Anthropology of Bellydance: Hora Loca and Bellydancers?

Hi there! To continue in the Wedding theme, this week I will be discussing another wedding trend in another culture, hora loca. Hora loca is common in many Latin American weddings, specifically Venezuela and Columbia. Literally meaning crazy hour, it is a time to revive the party and mark a transition from the traditional aspects of a wedding to the after party/ reception time. This has become especially popular in Miami and South Florida weddings amongst those from Latin American countries as well as brides looking to spice up their wedding reception.

 During the crazy hour, which can range from 45 minutes to a full hour, guests are encouraged to dress up with silly party accessories that are brought out like noise makers, hats, masquerade masks, and dance or otherwise act silly. Think of it like the whole wedding reception just turned into a Harlem Shake video.

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 Depending on preferences and budget, hora loca can be made by just putting on some exciting party music, a popular choice Samba and carnival music or it can include live entertainment, bands, samba dancers, circus performers etc.

So what does this all have to do with belly dance and weddings?

A great and popular way to transition your wedding from tradition to party is to have a belly dancer come in and entertain at the beginning of hora loca or just after dinner (when the crazy hour would traditionally begin). A belly dancer entertaining and encouraging guests to get up for the first half of the crazy hour is almost a fool proof method to make your reception a success. The belly dancer also provides enough distraction for the bride and groom or wedding planner to escape and collect the party props for their guests to enjoy.

If you’re a belly dancer and you got hired for the crazy hour don’t worry! In my experience your normal show is just the type of “crazy” they are looking for but if you are wanting to add a little spice to your show, feel free to add masks or feather headdresses to your entrance or just grab some of the accessories the guests are using and join in the fun!

 

Featured on Gigmasters Blog!: Tips for Hiring a belly dancer

It can be overwhelming to try to hire a belly dancer, or any live entertainment for an event. This is perhaps even more true in south Florida. This past week, I was honored, as well as several other talented belly dancers, to be featured in a gigmasters blog on some tips for hiring a belly dancer. Follow the link below to see the gigmasters blog, and scroll down to see my full article.

1.   What should a client consider when looking to hire a belly dancer?

Always look their profile and personal websites over carefully and ask all the questions you want, even the uncomfortable ones. When hiring exclusively online you can never be too careful. Photos can be old, or photoshopped or out right stolen from other sites! Don't hesitate to ask to meet in person beforehand. Double check with liability insurance especially if the dancer is using fire. Not only does this protect you if something were to happen during the show (God forbid!) but it also shows that the dancer has made a professional commitment to their dance by taking the time and money to purchase their insurance and learn how to perform safely. Also, don't just go for cheapest. On lead generating sites such as Gigmasters, it is easy to see a line of bids and just click the cheapest but even with a great company like Gigmasters you can be burned by this. You get what you pay for and if a dancer is pricing themselves under the competition there is a reason. She may be new, or an "undercutter" and she also isn't going to take you party seriously. If something better comes up she will not hesitate in leaving you high and dry the night of your event! Or if she shows up she might be less than what you were hoping in skill, punctuality and ethics. I have heard horror stories from clients, everything from the girl not being the same as pictured to dancing in non family friendly ways, the list goes on. It is not worth the gamble!

2.   What questions should a client ask a belly dancer that they are considering booking?

Again, check for liability insurance, photos, reviews, videos, website. If the dancer doesn't have any of these it can be a red flag. It isn't just having these things but these are evidence that they take their dance career seriously and have invested time, money and energy into it. Of course this could mean the dancer is just starting out or hasn't had the luck of getting good video so ask to see a live show. Almost all professional bellydancers perform at weekly shows at local restaurants and this is a great way to see them in action! You will not only get to see their dancing but how they deal with the crowd and their demeanor. This is a quick and fun way to ensure you are getting the right fit for your party!

