Why Are So Many Americans of Millennials and Generation Z Unhappy?

There has been a recent decline in the level of happiness and well-being among the American population, and young men and women from Millennials and Generation Z are leading the downward spiral. American Millennials and Generation Z are currently the most unhappy in the United States, according to a new survey.

What the 2024 World Happiness Report Revealed

The World Happiness Report of 2024 revealed that self-reported data from those under the age of 30 knocked the United States out of the top 20 happiest countries for the first time since the annual report’s inception in 2012.

It is worth noting that young people in Canada and other English-speaking countries also reported a decrease in happiness.

Different from this pessimistic tendency, young women and men in many other countries have an increase in their feelings of well-being. The report revealed that young people in central and eastern Europe, as well as certain regions of sub-Saharan Africa, experienced a rise in their level of happiness.

We still don’t fully understand why young people in these regions experience a different trend from those in the U.S., Canada, and other English-speaking countries. Their findings, however, indicate that this declining trend in happiness is not global.

What Makes the Current Young Americans Unhappy?

Key factors that significantly contributed to the rapid decline included young people’s dissatisfaction with their living conditions, social support systems, diminishing trust in the government, and a perception of reduced personal freedom in making life decisions.

As journalist Christopher Cann from “USA TODAY” commented, young Americans said that they were unhappy and disappointed because of the economy, the cost of housing, student loan debt, political polarization, social media, climate change, and the war in Gaza.

Women and men of Millennials and Generation Z Gen mentioned that several things, from high rent and debt to the comparison culture on social media, had left them feeling tired and unhappy.

Researchers agree that the trends in the decline in the feeling of happiness among young people in the USA, Canada, and some other English-speaking countries are worrisome.

A combination of factors, rather than a single cause, can be responsible for the decrease in life satisfaction among young men and women. Individuals’ physical well-being, academic performance, involvement in community activities, and financial income correlate with their happiness and satisfaction levels.

Among other things, an epidemic of loneliness makes young Americans unhappy. Experts have also expressed concern about an epidemic of loneliness among teenagers and young adults in America. This psychological experience has surged alongside an increase in virtual schooling and remote work, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Can We Expect in the Future?

According to researchers, one of the most reliable indicators of adult happiness is the level of happiness experienced during childhood and adolescence. This correlation raises concerns that American teens and young adults’ discontent may only worsen as they get older.

Typically, the level of happiness is highest among young individuals and decreases to its lowest point during middle age (40–60) before gradually increasing again as individuals approach retirement and old age—a phenomenon commonly referred to as the U-shape.

Over the course of several years, experts have observed a gradual decrease in variation in the United States. However, this year, the extent of this decrease has become extreme and very recognizable.

As Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale University, stated:

“Honestly, I look at these data with terror, not just because of what they reveal about our country right now, but what they will reveal about our country in the future unless we change this pattern”

What Can Be Done to Make People Happier?

Both external (socioeconomic) and internal (personal) factors influence how men and women feel and experience life—happy or unhappy.

It is evident that there are several economic and social changes that society can implement to support the healthier and happier development of young women and men.

Nevertheless, young people have their own ability to improve their own well-being. Extensive research has consistently demonstrated that people can enhance their satisfaction in life and happiness by engaging in certain behaviors. These include increasing face-to-face social interactions, practicing self-compassion, and allocating dedicated time away from work, school, and other responsibilities.

The Power of an Individual Choice

Here’s an example from Christopher Cann about what young Americans believe causes them to be unhappy.

Ashlie Marchant, a second-year student at the University of Central Florida, recognized social media as the primary catalyst for discontentment in her own life and the lives of her friends. She deleted TikTok from her mobile device. She attempts to resist the compulsion to scroll on the screen.

“I’m trying to lean off of social media. It’s so easy to get caught up in it, and all it does is make me unproductive and upset.”

Marchant, age of 20 years, said.

Marchant preferred to read a paperback novel while sitting in a public park. She expressed her adoption of tangible forms of media, such as film photography and vinyl records.

How Online Dating Changed Cross-Cultural Love and Relationships

The last several decades have witnessed the emergence and extensive development of dating websites. This progress greatly changed the way partners meet, love, and how their relationships evolve.

How Dating Websites Emerged and Expanded

It may look surprising that the first dating websites came only in the 1990s. In 1995, Match.com went online. In the early 2000s, a new wave of dating sites like OKCupid came out. When Tinder came out in 2012, it changed dating even more. There are now more than one-third of marriages that begin online. This data, however, varies across cultures.

These websites have obviously had a significant influence on dating behavior. However, evidence is mounting that their impact is far more substantial. Interesting statistical data from research shows the variety of places and ways in which partners met each other over the last decades.

How Traditional Networks of Dating Work

The social networks associated with family, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances were the most prevalent sources of prospective dating partners. People are strongly connected to a small group of neighbors and only loosely connected to people who live far away. It turns out that these loose connections are very important.

