According to Jennifer Senior's research for her exhaustive new article on happiness in New York Magazine
, "Married people are happier than those who are not, while people who believe in God are happier than those who don’t...Smarter people aren’t any happier, but those who drink in moderation are. Attractive people are slightly happier than unattractive people. Men aren’t happier than women, though women have more highs and more lows. Surprisingly, the young are not happier than the elderly; in fact, it’s the other way round, with older people reporting slightly higher levels of life satisfaction and fewer dark days."
Happiness. Whether it is the ultimate possible human experience or just an accident of chemicals, the pursuit of happiness—defined as being essential to the God-given right to freedom laid out in the Declaration of Independence—obsesses both humanity and huwomanity, who are, as I suspected, better at being both happy and sad than humanity.
How do you know you are happy? Maybe, it’s like whether something is porn. Your mom can always tell.
If someone tells you that you seem really happy and you’ve never been diagnosed with any sort of bipolar disorder, you are probably pretty happy. If your mom gets it wrong, it might make you suicidal. It also could mean you are an expert at getting along with people and know how to hide your emotions like it’s your porn.
If you smile, you are happy, right? I’d say so. In most cases.
But that just doesn’t work for me, though. Since I had full-metal braces installed in my mouth, I have perfected the art of disconnecting my emotions from my facial expression. I always shudder when I see machinery peaking out of a human. And having that shit in my mouth and my mirror made me quit smiling.
When I talk, you can tell if I’m happy. But that’s not fair because 99% of the time I’m happy if I get to talk. My nickname as a kid was Motormouth. That it sort-of rhymed with my Hebrew name, Mordechai, made it seem to my family like it was ordained by God. But attention is any kid’s warm sun. Talking just worked for me. If I were super cute just being alive, I probably would have learned coyness. But them the breaks.
Here’s how I know that over the last few years I have been unhappy.
Whenever I was in an airplane and experienced any turbulence, there was always a little prayer in me for a crash. It didn’t feel suicidal, because there was no bravery or anger behind it. I wasn’t doing anything else even dangerous or life threatening in my life, except driving, which is obliviously dangerous.
Crashing just seemed like an easier thing to do than go on, wait for my luggage, get a cab, meet people, etc. On an airplane flying back from New York City on September 15, 2001, I remember how every face and sound from the airplane seemed dangerous and doomed. And how it all appealed to my sense of lust for death, which I equated to the ideal sensation of my brain just stopping. But I lucked out and my wish didn’t come true.
I'm happy to report that on my flight back from Chicago this afternoon, each drop in altitude or slight twinge in trajectory scared me shitless. I have to work on my novel in the morning, I thought. A crash would completely fuck that up. And that I didn’t want to die made me pretty exceedingly happy.
Now, I have to admit that it’s most likely that my newfound happiness is probably due to my prescription of Prozac. But that I began writing every morning right as I started taking Prozac completely screws everything up. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a wee little Jew. I’ve written but never felt like a writer. But in the last year I’ve discovered that more than wanting to be a writer, I want to be a novelist.
Attempting to create the realized world of a story is the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done in my life. A novel is an orgy of creation. And focusing on the telling and syntax needed to communicate a story effectively has led me to questioning every word and action in life. For instance as I was boarding the plane today, I was thinking how it I HATE IT when writers use the word “orgy” metaphorically. Like the word is capable of describing anything but lascivious fucking. But I realize now that words are like every thing. They are all in context. And sometimes using the exact wrong word says more about a story and a character than the right word ever can.
So, when someone uses the word “orgy” metaphorically, they are probably just feeling either very horny. Or pretty happy.