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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?


Mar. 12th, 2008 10:01 pm (UTC)
I think there is a male equivalent though I'm not sure that there is one word for it. Guys talk about making a rational choice when they talk about settling. They talk about objective criteria and about 'knowing what's out there' and who they can attract and her being a good choice. The framing is different because women talk about it in terms of once wanting the perfect love and now settling for less while men frame it as if love doesn't really come into and from the idea that once they wanted this accomplished goddess and are now settling for a flawed human being but I think the idea is very similar. Both conversations always bother me because I'm a proponent of appreciating the uniqueness of the particular person you're with but *shrug*.

I do think lots of guys don't talk about relationships because there is very strong social pressure on guys not to. Also, as men grow up with the idea that they're not supposed to have complex, confusing emotions they never acquire the vocabulary to talk about it which makes it more difficult to talk about it later as adults even if they find a good friend and wish to. I actually think the whole 'Men don't talk about that ' is a terribly destructive social norm.

Mar. 13th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
I actually think the whole 'Men don't talk about that ' is a terribly destructive social norm.

Agreed. Although sometimes cultural reserve plays a part in this as well, and I'm hesitant to call reserve a destructive social norm, which might say more about me than I though.
Mar. 19th, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)
I think a lot of men in our culture consider commited monogomous relationships settling. ie.... They are no longer on the hunt prowling for whatever potential conquests are out there.This is a very immature societal norm, but face it, women in our society are supposed to "grow up faster" etc....while men are supposed to "play the field"......so that many men feel as if they are giving up something when they are in commited relationships (settling)