Loose ties have traditionally played an important role in meeting partners. While most people were unlikely to date one of their best friends, they were much more likely to date someone from their group of friends, such as a friend of a friend. Men and women met their partners through their families, at church, through mutual friends, in bars, in educational institutions, at work, and so on.

The Modern Way of Online Dating

The networks of dating have changed with the onset of online dating. Nowadays, heterosexual couples meet through online dating, which is the second most popular method. It’s the most popular choice by far for homosexual couples.

Online dating has led to significant consequences, extending the pool of potential dating partners. “People who meet online tend to be complete strangers,” say Josue Ortega from the University of Essex in the U.K. and Philipp Hergovich from the University of Vienna in Austria, the authors of the recent study.

Online Dating Is Conducive to Intercultural Marriages

These new opportunities extended chances for intercultural relationships, love, and marriages. Some societies are more favorable for intercultural marriages than others.

The statistics of intercultural marriages in the United States of American present a good example for analysis. For instance, J. Ortega and P. Hergovich compared the rates of interracial marriages in the U.S. over the past several decades and found that the number of interracial marriages increased for some time, but the rates were still low.

However, the rates of increase in interracial marriages substantially changed at about the time that online dating became popular. The researchers say,

“It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like Match.com, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly.”

When online dating became even more popular, this increase in interracial marriages became even steeper in the 2000s. Later, in 2014, the proportion of interracial marriages expanded again. “It is interesting that this increase occurred shortly after the creation of Tinder, considered the most popular online dating app,” researchers say.

Married Couples Who Meet Online Are More Stable

It is worth noting that, with about 50 million users, Tinder produces over 12 million matches daily. In the meantime, research into the strength of marriage has discovered some evidence that married couples who meet online have lower rates of marital breakup compared to those who meet in traditional settings.

Love After Loss in Otherworldly Venice

Two loving persons, John and Laura. experienced a big tragedy—the tragic loss of their beloved daughter. Their love seems to have cracked after this tragic event. Can their love after loss still be restored?

Loss after loss can be partially healed – and intimacy restored – experiencing something unexpected and new, incorporating in a couple’s life small doses of the unfamiliar, the magical, and the primal. Don’t Look Now seems to say just this. The novella is set in Venice and it is written by Daphne du Maurier, author of Rebecca.

John and Laura, the protagonists of the story, experience a reawakening of the senses that brings them close to one another again after the tragic loss of their daughter. While depicting Venice as gloomy and mysterious, the lagoon city acts as a time-travel device, allowing the protagonists to go back in time and offering them, briefly, the illusion of a restored happiness. The beauty and magic of Venice give them a suspended moment of loving and sensual closeness before a tragic conclusion.

The Journal of the Short Story in English published a special issue on Daphne du Maurier’s short stories and novellas. The volume, edited by Xavier Lachazette, will be available online in June 2024. Meanwhile, readers can access the article I wrote on Don’t Look Now here:  https://asian-university.academia.edu/FrancescaPierini

The Soothing Encounter with Otherness

When John and Laura take a trip to Venice after the death of their daughter Christine, they are distant from one another. In Venice, they meet middle-aged twin sisters. One of the sisters is a psychic who tells Laura she can see and communicate with Christine. She also tells her that Christine is trying to warn their parents to leave the city at once, as she thinks they are in danger. Whereas Laura believes what she hears from the sisters, John, feeling manipulated, grows increasingly impatient with his wife and annoyed with the old ladies.

Whereas Laura is capable of contemplating and accepting a necessary dose of soothing, otherworldly reality which will help her elaborate and contain her grief for the loss of her daughter, John chooses to hide behind a veil of scepticism which will eventually lead him to ruin.

As the story unfolds, John and Laura, in spite of their opposed attitudes towards the unknown, become less estranged from one another. Venice works its magic on them, bringing them closer, renewing their intimacy. Their encounter with otherness – the lagoon city as an exotic and mysterious location and the sisters as messengers from an otherworldly dimension – generates an intense moment of happiness, acting as a catalyst of positive change in their relationship.

Otherness as Catalyst of Change

Don’t Look Now immediately introduces us to a parallel dimension of doubles and opposites: twin old ladies, the second sight one of them possesses, youth opposed to old age, innocence to corruptness, belief to disbelief. In a sense, the novella can be read as a story of descent into a maze – which Venice very much resembles – from which only those who are emotionally open to the possibility of being challenged find a way out, getting consoled for their loss and partially restored to a peaceful state of mind.

This is why Don’t Look Now is very much representative of an Anglophone literary tradition depicting the South of Europe, and Italy in particular, as a space in which manifestations of the magical, the supernatural, the unorthodox, and the regressive are still present, and there to challenge the British visitor. In other words, Italy has been depicted, for a long time, as the ideal stage for tales that centre on a rational British self who finds himself/herself challenged by a parallel world in partial discontinuity with the contemporary one.

Hence Venice is depicted as a counter-site, a place that represents the ordinary by projecting its counter-image, a microcosm that is in appearance in continuity with the contemporary world, but where ordinary rules can be momentarily suspended in order to make space for a tale of fated ineluctability.

