James Pennebaker and Molly Ireland, psychologists at the University of Texas-Austin, decided to take a look at how function words were used by couples in various stages of courtship. What are function words? They're hard to explain, but basically, they're the things that make whole thoughts out of the information we want to convey. Words like the, a, be, anything, that, will, him and and. Where you put them in a sentence shapes how you actually speak. But, according to the findings, it also could be an indicator of whom you'll fall in love with.
In the name of science, these researchers had pairs of college students speed-date while a computer analyzed their speech for these function words. Even though everyone's conversations sounded the same, they all had different levels of function-word usage. The people whose levels matched were four times as likely to want to see each other again.
But wait, there's more! When function words were measured in brand-new couples using their online chats to see if they matched or not, 54 percent of those whose patterns did not match weren't dating three months later. Guess how many of those couples whose used function words similarly were still together? Eighty percent.
We all know how cute/annoying it is when a couple starts sounding like each other, right? I guess it's time to stop making fun, because maybe that's what got them together in the first place.
You want to know the best part about all this research? You can test it out yourself. All you need are chats or emails between you and your beau, and this wonderful website set up by the researchers, and you too can find out just how language-compatible your relationship is. Come on, it's science!
But we did it anyway. Not for ourselves, or our relationship. We did it for the government.
You see, my husband wasn't born in the United States. To start the long process toward citizenship, we had to prove to the powers-that-be that we were in love and that our love was real. Apparently that meant shared finances and pictures of us on various holidays with each others' families. It seemed like a poor way to prove devotion to another human being, but so be it.
We opened a joint checking account but kept our individual accounts. At first, we just funneled equal amounts of money into the account and used it to pay for joint expenses. It was pretty easy to do, and we were still free to spend money on our own guilty pleasures (clothes for me, video games for him) without feeling the need to explain ourselves.
Slowly, however, more money started going into the joint account, as we took more vacations together and bought more big items together. It felt good.
Then we decided to move from Chicago to New York.
We were moving because we'd both always wanted to, and because my husband is a comedian with dreams of finally quitting his day job to try doing comedy full-time. As you can probably guess, it's not the most lucrative of careers, so we discussed it long and hard and decided that I would work full-time to support us while he tackled becoming a professional comic. (Yeah, I know how it sounds.) It was a deal I made willingly after much discussion. And it meant getting rid of the individual accounts and living completely off the funds in our joint one.
The first year in New York was miserable. I didn't make nearly enough money to support us, he barely made any money as a comedian despite hustling constantly for gigs, and we spent a lot of time eating potatoes in our tiny-yet-expensive apartment, terrified of the future. We fought over who provided what and how, and who spent money more frivolously.
Eventually, realizing that fighting wouldn't pay the rent, we decided to focus instead on taking the emotional element out of our financial situation.
"It's just paper," we'd repeat to each other, over and over, like a mantra.
It is just paper. We attach self-worth, trust, security and success to money, but in the end, it's just paper, and being horrifically poor with my husband taught me that. We trusted each other enough to agree that money couldn't be a sore spot for us. So instead of letting it become a weapon we could use against each other, we banded together to fight how broke we were.
By the time we entered our second year in New York, he was doing well enough in comedy that I was able to quit my job and start freelance writing (my turn to have a non-lucrative career!), and when he incorporated himself, we became co-CEOs.
These days, I don't feel guilty when I spend money on myself because I know I had his back when he was starting a new career, and I know he has mine. I also know that money has nothing to do with how much we love each other. It's just paper. Sometimes one will make more than the other, sometimes one will spend more than the other. In the end, it has a way of balancing itself out.
I used to think combined finances wasn't a good measure of whether a couple is truly in love. Now, I'm starting to see things differently. Maybe the government was onto something after all.
In our youth-obsessed, cosmetic-procedure-addicted society, when do women feel old? Are those milestones different for men?
A survey conducted by Avalon Funeral Plans (depressing, right?) asked men and women of varying ages what kinds of situations made them feel old. Their answers? Talk about night and day cream.
Women, on average, said they felt over the hill at the ripe old age of 29. Men, on the other hand, didn't start feeling the years until they were 58.
