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The logical side of every woman tells her that worrying is a waste of time. Then why do we continue to fret about everything from how we look to whether we'll make that deadline on the job? Happy Woman sat down recently with psychologist Dr. Velma K. Barnes, whose pioneering study entitled "Worrywarting: Silly Word for a Bad Habit" turned the field of Behavioral Psychology on its head.
HW: Dr. Barnes, why do people worry?
VB: Such a good question! Well, no one knows why worrying starts exactly. One day you're doing cartwheels on the lawn with your little friends, and the next day you're worried that if you do a cartwheel, everyone will see your panties with the cute little bears on them and laugh at you for being a big baby. It's the loss of innocence, isn't it. By the way, I hope you can provide a transcript of this interview -- I can't believe I just came up with that loss of innocence stuff! Wow.
HW: Do men and women worry about completely different things?
VB: On the face of it you might think so, but really if you look closely, you'll find that their worries are just two sides of the same coin. For example, when a man worries about his bedroom performance he's concerned that he won't be able to finish his love letter, shall we say, without running out of ink. And a woman is worried whether her envelope contains sufficient postage, as it were, to mail the letter. But you see this is just one example of needless worry.
HW: Why is it needless worry in this case?
VB: Because if you had been prepared, you needn't have worried. The man in our example should always start with a fresh new pen. The woman should simply weigh the contents of the letter first, and then she'll know exactly how much postage is required!
HW: Yes. Well. Besides the arena of the bedroom, what do women tend to worry about most?
VB: I would say at the top of the list is physical appearance, followed by her ability to attract a man, her social position in the Homemaker's Club, and whether the water is fluoridated. Otherwise her children will have cavities you could hide a moose in, let me tell you.
HW: The "Homemaker's Club"? Is that sort of thing still going on?
VB: Oh, my stars, did I say "Homemaker's Club" again? Earth to Velma, it's not 1965 anymore! Allow me to revise that list, if you don't mind. Nineteen sixty-five. Don't get me started!
HW: Please do, revise the list for our readers in 2007.
VB: Gladly. We're still talking about physical appearance, sorry to say, followed by job performance, her skills as a mother, as a lover, and whether she could survive a tumble off that 350-foot staircase in the airplane hangar that is her foyer.
HW: Perhaps we could go through your list one issue at a time, Doctor. You've already touched on the bedroom, but could you elaborate on why women are still worried most about their appearance? Haven't we progressed beyond that in all these years?
VB: I'm afraid not, my dear, but I dare say you are leading the charge with that assertive gap in those lovely front teeth of yours. Go natural, that's the spirit!
HW: Not to mention that many think a little gap in one's front teeth is a sign of great sensuality.
VB: Of course it is, dear. And no need to floss! The advantages are simply myriad.
HW: To move right along, what advice can you give today's moms to help them worry less about being good enough caregivers to their children?
VB: I would say first, did you really need so many? But, given the scientific wonder of multiple births, remember that your little test-tube brood is still genetically possessed of gobs of horse sense. Feed them, change them and let them have at it, I say! Your fertility drugs may have brought them into the world, but that doesn't mean the little buggers can't fend for themselves! One charity raffle for the baby clothes, and one for the college fund, and you're set!
HW: Is that all you have to say to our mothers out there?
VB: I could say "tubes tied," but it's a little late for that, isn't it dear.
HW: Let's discuss the workplace next. How would you advise women who worry about work deadlines, for example?
VB: I would begin by asking this simple question: Ladies, do you want worry furrows in your brow, prematurely graying hair, and breasts that lament, "We are just mopey, pouting versions of our former glorious selves"?
HW: But aren't we just focusing once again on a woman's appearance? Surely there are more important work-related symptoms of stress than a little gray hair. And the point is, how do women learn to worry less at work?
VB: They might start with a little home hair color and some underwire. But of course I'm talking to an all-natural woman! Do you know, I think I'm catching a glimpse of your uvula through that generous part in your front teeth -- and a lovely uvula it is! Where are you going, dear?
© 2007 Kate Heidel
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Heidel is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis. Her work includes humor essays and poetry, genres so incompatible that Kate's resulting inner turmoil can only be soothed by frequent shopping trips to Designer Shoe Warehouse.
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