3.   Once a client books you for a performance, what details should be discussed prior to the event?

In order to ensure a smooth show be sure to discuss spacing required for show, music format and time of performance. Depending on the props being used and the personal preferences of the dancer will depend how much space she will need. Try to be as accurate and realistic as possible. We can accommodate nearly any requirement but we have to know what we are working with! After space, music is probably the next most important factor. The dancer will bring music on multiple formats usually but it is good to check over beforehand with your DJ. Some DJs are not equipped to play CDs or even iPods and if this is the case it could prove to be a disaster if the dancer is not prepared! If you have no DJ but are planning to use a home stereo system you should do a check to make sure it is playing properly. Some home stereos will not play burned CDs so it is a good idea to try to play a burned CD just in case. A professional dancer usually will also have her own sound equipment so if you're stereo is being strange, ask her to bring her sound equipment. Finally, respect the time frame you and the dancer discussed, she likely has several engagements throughout the night and you delaying the show for 30 minutes could cause her all sorts of trouble. If you suspect this might happen let her know as soon as possible so you can work out arrangements.

4.   Please tell us - when did your act get started, and why do you do perform?

I actually started in ballet at 22 months. I come from a dancer family on my mother's side. Everyone on her side is involved in dance or performance in some way so it was barely a choice, I was enrolled into ballet class just 4 months after I started walking. Lucky for me I loved it. I quickly added on several other classical dances and went on to perform with Ballet Florida and Palm Beach Opera. During this period, my much older brother took up belly dancing (men dance it too!) and it made quite an impression on me. Though I was absorbed in the classical world for most of my life I found myself being more attracted to belly dance. When I started college, the ballet schedule was simply too demanding with school and I left the dance. During this period I used to have horrible nightmares about being late to dance class and running up the stairs to the studio but the stairs sucking me in. I had to have dance in my life! I started attending belly dance classes and instantly fell in love. With my classical training I progressed very quickly and before long I found myself a full time belly dancer. In belly dance I found myself even more than ballet, I had the freedom to express myself outside of a ballet narrative or choreographers instructions.

My act though I wouldn't say was complete till I added the fire sword. The sword dance was always what attracted me to belly dance before I started and having the strength, balance and flexibility from classical dance it was a natural dance for me. But I found the audience to be so untrusting and they automatically assumed the sword was not real or it was some sort of parlor trick so I thought I needed to add an extra element of danger to the act. So I sewed some wick to my sword and set it on fire. My goal was to do all my same tricks, including body and head balances with the sword on fire, other dancers thought I was nuts! But I did it anyways and now it is one of my most requested acts. Of course, I'm not the first or the last and other dancers have followed suit, but I have yet to see anyone do it quite like me.

5.   What kind of gigs do you usually book?

Everything from birthdays and weddings to half time entertainment and baby showers. Pretty much every event benefits from having a belly dancer. You don't have to be Middle Eastern or Mediterranean descent to appreciate it! Besides offering different and memorable entertainment we are also party starters! We get everyone up on the dance floor having a good time so that your party is a success not just the show at your party.

6.   What is the most interesting/unique event you have ever worked?

There have been so many! What sticks out most in my mind is a yacht show I did. The guest of honor was retiring and his friends wanted to send him off in style, so naturally they went to Gigmasters and started searching different entertainment options. They decided on me as a belly dancer and as a complete surprise. Only problem is, how do you sneak a belly dancer onto a yacht? It's hard enough sometimes into a house but a yacht you're even more limited. I offered I should disguise as a server or caterer of some sort so I dressed in all black, like a server and boarded the boat inconspicuously with a suitcase filled with all my goodies. From there I was ushered into a private room in the bottom of the yacht where I changed. Once we were on the open sea the guest of honor thought he knew who everyone was on the boat so he was beyond surprised when I came up the stairs!

7.   What other advice do you have for clients booking a belly dancer?

Have fun with it! Ultimately we are here to make your party unique and unforgettable. Work with your dancer to make the performance an extension of your personality. It doesn't have to be huge, just little details from a costume color or a certain song you like. But these details can make an impact and make your party and show stand out amongst others.

