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I'm still chewing over the issue of 'settling'.

My mother, and my aunts, understand what the word "settle" means, but the colloquial phrase, as used by Gottlieb, and understood by both me and the people who posted on this thread here, was not familiar to them. They were, of course, expected to marry; they were, of course, expected not to have sex until they were married; they were expected to be good girls, and they had the usual contemptible and completely enraging words for the not good girls.

(My mother and I had a number of arguments, debates, and all-out screaming fights when I was a young teenager because she'd raised me to be relatively practical and relatively logical, and some of those phrases struck me as sexist, hugely gender-biased, and entirely unfair. My father would very quietly pick up the newspaper and head out to the living room when we talked about these things because a) he had no opinions to offer and b) the words could easily become incendiary.)

But my mother's generation didn't use the term "settling" in the same way. And it occurs to me that there are reasons for that, one being that women were not considered capable of their own upkeep away from their parent's house; marriage wasn't a matter of romantic love; it was a matter of necessity, like finding a job. This, by the way, is not the way it was ever presented to me; this is hindsight. It was important to my mother that we all marry for love.

Yes, that was a digression.

What I am still wondering, however, is why "settling" has no real male counterpart. I asked my husband about it, and he understands and recognizes the term -- but it's a term that women use, and they apply it to other women. So I asked him what the male equivalent was. There was some silence and some thought, and then he admitted that no male equivalent came to mind.

So I asked him why.

He said that men in general don't talk to each other about relationships or relationship issues; they don't talk about their marriages, their wives, or, once they're no longer teenage boys, their sex life. If they're talking about relationship issues, they're almost always talking to women.

So... why is this? Is it just the cultural context, that leftover conditioning that still requires women to be in relationships to be happy? Men are often lonely; is it just the social pressure not to talk about these things that prevents them from entering the same types of conversations, or are these conversations inherently pointless or boring?

Comments

jennifer_dunne
Mar. 12th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
As used in the article, "settle" means wanting one thing, but accepting something less.

That is far, far different from wanting one thing, seeing another, and realizing that you didn't really want the first thing after all, you just thought you did. :-)

Women are used to the notion of settling, because societally, we're forced to do it in so many areas of our lives. Relationships are just one area where this happens. The "Superwomen" of the 80's who thought they could have everything they wanted without ever having to settle quickly burned out. Because the basic reason for settling is that, in accepting what someone else (or society) wants for you over what you want for yourself, you get their support. And you do need support in your life.

If you have ideal relationships, they'll support you as you go out on a limb for what you want, and never settle. But that's exceedingly rare.

And I think that's the double-whammy of why male culture doesn't have a word for this. Because first of all, it's culturally looked down upon to admit that you have accepted less than you wanted. And second of all, it's culturally looked down upon to admit that you need support.

(Keeping in mind, I'm not actually a male... but having grown up a tomboy with a circle of all-male friends, I picked up a lot of the mindset.)
surreul
Mar. 12th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
Yes! I think this is a good explanation why guys wouldn't use the word choice 'settle' much.

Also, yes! Support is so very important. If you have great support in one area of your life (family for ex.) it become immeasurably easier to take risks in other areas.