Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thinner Wife, Happier Life?!

I doing my usual wake up with Facebook routine this morning when I came across something that caught my attention. One of the pages I follow, the television show "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?," posted a link to an article on Discovery titled "Thinner Wife Makes Happier Life." You know I had to click it, right? I couldn't let it go. The stuff that show posts on their page is always amusing, like a news story about a lawyer who got into a fight with his girlfriend and made her eat an iPhone (link).

Anyway, I clicked it and am ashamed to admit that on seeing it was written by a man my first thought was, "oh brother, another guy trying to shame fat girls." Yes, it was written by a man, but my snap judgement couldn't have been more wrong. Turns out the article is about a "study" done by doctoral students, wherein they "prove" that marriages are happier when the wife is thinner than the husband. I'm sorry, what? That's absurd. And, to further shame my initial assumption about the gentleman authoring the article, the study's lead researcher is a woman.

Here's the thing, the "study" only studied 170 couples, which, in my opinion, is not enough to form a accurate picture of this particular issue. They apparently found that in the beginning of a marriage it's the husband who's happier with a thinner wife, but later in marriage the wife is the catalyst for misery over being thinner. Someone explain to me how a "study" done by doctoral students could go on long enough to be a longitudinal study of any significant length. Four years (the current length of this particular study) is simply not enough time to study marital satisfaction over time. In otherwords, look me up in 25 years, and with, oh, 1,000 couples, and maybe I'll buy it. For now, the woman leading the research on this study is relying on research that lacks the required time to see any real pattern... and is publishing her results.

I wonder, is she taking into account that a lot of factors might lead to marital dissatisfaction in those 170 couples that has nothing to do with weight. Weight issues could be one factor in a larger scheme of issues.  How many married couples divorce within the first four years of marriage? I'm guessing a heck of a lot. Marriage isn't easy, it's riddled with issues, and many people aren't prepared for what marriage actually means. Weight issues compound other issues, and though they're often issues all their own, they usually lack the necessary impetus to put the brakes on a marriage. I suppose, to be fair, I can see how people could be unhappy with their spouse's weight, and how that can lead to misery from both parties.

Take it from someone whose ex-husband told her all the time that she was fat. I was a good weight for my frame, but could have stood to lose a few pounds, sure, who couldn't? Okay, I know a few girls, but most people could stand to lose a few pounds here and there. The man wasn't exactly in top shape, but he shamed me all the time about my weight and it became a pretty big issue between us.  He even made me go to support group for overweight people because he was embarrassed by my issues. Okay, here's the thing, he and I had so many other issues, the weight issue was only one thing in a maze of problems no sane person could ever have worked through. So yes, my weight was an issue, but not the biggest, or only, issue.

Fast forward to now. I have a husband who loves me the way I am and I'm quite a bit heavier than I was when I was married to my ex. Heck, I'm quite a bit heavier than I was when I met my current husband. He, on the other hand, lost a lot of weight and is a thinner than I am, overall. Yet he never shames me, he never makes me feel bad, but there are moments I do anyway--feel bad that is. I have this idea that wives are supposed to be thinner than their husbands stuffed somewhere in the back of my mind, which is ridiculous. Thanks, society, I needed that insecurity like I needed another whole in the head.

Now, this woman's study is making women feel even more insecure than they already do. The article quotes the lead researcher, Andrea Meltzer, as having said, "This study is important because it demonstrates that women of any size can be happy in their relationships with the right partner" (qtd. in Radford). Which, according to Radford, translates to fat women should choose fat husbands or lose weight. Clearly, his assessment hits the nail on the head.

What leads people to do these sorts of studies, like the one where a "researcher" proves that women without children are lacking essential humanity (link), or the one where "researchers" suggest that women are so desperate to be ideal that they would give up years of their lives for it (link)?  I wish I could understand. I mean, okay, do your studies, but be responsible about them, for crying out loud!

I'm reminded, while reading over what I've written so far, about the TV show "Drop Dead Diva," do you watch it?  It's about a struggling model who dies, is accidently sent back, and wakes up in a fat girl's body. Anyway, the male lead is a really nice, very cute guy, who Jane, the female lead, is in love with.  Duh, right?  I mean, she's still the model on the inside and cute guy, Grayson, was the model's boyfriend. The message of the show is that you're as beautiful and self-confident as you feel. It's a good message, but I can't help feeling like the reason the main character's, Grayson and Jane, don't hook up is that she's heavy.  For all his sweetness, and he is sweet, he's still pretty shallow. It kind of breaks my heart a little, to be honest.

People already believe that heavier girls have less options in the romance department than do skinny girls--I mean, have you seen Peyton Manning's wife?! That's a fact of life--one I've clearly been lucky enough to dodge--but we don't need studies to prove that men are happier when their wives are skinny. We certainly don't need studies to suggest that heavy people are the only good choice so no one feels bad. People fall in love, marry, and maintain happiness for a number of reasons. Weight is just one and to spotlight weight and suggest marriages would be happy if everyone was thin is absurd and irresponsible.

Okay, now that I've written a treatise and am still not certain I got my whole point out, I'm going. My arm's still really bothering me and I really need to give it a rest.