8.   Anything else you’d like to share?

Dancers love photos and videos of shows! If you ever get some from your event please send it to us. Even cell phone clips, we love it and it helps us remember your party as well, cause usually we are having just as much fun as you are!

 

 

Anthropology of Bellydance: Wedding Procession, Zeffas, Shamadans

Anthropology of Belly dance: Shamadan and The Wedding Procession/ Zeffa

Hi everyone! In honor of wedding season, I thought I would start dedicating some blogs to wedding traditions and customs from across the world and from cultures where I often find myself as part of their wedding festivities. Today I was hoping to share with you some insights of the custom of wedding processions and how the shamadan (candelabra) fits into the procession.


 Jillian and Lauren backstage at a  belly dance show at Taverna Opa City Place, West Palm Beach

Jillian and Lauren backstage at a  belly dance show at Taverna Opa City Place, West Palm Beach

 Dawn of Belly dance Sirens and Imperial Bellydance performing a shamadan show at Greek Night in Boynton Beach

Dawn of Belly dance Sirens and Imperial Bellydance performing a shamadan show at Greek Night in Boynton Beach

Before getting into the shamadan, let’s discuss wedding processions for a moment. Now I am going to generalize here, I will get into specific cultural variations in future blogs, but in the generalized patrilocal, patrilineal cultures (Meaning that a woman joins her husband’s family i.e. takes his last name, and moves to where his family is located) the marriage used to, and in some cases still does, look like this: Usually there will be some sort of arrangements between families over the joining of their children and exchanges of money and dowery. The husband’s family will typically send money to help with wedding expenses as well as financially replace the loss of labor the family will experience losing their daughter. In some cases the husband’s family will also send the wedding dress to the bride.

After acceptance of this both man and wife will be prepared by their families in various beauty customs, applying henna, waxing or shaving of the body, special baths etc. The future husband will then create a procession of his friends and family and begin the trek to the bride’s house. Depending on how far away they are this can be a few moments or several days.

During this journey they will play instruments, sing songs and carry torches, unless they are very far, then this won’t be done till the enter the bride’s town. Meanwhile, at the bride’s house, she will have all of her relatives waiting with various charms for good luck, prosperity and fertility. Young children, especially those who’s parents are both alive. Once they arrive to the bride’s house there will usually be mock or real disagreements over letting the bride leave. She may refuse to leave or her relatives may block her. Often it is expected that she make a show since this will be one of the last time she is part of her parent’s house. Sometimes additional money is paid or treats given. Once it is accepted, the father will deliver his daughter to the husband and they will take her back to his town to be married or sometimes perform the marriage in her town then take her after the celebrations are complete. She takes with her a bride price( trousseau, hope chest etc) which is a chest full of useful things for married life which is taken by her new women when she arrives. The couple weds and celebrations ensue. Gifts linked to fertility or good marriage and practical gifts such as money and gold are given, entertainment and food is provided and then they leave to start their married life.

So where does a shamadan fit into all of this and why did I just give a cultural lesson? Because in case you didn’t already notice the similarities between wedding customs of your culture or not, the modern wedding is all of this often in a much more condensed fashion. To take this into a typical American wedding the traditions are the husband’s family pays for the wedding, he gives his future bride a gift (engagement ring) before the wedding, they go to their respected spas and salons to make sure they are fancy for their wedding night. If the bride is southern or has a terribly traditional family (such as me) she has had a hope chest or French trousseau since she was a child and different presents have been placed in it by her relatives throughout her life. Otherwise she has a bridal shower where she is given useful things for married life. She is led down the aisle by her father with a flower girl and ring bearer along side and then she has her reception where she is introduced for the first time as a part of her husband’s family. The wedding procession described before is now typically the first entrance of the bride and groom into the reception and where you will see a lot of the pomp and circumstance as well as merriment and joy making of the traditional procession.


