Half-Baked Theories: The Happiness Graph and Foolish Ideas About Gender, True Love, etc. With CHARTS!

Here's a little half-baked theory that I've had for a while. Except maybe it's not exactly a theory, it's more like a…thing I've noticed.

Here we go: the happiness graph. Basically, I was teaching a class of SAT prep students long, long ago and I was trying to let them know that better days were ahead. To do this, I made a quick line graph of my happiness levels from 1st grade or so up through college. There was a sharp happiness drop-off in 7th grade, which only gradually repaired itself as the subject went to college (see how scientific? I said "subject"). But more or less I was trying to tell them that things can be terrible and then eventually they get better.

Screen shot 2012-02-21 at 5.18.14 PM

Then, to avoid doing the work we should have been doing, I had them all graph their own happiness levels up to the present. Here's what was crazy. Most of the girls had charts that more or less corresponded to mine. I think we can ascribe this to the fact that 7th grade girls can be…unkind. The boys? Different—they didn't have a happiness drop off until 9th grade.

Screen shot 2012-02-21 at 5.18.54 PM

Except! Here's where things got kooky. The sweet boys, the nerds—the guys who made sense to me? Their charts had the same 7th grade drop off that the girls had.

Screen shot 2012-02-21 at 5.18.44 PM

And lest you think that it was that class alone or that they were influenced by my own history, not at all. That year I asked everyone I encountered to graph their happiness over the same span (yes, I was a whole lot of fun) without telling them anything about them, and lo and behold this alignment held up every time. Excellent nice guys = horrendous happiness dip in 7th grade.

So what the heck? Does being miserable in 7th grade turn boys nice? Are nice boys more likely to be miserable in 7th grade? I mean, I know that there must be excellent nice guys who were happy and sunny all the way through, or the reverse—but I didn't find them.

What does it all mean? And does it have anything at all to do with reading?

4 thoughts on “Half-Baked Theories: The Happiness Graph and Foolish Ideas About Gender, True Love, etc. With CHARTS!

  1. I am not a mathematician or a statistician or anything else vaguely related to things ending in -ician. But It occurs to me that since everyone is graphing his or her own happiness no one will be happy and sunny all the way through. It’s all relative, is what I’m saying, I guess.
    This doesn’t have anything to do with the gender stuff though. Interesting proposition. Now I’m going to ask everyone I know to graph their lifetime happiness.


  2. I like this. I would look EXACTLY the same, although I’d say the peak of unhappiness for me would have been the end of 7th grade and well into 8th. I have a 7th grade boy that is decidedly NOT unhappy, and I hope and pray that he’ll be one of those perpetually sunny sorts.
    I have no idea what this has to do without books, although during those 7th and 8th grade years, when I was so abysmally unhappy, reading was a constant joy — whatever I read —


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