Don’t Look Now places at its centre northern European protagonists constantly challenged by the city’s reiterated foreign character, its web of alleys and the largely incomprehensible behaviour of its natives. In order to navigate the city and to make sense of their journey, the British protagonists need someone situated half-way between their world and Venice’s parallel reality: the psychic twin sister personifies this state perfectly, as she is a medium between two worlds.

Why Italy Is Such a Special Venue in Du Maurier’s Novella

Du Maurier’s novella is a fascinating narrative centred on an ideological mystification. By making use of Italy as the cultural polar opposite of England, as a trope for healing, salvation, sensual renewal, and ultimately damnation, the story consigns the country – which Venice epitomises – to a particular role, relegating it to a magical space outside “real” space and real time, a mirror reflection and a dimension outside history that serves the double function of challenging the symbolic order of the self and reiterating its normative value.

Francesca Pierini, Asian University for Women

Mobility of Intimate Relationships in Online Dating Apps

Online dating applications facilitate interpersonal connections between individuals, enabling them to pursue various motivations, such as seeking sexual encounters, romantic relationships, emotional intimacy, or other forms of interpersonal connections.

Many women and men feel ambiguity regarding the opportunities associated with online dating apps. They frequently do not know exactly what they hope to gain from using a dating app. They might anticipate a connection that develops into a committed monogamous relationship, but these relationships can change over time and are flexible. Users can meet for sex, become friends, or friends with benefits, and possibly form a couple before deciding to become friends again without engaging in sexual activity with one another.

Andrea Newerla, a researcher from Paris Lodron University Salzburg in Salzburg, Austria, and Jenny van Hooff, a researcher from Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom, analyzed the dating app user experience in Germany and the United Kingdom.

They conducted an in-depth analysis of interviews with online app users in the United Kingdom (van Hooff, 2020) and Germany (Newerla, 2021), and their findings were quite intriguing. Researchers performed a thematic analysis on the data collected from both cultural samples.

In a previous article, I described the summary of their research findings about the ambiguities and opportunities men and women experience using dating apps.

In this article, we’ll look into the users’ perceptions of the mobility of intimate relationships.

Experiences of Mobility in Intimate Relationships

For many users, dating practices are marked by ambivalence as the potentialities and possibilities afforded by dating apps emerge as spaces for new forms of intimacy. Normativities are challenged, and spaces are opened up for forms of love and desire that cannot be subsumed under the ideal of the romantic or partnership model in their pursuit and realization of these potentials.

Friendships formed through dating apps, as previously stated, are an important experience for some of our participants. And the descriptions clearly show that these relationships, which were initially defined by sexual attraction, are malleable and can evolve into new forms of intimacy.

Matteo, a 34-year-old man, for example, began using dating apps in 2015. His main goal was to find a romantic partner:

‘I was not as sex-positive as I am now, and society was not at the point we are now. So the main goal was to find a partner’.

Matteo found himself in new cities more frequently as a result of geographical changes, and apps assisted him in meeting new people. He was open to casual sex at this point, but not to the possibility of a romantic relationship if the person was ‘right for him’. As he describes in his relationship with Beate, he developed a variety of ways to be intimate with people in Berlin, blurring the boundaries of friendship and couplehood:

‘It was only sexual, but there was a connection with Beate. She was a person that I was liking. When we started to play [sexually], I realized that I really enjoy this, the motion of playfulness and connection when it’s in consent. It’s clear what we are there for. (…) and from this moment on me and Beate started to have a sex relationship which also developed something more complex. I also developed feelings for Beate that were not immediately mutual (…) Beate was not interested in a relationship that was more romantic, but I was. But we found a common ground and we have been experimental quite a lot.’

(Matteo, M 34, German study).

Beate eventually fell in love with someone else, and Matteo became friends with her. ‘We are still in a good connection,’ Matteo says of this development. It was unclear at the time of the interview whether Beate’s new relationship is open to additional sex partners. Matteo describes the possibility of him and Beate sharing this level of sexual intimacy again. However, Matteo says in the interview that it could remain a platonic friendship without sexual physicality. It’s clear that he sees this intimate relationship as a process, that he’s open to its evolution because he likes Beate and wants to see how their relationship develops in the future.

Here Is How Rob Describes his Relationships on Dating Apps

Rob, who has used dating apps on and off since Tinder debuted in 2012, explained how the connections made on apps evolve and develop based on the circumstances:

‘Being on Tinder you can have a few girls that you’re messaging or seeing or whatever, and it’s actually good because you know you’re not going to get married, because you live in different cities, or you’re too different, but you still have this connection, when you’re bored you can chat, or sext, and there’s no expectation. I don’t know how you’d define it, but I’ve had a few of those kind of relationships, and they’re good because you’re both on the same page’.

(Rob, M 34, UK study).

Rob describes a liminal relationship that maintains an emotional and sexual connection but will not develop into a committed couple relationship. These relationships defy traditional heteronormative conventions, but they are meaningful to participants and are not time-limited. While these types of relationships are often portrayed negatively in popular culture as ‘breadcrumbing’ (sporadic contact with no follow-through), for Rob, they are meaningful ties that do not fit into normative understandings of relationships.

