Campus News

Barbara Held Declares National Kvetching Day on NBC's Today.

Story posted August 31, 2001

Most people who have the day off Monday recognize the day as Labor Day, but Bowdoinís Barbara Held has other ideas. Sheíll appear on NBC's Today Monday morning to declare it National Kvetching Day.

For those who arenít familiar with the word, to kvetch is, basically, to complain, and itís something Held, Barry N. Wish Professor of Psychology and Social Studies, believes in. Held thinks the peculiarly American ideal of looking on the bright side is oppressive. (She calls it the "tyranny of the positive attitude.") Held is quick to say that sheís in favor of happiness, but she recognizes that everyone feels bad at times, and when feeling lousy, no one should have to pretend they're feeling good.

In addition to urging people to kvetch, Held will introduce her book, Stop Smiling Start Kvetching: A Five-Step Guide to Creative Complaining, to the Today Show audience. She will appear on Today (7 a.m. to 10 a.m., NBC) on Monday, September 3; her book is being published this month by St. Martinís Griffin.

Both a book of humor and an honest self-help book, Stop Smiling and Start Kvetching, is a response to the rampant optimism that marks most self-help books. Held wants "to make people more comfortable with rebelling against the American mandate to smile," she said.

Trying to accentuate the positive can sometimes do more harm than good, Held said. All of this emphasis on positive thinking can make people who feel bad feel even worse, because of guilt over not being able to "look on the bright side."

"You have a right to have pain," she said. "Itís your life and itís your worry and no one can tell you how important that is to you."

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