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Column: Sized to Vanity26 April 2010 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
According to a British research survey, which questioned 1500 women, owning an iPhone makes men more attractive. It also transpired that women think iPhone-men communicate better and are more into humour. Thirty-seven percent of the interviewees find iPhone-men more trustworthy.
Well, that is a bit of a put-down for men without an iPhone. Besides, I don’t own a mobile phone at all.
Every day the papers report on new research. ‘Genuinely smiling baseball players appear to live longer’; researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit came to this conclusion. This was based on an examination of pictures in the Baseball Register of 1952. No kidding, the genuinely smiling guys – ‘their eyes smile too’ – live longer.
Last year psychologists proved that people who smile when their picture is taken are less likely to file for divorce. So this has prompted me, for the past few days, to study photos that feature me. In sixty-two percent of the pictures I manage a smile.
The other pictures, mainly from the seventies, would make you smile, although they actually ought to make you cry; just think of flares, orange shirts and over-sized glasses. I wouldn’t recommend marrying me, but luckily I laugh enough to be an unlikely candidate for divorce.
The conclusions of so much research are staring you in the face. An American investigation reports that putting out good information increases the number of living kidney donors. So, does poor information produce dead kidney donors? Well, as long as we have kidneys.
The Art Loan Scheme in Utrecht commissioned an inquiry to establish how people select a painting. Most participants considered ‘colour’ most important; obviously, as it should ‘complement the sofa’.
Another piece of research comes to the conclusion that thirty percent of Dutch people feel lonely from time to time. This is more difficult to quantify. How do you define loneliness? When you are bereft of an iPhone and hiding behind your geraniums?
Happiness is the subject of many research projects, as if you can measure this. Femke Halsema, the party leader of the Green Left, a decidedly genuine Dutch political party, prefers counting on Gross Domestic Happiness over counting on Gross Domestic Product.
Then consider François Lelord, a leading French philosopher, his book ‘Hector’s Journeys, or Hector and the Search for Happiness’ has already sold 2.5 million copies. He stated in an interview that, on the whole, women nowadays consider themselves less happy than in the sixties.
In contrast, men have increased their share of happiness, all because ‘many women have taken over duties previously carried out by men’. Maybe this is the time to think about marrying.
In the UK, trends in big chain stores are thoroughly investigated. In fact, sizes are fitted to suit their customers. Anyone shopping in H&M is assumed to have ‘no hips’. Consequently their size 8 is smaller than at Dorothy Perkins, which caters for a more mature clientele. Marks & Spencer apparently puts reduced sizes on labels across the board, ‘vanity sizing’ according to The Sunday Times.
I often buy my trousers at Gap in London, waist 36, length 30, a size almost impossible to track down in The Netherlands. The Dutch are of course the tallest nation in the world. This, too, has been researched. I challenge the average downwards; it seems dwarfs have to go through life without decent trousers.
Many research projects in the social (‘soft’) sciences are in fact a form of ‘vanity sizing’. You ask, we provide and the papers are keen to publish.
I am eagerly awaiting research into the happiness of small, bald men wearing glasses; chaps who in fact are wearing size 36-30; small men who own thousands of books but just one bicycle and certainly not a mobile phone. Small chaps who smoke cigars which are responsible for ruining three keyboards a year. The same small guys who like to frequent pubs and whose domestic arrangements require urgent attention.
There is a high chance that the research will conclude that these men are deeply unhappy, however ‘they are addicted to writing’. Just out of precaution, I will make sure I am smiling broadly in all my pictures.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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