Here Is How Mona Experiences her Relationships on Dating Apps

Mona can easily organize various dates based on her immediate needs thanks to the variety of relationship forms available on dating apps. This is sometimes casual sex, but she prefers it when a relationship develops. Some dates have become friendships. There was no sexual contact in these cases, but they enjoyed each other’s company. However, these friendships are also physical: one friend, for example, comes over on a regular basis to cuddle and watch Netflix. She does not prioritize romantic relationships and emphasizes the importance of friendships throughout the interview:

‘It doesn’t have to be the romantic partner you wake up next to, it has to be a person you just get along with. (…) This realisation that I don’t have to expect a partner to fulfil all my needs, but that friendships are also a relationship that also fulfils needs like a romantic relationship, that was then for me like: bam. I communicate much more openly about this with my friends and also with the partners I am currently seeing.’

(Mona, F 33, German study)

Mona was dating four people at the time, all of whom she met through dating apps. Here, the apps have assisted her in finding people who think and live similarly to her, as they are all interested in multiple relationships, identify as polyamorous, and have openly communicated their relationship status through the apps. Their experiences have allowed them to communicate more openly about their own needs.

Here Is How Alex Explains her Relationships on Dating Apps

People came up with creative ways to use dating apps. Sexual relationships turned into friendships or, in Alex’s case, a professional network. Even though he hasn’t found the long-term relationship he was looking for through dating apps, his experiences show how relationships can change:

‘A long period on Tinder would be six plus dates, usually it doesn’t go anywhere. Usually relationships are sexual. I’d always chat to multiple people at once and occasionally see multiple partners at once. Most encounters have been enjoyable and interesting, some I’m still friends with, one is now our company solicitor, but most I don’t speak to.’

(Alex, M 29, UK study)

Alex is a marketer, and his professional and personal networks frequently cross and overlap. He describes it positively, saying that sexual encounters evolve as dates take on new roles in his life. The normative categorization of romantic and sexual relationships does not apply to Alex’s experience with dating apps, and the normative hierarchy of intimacy does not currently apply to his personal relationships. Alex also emphasizes the importance of transitioning into and out of different relationship forms as key moments of communication and connection in and of themselves.

Love and Loving in Middle-Class Pakistan

The article by Ammara Maqsood, Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at University College London, tells us the modern story of love in Pakistan and how modern urban women manage their desire for love in Pakistan.

Traditional marriages in Pakistan are arranged marriages. However, I previously talked about how love coexists with modern arranged marriages in Pakistan. I also explained the controversies surrounding love marriage in Pakistan.

Modern transformations in the notions of love, romantic love, intimacy, and conjugal relationships occur in Pakistan as well as in South Asia overall. The author challenges the traditional depiction of the transitional processes of love transformation in Pakistani culture as a straight lineal transition from the cultural values of ‘traditional’ (collective) obligations to the values of individual desires in modern individualistic societies.

Taking these ideas as a starting point, the author of this article examines how different types of intimacy coexist in a middle-class urban setting in Pakistan. The author does this by concentrating on the emotional experiences and modern relationships of young mobile women of the middle class in Lahore and Karachi, the two major cities in Pakistan.

“Within these families, like elsewhere in Pakistan in other South Asian contexts, arranged marriages are the norm, both in prevalence and in social approval. However, love unions, in the form of love-cum-arranged marriages – where partners engage in a pre-marital romance but then seek parental approval and follow typical marriage proceedings – and elopements that are on the rise.”

(Maqsood, 2021, p. 3).

How Different Ideas of Love in Pakistan Coexist

The article highlights the ways in which different ideals of love and intimacy coexist, the ways in which they are entangled in everyday practices, and the places, situations, and spaces in which they separate.

Young women, who live mostly in joint-family arrangements, need to negotiate between two values in their lives. On the one hand, they value their private desires for a life within a nuclear family and the associated forms of consumption. On the other hand, they respect the economic pressures and emotional obligations that necessitate their collective living in the nuclear family.

They live in a persistent presence of liminality, the psychological process of transitioning across the boundaries and borders of these two groups of values. In these conditions and contexts of their lives, the women make it possible for these competing desires to be experienced and managed in a certain way.

Love in Liminality

In this cultural context, their understanding of liminality opens their doors to experimentation and potentiality and provides a space in which they experience novel desires and behaviors.

However, at the same time, their “emotion work” to manage these situations and controversies bends and brings these new emotional paths into line with the moral codes that are culturally common in Pakistani society.

One young woman, who had married against her family’s wishes, commented on the hurt that she experienced when

“none of the women in the family did come to her wedding. Her husband’s family organised a small event, to mark the marriage, and invited her family members, in a bid to normalise relations. In response, her two brothers came but left without eating. She said, ‘more than anything, I felt bad .. still feel sad … that my younger sister in law did not come. My mother, I can understand, she was forbidden but she loves me, but my sister in law, she could have convinced my brother [her husband]’

(Maqsood, 2021, p. 7).

