My sister's a shrink. She lives in Boulder, Colo. She's having her kitchen redone, and the job got delayed a week. The contractor said the counter guy had tickets to the Super Bowl and he blew off the week before the game. "I think he's got Super Bowl-itis."
"That's not a real diagnosis," my sister told him.
Neither is "workaholism," a term that we hear less often these days. But that in the 1970s and 1980s when I was growing up, workaholism was discussed with seriousness that approached alcoholism or gambling addiction or eating disorders.
"He's a workaholic," a woman would say gravely of her husband, or an employee would say plaintively of his boss. Just as some people used booze or drugs to escape themselves and their pain, workaholics buried themselves in work. They didn't need to work as hard as they did. They wanted to, because it was emotionally easier to fight the organized warfare and endure the predictable drudgery of work than to fully face the less structured, more human, more existential aspects of life. And the more they hid away in their offices—and it usually was offices; I never heard of a workaholic jackhammer operator—the more crippled they became.
Workaholism: It was terrible, and it was real.
Now? "Workaholic" is used much more often ironically than clinically.
Why has "workaholic" lost its gravity? Is it because men stopped being workaholics—or because their wives and their underlings are now workaholics too?
What do you say, Sis?