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When Housewives (and others) Are Desperate

By Toni Raiten-D'Antonio

Updated January 12, 2005

The main theme of the year's biggest TV hit -- Desperate Housewives -- is that despite their beautiful clothes, perfect bodies, and high-end lifestyles, the women who live on Wisteria Lane are miserable. They struggle to find happiness by achieving a set of impossible social standards for women. And they invariably fail because they are looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places - in wealth, in power, in beauty, and in other people.

We watch the show because some of what the characters experience is familiar. We have all felt the pressure to conform to rigid ideas about beauty, to seek pleasure in possessions, and to search for completion in men. So we watch, we relate, and we laugh at the absurd situations they get themselves into. Deep inside, we wonder if the women on the TV screen will ever discover the truth: that we can define happiness for ourselves. To do this, we must be true to our individual hopes, dreams and values, what I call the Real self. That cookie-cutter version of success portrayed on Desperate Housewives just doesn't work for most of us.

If you see a bit too much of yourself when you watch the housewives on TV, here are some things to keep in mind as you strive to be Real in a world that makes us all feel a little desperate sometimes.

  • Everything that money can buy isn't enough.
  • The inside is always more important than the outside.
  • Perfection in homemaking often hides emotional emptiness and a lack of fun.
  • Sexual conquests are empty. Real love is about the relationship.
  • Cutting off huge sections of your Real self can be disastrous.
  • Drugs and alcohol may soothe your pain temporarily. But if you're not Real, you still wake up desperate.
  • A husband or child is a Real person, not an object to be managed or controlled.
  • Children are not small adults, and they ought not be a needy parent's best friend.
  • Secrets and lies are always toxic.
  • Infidelity is a sign that your relationship is not Real.
  • When you're not Real, you're desperate.
  • The key to Real happiness is empathy for yourself and others.

Toni Raiten-D'Antonio is author of The Velveteen Principles, A Guide to Becoming Real published by HCI.

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