Professor Ammara Maqsood also tells in her article other dramatic stories of love and marriage in modern Pakistani urban cultures.

As the author concludes, these individual experiences are not gradual transformations from collective to individualistic ties and persona values. These young women do not disrupt pre-existing ethical codes. These emotional practices are rather the management of differing demands and desires that constitute ‘feeling’ middle-class.

Gratitude and Love in Cultural Perspective

The grateful attitude and emotions toward other people and life are referred to as gratitude. When we express gratitude for what other people and life have given us, we experience several situational emotions. When we are grateful, thankful, and appreciative to someone for something, we can feel a variety of positive emotions. Gratitude and love commonly go hand in hand and are closely related to each other.

Gratitude and Love in Our Life

As I showed in another article, gratitude and love frequently go together. Not only does the experience of gratitude entail the emotion of love, but love also implies the expression of gratitude.

Love frequently involves expressions of gratitude and appreciation. Love, gratitude, and appreciation are deeply relational feelings that encompass a wide range of dispositions, moods, and situational emotions and feelings. Participants use a variety of methods to express their feelings of love, including loving others, loving oneself, receiving love, and feeling thankful for love.

A Chinese Cultural Perspective on Gratitude and Love

The indigenous Chinese concept of “enqing” means grateful love (Chen & Li, 2007). This type of love includes the feelings of responsibilities and obligations associated with a spouse’s feelings of appreciation, gratitude, and indebtedness for what the partner does for the marriage. The origins of “enqing” are in Chinese relationship orientation and the traditional Confucian value of duty in marriage.

While Western marital intimacy is characterized by feelings of togetherness and compatibility, Chinese marital intimacy is characterized by feelings of admiration and gratitude.

The Chinese Concept of “Enqing”

People in traditional Chinese society typically place little emphasis on marital intimacy. Instead, “enqing”—the expression of gratitude and admiration—may bind Chinese couples closely together.

Many researchers have identified “enqing” as the primary element of Chinese marital affection and love (e.g., Li & Chen, 2002; Tang, 1991; see for a review, Karandashev, 2019). In traditional Chinese marriage, “enqing” plays a central role in marital affection and love. The four pillars of Chinese couples’ love are:

(a) feelings of gratitude,

(b) admiration,

(c) togetherness, and

(d) compatibility

(Chen & Li, 2007).

How Gratitude and Love Develop in Chinese Marriage

Why and how does this kind of grateful love between married people grow?

In traditional Chinese culture, parents frequently arrange marriages. Under these conditions, many people got married without knowing each other well. Moreover, even after they get married, Chinese cultural norms do not consider the intimate relationship between the couple as important. The “enqing“, or expression of gratitude and admiration, develops from conjugal love and role fulfillment. That is what keeps Chinese couples together and close.

People experience intimacy more frequently in modern Taiwanese (Chinese) marriages than ever before. However, the presence of “enqing” remains. Modern Western ideas about love have an effect on Chinese marriages. Nevertheless, the traditional Chinese idea of “enqing” has not gone away (Li & Chen, 2002).

How the Expression of Gratitude Differs in Chinese and American Cultures

A series of cross-cultural studies examined the impact of verbal and nonverbal expressions of appreciation on the quality of romantic relationships in “high-context, collectivistic cultures and low-context, individualistic cultures” (Bello et al., 2010, p. 294).

The authors discovered that in cultures such as the United States and China, appreciation takes different forms and plays different roles in relationships. Participants from both countries listed specific ways they express gratitude in a romantic relationship.

The results show that Chinese participants prefer nonverbal expressions of appreciation over verbal ones, while American participants favor both verbal and nonverbal ones.

Overall, data showed that Americans use significantly more frequent expressions of gratitude in love than Chinese people. This is mostly due to the extensive use of verbal expressions in the United States. Chinese people, on the other hand, use more indirect ways to express gratitude in love than Americans see for a review, Karandashev, 2019).

The Ideal Beauty of the Petite Body Type

According to Henry Finck’s opinion, there is substantial evidence that cultural evolution and sexual selection throughout history favored the petite body type of a woman’s beauty (Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).

The Distinctive Body of the Amazons in Ancient Greece

Many ancient legends and epic poems of Greek mythology portray the Amazons, the female warriors and hunters of ancient Greece. What was special about their physicality? A British statesman and politician of the 19th century, William Gladstone (1809-1898), once remarked that

“Stature was a great element of beauty in the view of the ancients, for women as well as for men; and their admiration of tallness, even in women, is hardly restrained by a limit.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 520).

This Greek’s depictions of the Amazons appear to be different from modern aesthetic-amorous taste. Modern cultural standards do not perceive a very tall and bulky woman as very graceful, even if she is stately and majestic. Grace is an important attribute of physical beauty and a powerful trigger of love.

A very large and tall woman in love appears odd and almost comical in modern eyes. Besides, people rarely associate great stature with delicate joints and extremities. However, the quasi-masculine physical type of Amazonian women is the primary reason why modern lovers disapprove of this kind of woman.

