THE BLOG
01/02/2013 04:50 pm ET

The War on Happiness and the Rudest Man of 2012

Sometime right after Christmas (you know, the "happiest" time of the year"), my husband and I went out to dinner. It was a cold December night, and we were both in cranky mood. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were shown to our table, where we proceeded to pick at our bread basket and make small talk about how annoyed we both were. A few minutes into this seemingly awful night, I started asking myself, "Why are we bickering with each other?" The food was great, it was a Friday night, and besides the negative man seated to my right who would not stop complaining, I really wanted to be out to dinner with him. So, why the bad mood? We started talking about exactly that, and a few minutes later we realized we both didn't even know why we were acting so touchy. Sure, we had things going on earlier that day, but couldn't we both just have a nice dinner? Then I started thinking about it more. I started to realize that lately, it seems everyone is falling into this unreasonably bad mood.

I wanted to blame it on the cold weather or the shorter days, but I traced it back to even a year ago. Whether out to dinner, at a night out in a bar, brunch and even on a shopping date, it feels like everyone around me is consumed with stress and talking about how difficult their day-to-day life is. Everyone, including myself. I had completely fallen victim to it. It's gotten to a point where I sensed a war on happiness. If you do talk about something happy, you almost always have to finish your point with a side of negativity.

For example, if someone I just met asks me if I like what I do for a living, I tell them yes. I do like my job, and luckily enough, it's not that stressful. But I know I am fortunate for this, and a lot of people do not have stress-free work environments. So when I say, yes I like my job, I am usually met with an expressionless face and complete silence. The person usually leans forward a little closer, and maybe raises an eyebrow, motioning for me to go on. I feel uncomfortable and I blurt out, "but the traffic to get there is a nightmare!", and I hear a chorus of "That's awful!", or "I hear ya!" And then I feel part of the group again, and we all go on to talking about the next miserable thing.

Maybe it's part of growing up, but I'm beginning to think showing stress, anger and negativity is the new "rite of passage" to prove you have made it in life. Being more passive-aggressive than your neighbor means you are too busy and thus too important to waste your time on pleasantries. If you are constantly nasty or rude to people, and someone says something about it, they're told, "Oh, that's just how they are." Telling your friends or family over and over again how stressful your job is has been construed into a proverbial badge of honor, and people commend you on it. It's not only praised, it's expected. Even worse, if you don't have this stress, or more likely you don't show it, you seem to be less interesting.

As the night came to an end, we finished up our discussion, bringing up all of the points talked about here, and we both agreed that our New Year's resolution was to be more positive. We finished our main courses and he gave me a few kisses to show me we were fine, and that the bickering meant nothing. When I looked up from the kiss, I saw the same negative man from earlier staring at me. He and his guest then proceeded to tell us how disgusting we were, and told us to go make out in the car. After that little chunk of embarrassment, I looked at my husband and told him I thought it was time to go home. So, thank you, old man, for proving my point and ruining my evening. But hey, I guess that's just how you are.

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