Now the shamadan is, like most props used in belly dance, is not some ancient artifact but really something quite modern. They did not appear till the 20th century when it is thought that Zouba el Kloubatiyya was the first belly dancer to use a balanced candle prop on her head during a zeffa, wedding procession in Egypt.(Though Shafia al Coptia and Nezla el Adel both are thought to be the first or near the first) I will leave that debate for another blog. Regardless of who started the tradition, it quickly caught on and soon shamadans were a mainstay both in belly dance and wedding customs throughout the world.

Despite having a less than ancient tradition, the symbolic use of candles and torches is quite common among many marriage traditions around the world. The processions were often lit with torches and candles to both light the way, symbolically and figuratively, and add to the excitement of the procession. In line with being part of both a fun and exciting as well as almost ritual like custom the traditional shamadan dance would include both loose freestyle dance with the bride and groom while leading them into the reception to their chairs as well as a full theatrical dance with the shamadan. This would usually include “tricks” like splits and flexibility displays as well as floorwork. After Mahmoud Reda’s stylization of the Egyptian dances, the shamadan dance took a little more elegant and demure display but either variation is appropriate depending of course of the energy of the zeffa you happened to be involved in. The music can be anything from a live band that is part of the zeffa or the traditional zeffa rhythm which is often accompanied with the zilling of the belly dancer (4-4 Dum/ tek tek tek tek/ Dum/ tek tek). Of course, shamadan isn’t reserved exclusively for wedding receptions but can be used in theatrical or folkloric shows or just to give an incredible entrance!

What are your experiences with wedding processions and/or shamadans?


 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Anthropology of Bellydance: Evil Eye

Ack! Season, taxes, time change, prepping for summer research, it is safe to say pre Spring is stressful. What more to worry about? How about the evil eye? If you are in the bellydance world you are, at the very least familiar with the blue glass eye peering from jewelry, in costume shops, perhaps in your restaurant manager’s office but do you know the significance? In this hopefully recurring segment I will give you a brief cultural analysis of things I at least think the professional bellydancer should know about the cultures their dance is significant in.

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The evil eye, ayn al-ḥasūd, nazar, ʿáyin hā-ráʿ, "buda", "cheshim mora", to máti, mal de ojo, malocchio is the belief that envy, can either intentionally or unintentionally cause bad luck, sickness, fever, blindness etc in another. Those most at risk are considered young children and babies (from childless women’s envy) but all can fall victim of it. The idea of the evil eye is most prevalent in the Mediterranean, Latin America (do to Spanish conquest), Africa and Arabic areas of the world, and in Judaism and Islam but it can be found throughout the world. The origin of the evil eye concept, appears to have originated from the awareness that we need water to survive so the evil eye dries things up. Milk in mothers and livestock, trees, men’s semen, babies suddenly getting diarrhea or vomiting etc.It is thought that this idea of drying up as the ultimate fear stems from the desert origins of the evil eye, but origins can not really be pin pointed so exactly and I would venture to say all humans probably figured the necessity of reliable water fairly quickly in human history. And for those who have studied the early modern beliefs of witchcraft in Western Europe and England you will see a correlation in this drying things up, with the favorite pastimes of so called witches, so I would venture to say in this blog that the fear of lack of moisture was probably a fairly universal human phenomenon. Also correlating with Western European and English concepts of witchcraft, those who are especially good at dealing out the evil eye are those with light eyes, unibrows and of course women, especially older barren women, who were thought to be only left on Earth after child bearing ages to do the Devil’s work, I mean, what else are women for if not baby making?  ;).

Whatever the origins, it appears that the evil eye is caused either intentionally or not, by praise or being praise worthy. Even an honest and non-envious glance that lasts too long or a compliment paid without touching can allow the evil eye to affect you. This is the reason why it is a practice to sometimes not dress up children and allow them to be dirty in order to avoid the envious look.

Despite the connotation that evil eye has, the victim is also not entirely free of blame. Being boastful and pompous, showing off wealth or success will draw the evil eye to you and according to Jewish belief, you deserve it. Being insensitive to those around you and boasting causes real pain and any pain you cause requires a Divine retribution and the evil eye is one way of allocating that punishment. The lesson being, to take the higher road, there is no need to boast of your success and take care not to hurt those around you with it. This is why, one of the many ways to deter the evil eye is to give the glory back to Divine. Such as the Muslim practice of saying Mash’Allah, literally God will’s it, after paying a compliment so any harm the complement may cause will not affect the receiver.