Men, it seems, think of aging as more task-related, while women base the whole thing on appearances. Twenty-five percent of the women surveyed felt old the first time they found a gray hair, and 50 percent said it happened when parts of them started succumbing to gravity. By contrast, 66 percent of men said they felt past their prime when they could no longer perform in the bedroom.
Among my friends, however, feeling old doesn't depend as much on what we think we look like, but rather on what other people think we look like.
Molly, 34, said that she felt over the hill "the first time someone called me ma'am while bagging my groceries."
Julieanne, 26, started feeling ancient a few weeks ago when "I went to the dog track and they carded me. I was like, 'You flatterer,' and the guy went, 'No, we card everybody who looks under 40.'"
Another friend felt the years catching up to her when her 31-year-old self spent most of her time at SXSW applying Band-Aids to her feet rather than partying. The lone guy friend of mine that I could get to answer this question told me that he felt a slight twinge when he realized his current boss is younger than he is.
As women's priorities grow and shift, it makes sense that we don't base how youthful we feel on our careers. But maybe we should be a little bit easier on ourselves. It's amazing how young women spend so much effort trying to look older, only to skip right over into feeling old.
Perhaps men should be more focused on feeling their actual age instead of remaining childlike well into their 40s. (I'm looking at you, Apatow movies!)
And maybe some day, they'll open up a Forever 31 store for me.
Are Stem Cell Injections the Fountain of Youth?
A new study conducted at the University of Michigan took 40 healthy men and women who'd recently been dumped and put them into an MRI machine. While watching their brains, the researchers put them through two painful tasks: 1) a heat source on their arms designed to feel like holding a hot cup of coffee and, far more excruciating, 2) looking at pictures of their exes.
What they found was that the exact same parts of the brain lit up in both instances, meaning that sometimes, the brain can't tell the difference between physical pain and emotional pain.
The implications of this are enormous. The researchers are excited about what these results could mean for how emotional trauma plays a role in the development of physical disorders, but we're more excited about how much this validates the existence of emotional pain.
Emotional pain is real, and perhaps we need to start thinking about it more as a physical ailment rather than just melodramatic histrionics. Heartbreak should never be a badge you wear as your excuse for being a mess, but being told to "suck it up" and "forget about it" doesn't work. It's the equivalent of breaking a bone and ignoring it. You may learn to function OK despite your injury, but without treatment, you won't heal correctly and it'll end up affecting you for much longer than necessary.
We hope this leads to much more research into how best to assess and then treat emotional traumas, but at the very least, let's hope it cuts down on people using past heartbreak as their reason not to get close to others. Saying "I've been hurt before" sounds a lot less romantic and dramatic when what you're actually saying is "I didn't treat a wound and now I've got this infection." So, don't ignore those twinges and pains -- work through them and live to love again another day.
Think you're ready to get back out there? Get dating tips from a woman who's tried every method in the book!
If you've ever coveted the shirtwaist-heavy wardrobe of the ladies on "Mad Men," with its prim button-down shirts tucked into sleek skirts that somehow end up sexier than skin-revealing dresses, then listen up, because we have a story for you.
The shirtwaist has been incredibly important in American history. The look became popular in America in the early 1900s and was a nice change from the shapeless, heavy, bustle-filled frocks that women had been wearing. It allowed them to show a little skin without going too far, and even better than that, it was a practical item of clothing. At the time, American women were just starting to trickle into the workforce, and shirtwaists became their uniform. So, more than being practical, they represented liberation.
On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Factory in New York City, which employed hundreds of women working tirelessly to make these shirtwaists, caught fire and burned down within 30 minutes. One-hundred forty-six people were killed, 123 of them women. The fire led to huge reforms in workplace safety and changed many Americans' ideas about how our employees are treated.
The shirtwaist went from being a practical, everyday look for women to couture within a couple of decades, with Grace Kelly donning one in 1956 to announce her engagement to Prince Rainier, and most major fashion labels started making their own luxe versions. It remained a look of the people, however, because just one year later, a young African-American girl named Elizabeth Eckford wore a shirtwaist on her tumultuous first day of school at the newly de-segregated Little Rock Central High.
On the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Fire, let's remember the men and women who died working hard to make the dress that would take women out of oppression and into more modern, egalitarian times. Every time you don a shirtwaist, remember that this is a dress that has made history in more ways than one.