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Madeleine Begun Kane,
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Madeleine Begun Kane

One of my favorite pastimes (besides begging my husband Mark to teach me how to nap) is unearthing useless surveys and studies. I'm talking about studies that belabor the obvious -- studies whose conclusions are so forgone, you have to admire whoever talked someone into paying hard cash for them. Such a person surely is gifted enough to sell anybody anything. In fact, I want to meet him ... and hire him to peddle my columns.

Without surveys like these, we might never know that:

1. Men cross their legs far less frequently than women do.

2. Canadian women who read magazines filled with ads featuring skinny females, suffer more from low self-esteem than those who don't.

3. Day trading is risky.

4. Men would rather have sex than mow the lawn.

Yes, these are the startling conclusions of actual studies. Okay, I lied about number 4. At least I think I lied. I can't be sure because the crazy things I make up often turn out to be true. Back in '96, for instance, I wrote a column about a nonexistent holiday -- "Take Your Parents to Work Day." The purpose of this fictitious (I thought) day, was to help parents understand what their children do for a living. Such a holiday might have prevented the following exchange:

NOSEY STRANGER: What does your daughter do for a living?

PARENT: Uh, she's in ... uh ... she works for ... uh ... something with computers, I think.

NOSEY STRANGER: What is she -- a spy?

Alas, my nonexistent holiday now exists, according to a press release issued by Creamer Dickson Basford (CDB), a national public relations firm based in New York. On June 21st, CDB held its first "Bring Our Parents to Work Day," introduced because "most parents have difficulty in understanding what we do for a living."

So while I did invent the sex/lawn mowing survey, I expect to read about a real one any day now.

Here's something I didn't make up. According to Reuters, a University of Maryland report has found that "US husbands and wives are spending less time doing housework, raising the possibility that some if it simply goes undone."

I'm trying to imagine the pitch that led to this study:

"Hi there. I'm an unemployed researcher and I could sure could use some cash. Anyhooooh, I've heard that people are working harder than ever at their jobs and that most of them are hooked on email, instant messaging, and Web surfing. So I figured why not harass them during dinner and ask how much of the time they used to spend sleeping they now devote to housework."

Apparently, the University's Person In Charge Of Wasting Research Funds said,

"Wow! Cool idea. I don't have time to clean my house anymore. Maybe if I find out nobody else can eat on her floor, I won't feel guilty and I'll be able to cut down on my therapy sessions."

Okay, I'm probably not being fair. This housework survey is part of an ongoing, comprehensive study about how Americans spend their time. Then again, don't we all know how Americans spend their time?

We spend it wishing we could get some sleep.

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