse and no kids means you can shake off an ugly-cry quicker, preventing horrendous facial divots and ditches and the general appearance of someone at least 20 years older than your chronological age.
Science is nice, but some things are just common sense. So rock on, those of you smart enough to reject the “I must marry and breed to be happy” myth. Our kids and spouses are sometimes cute, and sometimes even sweet to be around, but damn, us moms would give anything to pee in peace again.