Sunday, August 26, 2012


A London University did a study on pain. Participants were asked to squat against a wall as if sitting on a chair. The longer they maintained the posture, the greater reward they earned yet the longer they remained in that position, the more pain they had to endure. Apparently, after about 100 seconds the pain increases significantly since the thighs begin to bear the whole weight of the body. However, the real test began when researchers invited other participants to sit on their knees thus adding weight to their task.

How long could you last?

In fact, the answer depends on exactly who sat on your knees.

In all the groups studied, “people held the position longer and so endured more pain the closer they were to the beneficiary.” In other words, if the person who sat on your knees was a stranger your ability to squat would be poor in comparison to squatting with a relative on your knees. Researchers found that “people will do more for their loved ones irrespective of whether they like them or not and the closer you’re related to someone, the more pain you will go through for that genetic connection.” I guess we’re just programmed this way.

The conclusion? Family matters. Immediate and extended. Enjoyable and not-so-enjoyable. And especially biological. Our genes matter in ways we probably do not always recognize or even understand. (Sort of explains why you keep inviting that drunk uncle to Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?)

I enjoy writer Erma Bombeck’s description of her family: “a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.” (My family is not much different. Maybe add gas.)

However one defines family and despite family dynamics, those researchers have proved something else too: families endure pain for each other.

Is there someone in your family who needs your knees?


Debra She Who Seeks said...

When I was a kid a million years ago, my Mom, sister and I used to love reading Erma Bombeck's newspaper columns and books. Glad to see she's still being read and quoted!

wendy said...

Oh my, that was a lovely post. Your writing, thoughts, are just brilliant sometimes.
most times.
Good descriptions of family!!!
Families are Forever.
There is always someone, (if not yourself) who could use a knee.

either to sit on
or kneel in prayer for
(that's my thoughts)

neal said...

This was a thought-provoking one. Thanks.

Also, I have some family members whose knees I'd like to sit on. Until they crumple. And then we could start fresh, clean slate, no baggage between us. But they've got to crumple first.

Guess I'm still sometimes in the "lock each other out" phase

Vinny C said...

Another thing I think contributes to people's legs giving out faster is that having some stranger suddenly come and sit on your lap just adds to the awkward situation you're already in.

karensomethingorother said...

I think I need someone else's knees. They're better now I think, but my stink as a casino worker, bending and lifting heavy bags of coin all day over and over again kind of destroyed them.

Pickleope said...

I don't know, if it was my sister, I'd dump her off my knees immediately.
But I don't want to undercut how sweet this post was. You're right, family is important.

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