The U-bend of Life

Posted on January 14, 2011

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Last month, the cover of the Economist Magazine shrieked “The Joy of Growing Old (or why life begins at 46).”  Needless to say, this caught Life in the Boomer Lane’s eye, while she was in the drugstore looking for nighttime panty liners.  She bought the magazine, in spite of the actual article being titled “The U-Bend of Life.”  She knows about U-bends.  They are the pipes under the sink that after awhile turn into a scientific experiment to show that human hair, when allowed to sit in a dark, wet place long enough, will become a breeding ground for life forms that eventually evolve into the beings on V.

It was the sub title that got LBL to shell out her hard earned cash.  It was “Why, beyond middle age, people get happier as they get older.”  LBL is a great example of someone being happier as they age.  This is because she has totally forgotten anything bad that anyone has ever done to her.  If she runs into someone she hasn’t seen in a long time, she will smile and hug them.  They might have stolen her boyfriend in high school or run her over in their car a week ago, but she doesn’t remember any of that.

Now for the article.  LBL will condense it because you have more important things to do than read her blog, even though she is well aware that there is absolutely nothing in your life that is more important than this.  You just don’t know it.  OK, she digresses.  Back to the article:

When people start out in adult life, they are, on average, pretty cheerful.  Things go downhill from youth to middle age until they reach a nadir commonly known as the mid-life crisis.  But, as people move toward old age, they gain what people spend their lives pursuing: happiness.  Bhutan has taken the lead on this, where the concept of Gross National Happiness shapes public policy.  LBL is not making this up.  France considers GNH, and Britain is starting to collect data on it.  This gives statisticians more interesting things to think about than money or employment or the sudden rise in baby girls being named Snookie.

After spending a lot of money and a lot of research hours on GNH, the conclusion is that neurotic people tend to be unhappy.  This was confirmed over and over by LBL’s entire family.  Her Aunt Gert, who is 89 and in perfect health, when asked how she is doing, will always respond “I’m depressed.”  Extroverts, on the other hand, are happy.  Since part of LBL’s family consisted of neurotic extroverts, she guesses that brought them to neutral on the GNH scale.

Now for age.  Seventy year olds are happier than thirty year olds.  The least happy people are late 40s into just over 50.  Forty-six is the nadir.  Note to all 46 years olds who are reading this: Try to relax, take a lot of deep breaths, make no decisions, don’t leave home, and wait it out.  If you have teenagers at home, none of this will work.

One reason for older people being happier is that unhappy people die earlier, (or if they are extremely neurotic and making everyone crazy, are shot by some family member at Thanksgiving.)

Older people are less excitable (This could be due to pacemakers), less prone to aggression (It takes a lot of effort to punch someone in the nose), and are better at negotiating (If you have raised a bunch of children and survived, you get pretty good at this).

Whatever the reasons, and LBL is sure there will be billions of dollars earmarked for more research on this, you can look forward to happy, serene, and slightly medicated years beyond 50.  LBL’s life at 63 is pretty darn perfect.  It would be totally perfect if someone came up with a panty liner to fit the shape of Hanky Pankys, so there is always hope.

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