Sexual Differences in the Types of Stature

People tend to differentiate the sexual features of beauty, which are considered as attractive in stature as in everything else.

An English statistician, psychologist, and anthropologist, Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911), made observations on 205 married couples. He concluded that

“Marriage selection takes little or no account of shortness and tallness. There are undoubtedly sexual preferences for moderate contrasts in height; but the marriage choice appears to be guided by so many and more important considerations that questions of stature exert no perceptible influence upon it…. Men and women of contrasted heights, short and tall or tall and short, married just about as frequently as men and women of similar heights, both tall or both short; there were 32 cases of one to 27 of the other.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 521).

However, Henry Finck believes (1887/2019, p. 521) that this argument is rather weak. Francis Galton admits that

“There are undoubtedly sexual preferences for moderate contrast in height”

And then, Henry Finck emphasizes that

“Galton’ figures show 32 to 27 in favour of mixed-stature marriages, in most of which the women must have been shorter, owing to the prevalent feminine inferiority in size. And in course of time the elimination of non-amorous motives of marriage will assist the law of sexual differentiation in suppressing Amazons.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 522).

Further Arguments in Favor of Petite Female Stature

Philological arguments attest even further in support of the modern preferences of men for the petite stature of women. It is quite illustrative in this citation from Crabb’s English Synonyms:

Prettiness is always coupled with simplicity; it is incompatible with that which is large; a tall woman with masculine features cannot be prettyBeauty is peculiarly a female perfection; in the male sex it is rather a defect; a man can scarcely be beautiful without losing his manly characteristics, boldness and energy of mind, strength and robustness of limb; but though a man may not be beautiful or pretty, he may be fine or handsome.” 

“A woman is fine who with a striking figure unites shape and symmetry; a woman is handsome who has good features, and pretty if with symmetry of feature be united delicacy.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 522).

An Irish-British philosopher and statesman of the 18th century, Edmund Burke (1729–1797), noted that “it is possible to fall in love with a very small person, but not with a giant.”

A Natural Prejudice Against Very Tall People

The mind of many modern people does have a natural prejudice against very tall people—women as well as men.

As Thomas Fuller, an English historian and churchman (1608–1661), wrote in “Andronicus, or The Unfortunate Politician” (1646),

“Often the cockloft is empty in those whom Nature hath built many stories high.”

A British philosopher, Francis Bacon (1561-1626), said something in the same vein that

“Nature did never put her precious jewels into a garret four stories high, and therefore that exceeding tall men had ever very empty heads.”

This cultural belief is also backed up by strong scientific evidence in “Nervensystem” by Professor Hermann:

“When the body becomes abnormally large, the brain begins to decrease again, relatively, as Langer found in measuring giant skeletons.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 522).

The Beautiful Stature of Spanish Women

According to 19th-century scholars, beautiful Spanish faces and bodies evolved from the mixing of many cultures and body types.

In fact, many visitors to Spain were struck by the extraordinary beauty of Spanish women, who were distinguished by their petite stature, dark eyes, and long black eyelashes.

In past articles, I cited many quotes describing why they admired beautiful Spanish women. Among other women in Spain, they found that Andalusian women are especially beautiful.

Henry Finck expresses his belief that the perfect woman resembles an Andalusian brunette. Several features of Andalusian beautiful women that many reporters talk about are their stature, complexion, tapering plumpness of figure, and posture. One of these is the Spanish women’s diminutive stature, which contributes significantly to their exceptional grace of gait. (Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).

Therefore, Henry Finck concludes that the petite type of body became the ideal type for a woman over time.

The Beauty of Andalusian Women

Many anthropologists and travelers commented on the remarkable beauty of Spanish men and women. In particular, foreign visitors mention their black eyes, which along with long black eyelashes make Spanish women incredibly beautiful. “Spain’s dark-glancing daughters” are stunning in their beauty.

Scholars in the 19th century thought that the unique features of Spanish faces and bodies evolved from the mixing of many different cultures and body types that moved to Spain over time

In previous articles, I provided many quotes from the writings of foreigners about beautiful Spanish women. The loveliest descriptions of the landscape, buildings, and women come from the Andalusia region of Spain. Most travelers consider Andalusian women to be exceptionally gorgeous.

Let us look at some of those interesting comments about the women of Andalusia and its largest city, Seville.

Incredible Andalusian Women

Here is what an Italian poet and novelist, Edmondo de Amicis (1846–1908), writes in his book about Andalusian women and girls of Seville, the largest city of Andalusia:

“There are some very beautiful faces, and even those that are not absolutely beautiful, have something about them which attracts the eye and remains impressed upon the memory—the colouring, eyes, brows, and smile, for instance. Many, especially the so-called gitane, are dark brown, like mulattoes, and have protruding lips: others have such large eyes that a faithful likeness of them would seem an exaggeration. The majority are small, well-made, and all wear a rose, pink, or a bunch of field-flowers among their braids…. On coming out of the factory, you seem to see on every side for a time, black pupils which look at you with a thousand different expressions of curiosity, ennui, sympathy, sadness, and drowsiness.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 517).