So now that you know about the evil eye, you are probably a little worried right? You’re out there in the spotlight at your shows and restaurants, taking photos posting them all over Facebook and Instagram, you’re practically begging for the evil eye. So what’s a dancer to do? There are many ways to deter the evil, the most famous being to wear the bright blue nazar as a piece of jewelry. Depending on your background, you want the eye to be very noticeable, one of the first things the eye goes to, so the evil eye will go into it and not you. But if you are of the Western Mediterranean variety you may want the charm to always be hidden, and over your heart. If the charm is seen, it loses its potency. (Sidenote: this was my grandmother’s belief and as soon as I started developing early she feared the evil eye and started sewing charms into the inside of my bra). Another way, is to have a charm right at the entrance of your house, it does not have to be an eye or even eye shaped, just something that attracts the eye first and so all evil eye will go into that. Especially for children, red cords, black beads are a very common deterrent, if it breaks then it is used up and a new one needs to be made. Also peacock eyes, the color blue, fish, the hand of Fatima (Muslim) or Miriam (Jewish) all are beneficial in deterring the evil eye. Or in Italy, a horn pendant is effective. The horn being a phallic symbol and the evil eye being considered almost solely sent out by women.

What if you don’t have any of these charms on you and some unibrowed, blue eyed, barren woman comes strolling into your show staring you down? Well if you follow the Italian beliefs, then the hand symbol of holding your middle and ring finger down with your thumb (think metal heads rocking out, Spiderman shooting web, the traditional horned God symbol) and shoot it back at them. Or make an ‘O’ with your index and thumb and put your index finger through it (literally a “doing it” from middle school). The idea of these hand symbols coming from balancing the malintent female energy with masculine energy or creating wetness via intercourse.

Want to pay a compliment without inadvertently causing the evil eye? Give the glory to Divine and say God wills it or Mash’Allah, spit after paying the complement (hence the Greek tradition of spitting after seeing the bride as she walks down the aisle), or touch the person after paying the complement.

Think you are being affected by the evil eye? Take a bath in salt water, women with pretty hair spend extra time on your hair (per advice from a customer of mine who was so afraid she had given me the evil eye after looking at my hair she took salt from the table and sprinkled it in my hair and spit). Smudge yourself with cleansing herbs such as sage. To officially diagnose the evil eye most processes involve water. Drop oil in water and watch the patterns. If the oil forms an eye shape keep dropping oil while praying asking for the eyes removal till the pattern is no longer eye shaped. Drop charcoal in the water, if it floats you have the evil eye. Drop wax in water if it splatters or sticks to side, then you have the eye. Roll an egg over your body and crack open if it looks cooked or like an eye (though really what egg doesn’t look like an eye) if it does you have the eye. Or drink holy water preferably with the spit of the perpetrator in it. This idea is also seen in the custom of praying over undrank portions of drink from guests and drinking it after they left.

So there is the quick and dirty. I am sure there are a lot of evil eye beliefs I have left out, but this is what I am familiar with. Feel free to add your beliefs in the comments below.

'Yes, But Is It Art?': Musings on Art, Fame and the Evolution of Dance

So I have been very silent on my blog as of late due partially to some very good, and very bad events in my life. This combined with the ever present responsibilities of school, dance, personal relationships has made me unable to dedicate the time to write anything here, or think of a topic.

Today, however an old topic I meant to write about a long time ago has resurfaced in my mind and that is on dancers and the issues with fame, success and the pursuit of all sorts of happiness and art. Bellydance is not my first dance form and is definitely not my last, and never have I seen such blind grasps at concepts of fame then I have seen in this dance. What is also bizarre to me is how fame is defined. Now I know what I’m going to say isn’t the popular consensus and I really do mean no disrespect, but being famous amongst your niche aka bellydancers, is not actually being famous. You know who’s famous? Dina, Didem, Dina Jamal, people that the chefs at my restaurants have a knowing smile on their face when I say their names. You know who isn’t famous? Last year’s winner of Super Ultimate Bellydancer of the Cosmos and Known World Champion.

