The happiest wives ...

Are those who didn't bother reading the latest column by John Tierney.

Published March 1, 2006 2:13PM (EST)

You guys, I had the worst dream last night: that John Tierney wrote another insipid New York Times editorial about women and because the Broadsheet team was busy with all sorts of crappy breaking news they didnt have time to address it yesterday, and since Wednesday is "my" day I would have to write about it today.

Oh, wait.

Tierney's latest opens by quoting Freud -- "What does a woman want?" -- which, I must say, is the gender-journalism equivalent of "It was a dark and stormy night." His topic: a new University of Virginia sociology survey in which, he writes, the "happiest wives, regardless of the family's overall income, were the ones whose husbands brought in at least two-thirds of the money." Tierney continues: "These male providers-in-chief were regarded fondly by even the most feminist-minded women -- the ones who said they believed in dividing [household] duties equally. In theory, these wives were egalitarians, but in their own lives they preferred more traditional arrangements."

Honestly, this kind of "Gotcha!" stuff against feminists ("See? You ladies don't really want to be so equal after all!") makes me want to cry, or yawn, depending on my mood. (This is because women are moody.)

To be fair, right when I was about to protest, "Hey, results like that are just averages!" and "Plenty of people are happy with different arrangements!" Tierney does go on to say: "The results, of course, are just averages. Plenty of people are happy with different arrangements." One of the study's authors -- who himself makes less than his wife and "does the cooking at home" -- suggests that "nontraditional marriages may be a strain on many women simply because they've been forced to be social pioneers." He predicts that "as society adjusts to women's new roles, women may become happier in egalitarian marriages."

And Tierney does offer a satisfactory bottom line: Wives are happier when they feel that household duties are divided fairly -- which, he notes, is not necessarily the same as equally. (Yes, his focus jumps around between wages and housework.) But you know what? Now I'm definitely in the mood to yawn. I mean, we had to spend an entire column getting to that? I'm not saying the study itself is without merit; I'm just saying I'd rather be reading Nicholas Kristof. Dull prose, duh conclusions: feh. I'll tell you what women want: lively, rigorous writing truly worthy of the Times.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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