Then, Edmondo de Amicis continues as follows:

“The feminine type of Cadiz was not less attractive than that celebrated one at Seville. The women are a little taller, a trifle stouter, and rather darker. Some fine observer has asserted that they are of the Greek type; but I cannot see where. I saw nothing, with the exception of their stature, but the Andalusian type; and this sufficed to make me heave sighs deep enough to have blown along a boat and obliged me to return as soon as possible to my ship, as a place of peace and refuge.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).

In the same vein, George Parsons Lathrop (1851–1898), an American novelist and poet, portrays the Spanish girls in Seville this way:

“Some of them had a spendthrift, common sort of beauty, which, owing to their southern vivacity and fine physique, had the air of being more than it really was…. There were some appalling old crones…. Others, on the contrary, looked blooming and coquettish. Many were in startling deshabille, resorted to on account of the intense (July) heat, and hastened to draw pretty pañuelos of variegated dye over their bare shoulders when they saw us coming…. The beauty of these Carmens has certainly been exaggerated. It may be remarked here that, as an offset to occasional disappointment arising from such exaggerations, all Spanish women walk with astonishing gracefulness, and natural and elastic step; and that is their chief advantage over women of other nations.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).

The Small Stature of Andalusian Women

There are several features of Andalusian beauty that many observers frequently mention. One of those is the small stature of the women, to which they largely owe their exceptional grace of gait. (Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518). Henry Finck expresses his belief that the perfect woman resembles an Andalusian brunette. This type of beauty in Spanish women is in their eyes, hair, stature, complexion, tapering plumpness of figure, and posture.

So, Henry Finck comes to the conclusion that evolutionary sexual selection was in favor of the petite brunette as the ideal of a woman’s beauty.

Foreigners Admire Beautiful Spanish Women

The physiognomy of faces, their shape and color, and the shape and complexion of bodies are fascinating and frequently contested topics in anthropological discussions of national physical beauty. The beauty of Spanish men and women astounded many anthropologists, tourists, and other people.

Many people all over the world recognized Spain’s beauty. Foreign visitors remarked on the black eyes and long black eyelashes of Spanish women. They are all in agreement that “Spain’s dark-glancing daughters” are the most beautiful women.

The French, German, Italian, English, and American observers all agree that Spanish beauty has excellent anthropological qualities. Many Europeans consider Italian and Spanish people to be particularly attractive.

Scholars in the 19th century thought that the unique features of Spanish faces and bodies came from the mixing of many different cultures and body types that moved to Spain over time

What Do Foreign Travelers Think of Beautiful Spanish Women?

Here is an interesting observation of a writer in “Macmillan’s Magazine” (1874), a literary periodical that published non-fiction and fiction articles from mostly British authors. The author refers to “the stately upright walk of the Spanish ladies and the graceful carriage of the head.”

Then the author of the article notes that a mother would not let her daughter carry a basket. Otherwise, this would

“destroy her “queenly walk”; and “her dull eye too will grow moist with a tear, and her worn face will kindle with absolute softness and sweetness, if an English señor expresses his admiration of her child’s magnificent hair or flashing black eyes.”

The same author also describes a scene he saw along the Guadalquiver, which may explain why Spanish women are so physically fit and full of life:

“An old mill-house, with its clumsy wheel and a couple of pomegranates, shaded one corner of this part of the river; and under their shade, sitting up to their shoulders in the water, on the huge round boulders of which the bottom of the river is composed, were groups of Spanish ladies. Truly it was a pretty sight! They sat as though on chairs, clothed to the neck in bathing-gowns of the gaudiest colours—red, gray, yellow, and blue; and, holding in one hand their umbrellas, and with the other fanning themselves, they formed a most picturesque group.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).

Washington Irving, an American writer and historian from the early 1800s, wrote the following about a beautiful Spanish woman he saw on a coast steamer: 

“A young married lady, of about four or five and twenty, middle-sized, finely-modelled, a Grecian outline of face, a complexion sallow yet healthful, raven black hair, eyes dark, large, and beaming, softened by long eyelashes, lips full and rosy red, yet finely chiselled, and teeth of dazzling whiteness. Her hand … is small, exquisitely formed, with taper fingers, and blue veins. I never saw a female hand more exquisite.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 519).

When the husband of this young woman saw that Washington Irving seemed to be drawing her, he asked him what was going on. Irving read his sketch to the man, who was very appreciative. This episode sparked a wonderful, albeit brief, friendship between the two.

In another letter to a friend, Washington Irving writes:

“There are beautiful women in Seville as … there are in all other great cities; but do not, my worthy and inquiring friend, expect a perfect beauty to be staring you in the face at every turn, or you will be awfully disappointed. Andalusia, generally speaking, derives its renown for the beauty of its women and the beauty of its landscape, from the rare and captivating charms of individuals. The generality of its female faces are as sunburnt and void of bloom and freshness as its plains. I am convinced, the great fascination of Spanish women arises from their natural talent, their fire and soul, which beam through their dark and flashing eyes, and kindle up their whole countenance in the course of an interesting conversation. As I have had but few opportunities of judging them in this way, I can only criticise them with the eye of a sauntering observer. It is like judging of a fountain when it is not in play, or a fire when it lies dormant and neither flames nor sparkles.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 519).