 Tein the ultimate guru of art with a capital "A"

Tein the ultimate guru of art with a capital "A"

 Not that I’m saying someone isn’t necessarily talented that wins a competition nor am I saying because you are famous you are necessarily talented. All I am saying is being well known in your niche doesn’t mean you’re famous and furthermore, why do you care about being famous in the first place? If you are, as I venture to say every single bellydancer I have ever spoken to in life, trying to be authentic and artistic dancer and pursue a career preserving the beauty of this dance you love, why are you so obsessed with being famous? (and despite being snarky please realize I mean no disrespect especially to my friends who win competitions or are in the process of trying to win, it is just my opinion on the establishment not your own personal dance or goals)

This brings me to another topic, art. Dance is art, it is also work. Not every dance you perform will be art, especially if this is your livelihood, some will be just entertainment that brings a paycheck. But deep down inside, your dance is always your art, even when you’re sick as a dog dancing between tables in a busy restaurant. Art, and what is art is perhaps the most cliche topic there is but I will tell you one thing. Art which is only seen by other artists in their niche is not effective. The pursuit of art is to reveal your perspective to others the whole reason for art is everywhere movements, like Art in Public Places, FlashMobs, etc is to bring art to the masses so they too can have the opportunity to be effected by art. This is not a new concept, Shakespeare did it too, writing for both the elite and the groundlings so everyone could enjoy the play. Not only did this ensure ticket sale and make him famous, it also allowed his stories to be heard by literally tons of people, and continue to be heard and revamped for modern day. Art not seen is arguably not art because it has no opportunity to move people. Art is everywhere, give your audience some credit and take a chance to move them, even in a restaurant. A restaurant show is only a restaurant show if you allow it to be.

Along with the endless pursuit of fame comes the constant downplaying of anything that doesn’t fit into one dancer’s view of dance. If a certain dancer or subdiscipline of bellydance doesn’t approve of some move or song or whatever then it isn’t “bellydance” or “authentic”. I always find this particularly amusing since 99.999% of bellydancers are in no position culturally, geographically, historically, linguistically or training wise to state what is real or authentic or bellydance, if you really want to get technical. They also fail to see the so called inauthentic behaviours in their own style. Complaining about ballet lifts and styling or modern props has no place if you are dancing the new South American Egyptian aka Tango fused bellydance or if you have ever used a veil, sword, or isis wings just to name a few. Again, there is nothing wrong with this and I have no problem whatsoever with a dance evolving. In fact, I openly embrace evolution. Dance evolves, culture evolves, period. It has to happen to remain relevant, the moment something stops evolving is the moment it starts to die both figuratively and literally. A lack of evolution means a lack of relevance and a lack of caring within the society the dance resides. But just because a certain evolution of a dance does not work for you doesn’t mean it isn’t real or authentic or it can not be performed for so called authentic audiences. So many times I have been chastised for use of fire or modern props by dancers and have been told I am unmarketable for an old school crowd but guess what? Fire is fire, new is new, and humans are humans and humans relationship to fire and novelty is ancient and the attraction undeniable. Modern props, when used with respect to the dance and culture are fun and effective for all audiences.  And even the most old school, 90 year old Egyptian is going to be entertained by fire or isis wings or swords especially when combined with culturally sensitive dance and music. If you as a dancer are not attracted to this, guess what, you don’t have to dance like that. And I am 100% positive you can still entertain the most old school, 90 year old Egyptian just as well as I can. It isn’t a contest, there can be more than one, please relax.

