Happiness begins with dirt desensitization

Someone posted the 1970s Enjoli perfume ad on YouTube.

A lanky supermodel dressed as a “real” woman raises a frying pan in the air. A hootchie honky tonk piano plays: Ta-DAH-da-TUM!

“I can put the wash on the line, feed the kids, get dressed, pass out the kisses and get to work by five of nine.”

Her costume changes from retro apron to business suit, hair pulled back, to evening gown, hair at maximum coif. Hips grind, shoulders shimmy. She pouts ever so attractively.

“Cuz I’m a woman, Enjoli!”


A response posted under the clip reads: “This is my favorite commercial of all time! Images like this totally helped mold young girls into becoming women who know they can do anything!!!”

Intentional irony? I totally hope so!!!

A happiness gap between men and women is in the news after the recent release of two different time-use studies by economists. Both studies note a growing disparity, since the 1970s, between men and women when it comes to overall life satisfaction.

David Leonhardt writes in The New York Times that a likely explanation for the happiness trend is that women—big surprise—have more to do than ever before. Or so we perceive.

“They can’t possibly get it all done and many end up feeling as if they are somehow falling short,” Leonhardt writes.

Nuh-uh, really.

One time-use study showed less time devoted to dusting in recent years. Houses are likely dirtier, Leonhardt concludes. “I imagine that the new American dustiness affects women’s happiness more than men’s.”

What, men less interested in the details of housekeeping? Oh, to be able to let go, my women friends. To give ourselves permission to take time for ourselves. To suckle at the glistening nipples of self-absorption.

Leonhardt’s article ends with a pledge to dust, on behalf of his partner’s bliss.

I blame the Enjoli ad and its ilk for my own warped views on achievement. I Googled the spot after waking up this morning, ad lyrics ringing in my head. I’ve been working 11-hour days and haven’t had a weekend in a while.


How did I get this overbooked? Why was I thinking that I can teach full time and advise student clubs and travel to conferences and work on Web sites and write this column and exercise and eat healthful meals and grade papers and grade more papers and, oh yeah, study for comprehensive exams so that I can get a doctoral degree?

And I have it easy. No young children at home. A home gym in the garage for hassle-free workouts. A husband who cleans and does laundry. I cook only once a week on Sundays and invite my sprawling clan over for a happy, loud evening.

The happiest working woman I know is my 18-year-old daughter who joined the Nevada Conservation Corps instead of going to college this year. She’d suffered from four years of the high pressure and low sleep associated with the International Baccalaureate high school program.

Taking a year off before college was a scary decision. Friends warned that she’d fall behind, end up flipping breakfast batter at the waffle house.

My daughter believes the race will wait for her—if she wants to return. Now she camps at Tahoe four days a week. She knows how to use a chain saw. She wears worn Carhartt work pants and a hard hat. She is becoming, she says, desensitized to dirt.

She is a better role model for me than the grinning sexpot in the perfume commercial who claims: “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan—and never, never let you forget you’re a man!”

Women, let’s shrug off those unrealistic expectations. Leave dishes in the sink, go for a walk and watch a sunset.