The English poet Lord Byron (1788–1844), in his poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” extols the Spanish woman’s”fairy form, with more than female grace”:

“Her glance how wildly beautiful! how much

Hath Phœbus wooed in vain to spoil her cheek,

Which glows yet smoother from his amorous clutch!

Who round the North for paler dames would seek? How poor their forms appear! how languid, wan, and weak!”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 520).

However, in a letter written from Cadiz, Byron describes both the strengths and weaknesses of Spanish women’ physicality.

 “With all national prejudice, I must confess, the women of Cadiz are as far superior to the English women in beauty, as the Spaniards are inferior to the English in every quality that dignifies the name of man…. The Spanish women are all alike, their education the same…. Certainly they are fascinating; but their minds have only one idea, and the business of their lives is intrigue…. Long black hair, dark languishing eyes, clear olive complexions, and forms more graceful in motion than can be conceived by an Englishman used to the drowsy, listless air of his countrywomen, added to the most becoming dress, and, at the same time, the most decent in the world, render a Spanish beauty irresistible.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 520).

The Remarkable Spanish Beauty

Anthropologists have been long interested in exploring the physicality of personal beauty by examining the physiognomy of faces, their shape and color, as well as the expressions on people’s faces. They emphasized the special anthropological features of certain nationalities.

International Recognition of Spanish Beauty

Anthropological issues of national physical beauty—the shape and complexion of bodies, the physiognomy of faces, their shape and color—are intriguing and often debated questions. Many anthropologists, travelers, and other people were amazed by how beautiful Spanish men and women were.

Many international travelers emphasized the black eyes and long black eyelashes of Spanish women. They all agree that “Spain’s dark-glancing daughters” are the most beautiful women in the world. French personal beauty appears apparent to French eyes, yet not always to other nationals. The opinions of people regarding Italian personal beauty vary.

However, the French, German, Italian, English, and American observers all agree regarding the excellent anthropological qualities of Spanish beauty. Among many Europeans, Italian and Spanish people have a longstanding reputation for being especially beautiful.

Scholars of the 19th century concluded that the distinctive features of Spanish faces and bodies resulted from the significant mixing of many cultural and physical types of people who came to Spain at different times in history.

Eyewitness Accounts of Beautiful Spanish Women?

In his fascinating book about Spain, Edmondo de Amicis (1846–1908), an Italian novelist, poet, and journalist, writes about the women of Madrid, saying that

“They are still the same little women so besung for their great eyes, small hands, and tiny feet, with their very black hair, but skin rather white than dark, so well-formed, erect, lithe, and vivacious.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 517).

However, like most other travelers, Edmondo De Amicis reserves most of his special comments and compliments for Andalusian women. The region of Andalusia in Spain provides the most beautiful descriptions in terms of its landscape, architecture, and women. Regarding the women and girls of Seville, as exemplified by the large tobacco factory that employs 5,000 women, he says:

“There are some very beautiful faces, and even those that are not absolutely beautiful, have something about them which attracts the eye and remains impressed upon the memory—the colouring, eyes, brows, and smile, for instance. Many, especially the so-called gitane, are dark brown, like mulattoes, and have protruding lips: others have such large eyes that a faithful likeness of them would seem an exaggeration. The majority are small, well-made, and all wear a rose, pink, or a bunch of field-flowers among their braids…. On coming out of the factory, you seem to see on every side for a time, black pupils which look at you with a thousand different expressions of curiosity, ennui, sympathy, sadness, and drowsiness.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 517).

Edmondo de Amicis also found that

“The feminine type of Cadiz was not less attractive than that celebrated one at Seville. The women are a little taller, a trifle stouter, and rather darker. Some fine observer has asserted that they are of the Greek type; but I cannot see where. I saw nothing, with the exception of their stature, but the Andalusian type; and this sufficed to make me heave sighs deep enough to have blown along a boat and obliged me to return as soon as possible to my ship, as a place of peace and refuge.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).

An American poet and novelist, George Parsons Lathrop (1851–1898), in his book “Spanish Vistas” (1883), described the Spanish girls in the Seville factory. He has a slightly lower pitch in his writing than Edmondo de Amicis. In particular, he writes,

“Some of them had a spendthrift, common sort of beauty, which, owing to their southern vivacity and fine physique, had the air of being more than it really was…. There were some appalling old crones…. Others, on the contrary, looked blooming and coquettish. Many were in startling deshabille, resorted to on account of the intense (July) heat, and hastened to draw pretty pañuelos of variegated dye over their bare shoulders when they saw us coming…. The beauty of these Carmens has certainly been exaggerated. It may be remarked here that, as an offset to occasional disappointment arising from such exaggerations, all Spanish women walk with astonishing gracefulness, and natural and elastic step; and that is their chief advantage over women of other nations.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 518).