So where am I going with this sorta rant? It’s this, respect yourself, respect your fellow dancer, respect art and respect the culture of dance and its evolution and respect your audience. Take time to reflect in yourself on why you have set the goals you have set to find your motives. Look at the larger picture of the world and find your place in it. It’s not a big place but it’s yours so be mindful how you decorate it.

Anthropology of Bellydance: Money Makes the World Go Round?

What is success? When deciding to start this blog, a lot of it came from this very issue. Both academic and artistic career choices are often looked down upon because the answer to the question, especially in a capitalistic soceity, is usually answered as money. I decided to start on this topic, because it was renewed this past weekend when a friend came in town to visit. He and another friend decided to tag team in a scolding session about not taking life/myself/money seriously, which if you only knew, was beyond ironic.

The scolding is not new either. I have been scolded and unsupported in almost every life decision I have made thus far. My family, though a dancer and entertainer family, thinks I have spent more than enough time in school and dancing and it's time to forget I have a brain and a body of my own and marry and start the baby making factory. Upon finding out about my dance career after keeping it secret for many years, my committee at university and many of my colleagues rather obviously judged me and some even asked if I was sure that wasn't code for stripper. This is not to say everyone was like this at university nor that I didn't educate or change minds of what I hope was all individuals, but it can take a toll to have most people who's opinions you respect treat you like a scandalous child.

Perhaps, you are wondering what the magic words were that I have said to family, colleagues, and other judgmental yet needed individuals and it is always this: I am happy. I have the time to write and research in the day and dance at night, I don't want for anything, though I might not have as much as capitalism thinks I should have, but I am beyond happy. Though it doesn't always work, those who are scolding out of love and not out of jealousy or some other malintent seem to understand.

I think a lot of times happiness and monetary success are assumed to be the same thing. If you have success, read money, you will be happy. And although we are all taught as children that love and happiness trumps money, that is something we forget as we are canon-balled out of high school to undergrad and beyond. The rush to payback student loans 6 months after graduation, if you had any, combined with all of life's other expenses usually makes everyone, me included, jump into the first best paying job they can find, relevant to their degree or not. But success, money, happiness do not always guarantee one another. And this is beyond just old wive's tale reasoning. It can be measured in human behavior.

When looking at economics of a nation there is something called the happiness-income paradox, which is at a certain income level, happiness is dependent on income but once an individual or nation surpasses this level, happiness and income no longer correlate. There are many variations of course, such as individual economic growth will cause large increases of happiness within a developing country, but the more successful the country, the less change the individual will experience. But, although there is an instant gratification and increase in happiness with a raise in income, this is only for a short term happiness and in the long term increases in income after a certain level have no clear effects on happiness or well being.

Why we react this way is because of several reasons. First, human adapt. We will adapt to poor or good situations and they will become our norm. As long as your income allows for bare life, basic human needs to be take care of, if you were to say double your yearly income, you will not notice that much of change for yourself. Of course there is the initial change in lifestyle and perhaps happiness that a doubling of income would provide. And you will make the economically appropriate changes to your life, perhaps bigger house, nicer car, prettier neighborhood, but things will even out. That is to say you will grow accustomed to your surroundings, they won't bring you as much as happiness as they did initially and they will also bring with them added responsibilities and costs. Being in a capitalistic society, we are taught to always desire more and consume more. So no matter where you stand in the economic scale, the step higher always will look better if you allow consumerism to control you. Happiness does not come from more money or things though, but from personal satisfaction we have in our lives, whether it comes from dancing, teaching, parenting, 9-5 work whatever. And although I know we all “know this” I feel like sometimes we need to be reminded from time to time.

Articles of Interest and used in production of blog. (Not an all inclusive list but I try to select articles to include that do not require University library cards)

The Happiness of Nations http://www.nber.org/digest/jan06/w11416.html

Money Buys Happiness, Only to a Point http://www.livescience.com/8580-money-buys-happiness-point.html

Global Study: Money Doesn't Buy Happiness http://www.livescience.com/10881-global-study-money-buy-happiness.html

US Richest Nation, But not the Happiest http://www.livescience.com/6660-richest-nation-happiest.html