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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 10:16 pm (UTC)
I have been known to discuss relationships with other guys. However, the concept of "settling" in marriage is foreign to me.

I think it is because the concept of a Ms. Right isn't as prevalent as the concept of Mr. Right. It's not like guys are supposed to be spending their young adult life looking for Ms. Right. In terms of marriage, they're looking for someone they love and want to spend the rest of their life with. That's how it tends to be presented in literature, at least.

If you've found someone that you love and want to spend the rest of your life with, I wouldn't call it "settling". (I'd call it fortunate, at least if the feeling is mutual.)

In talking now with Tara and trying to explain it to her, her response was "So women are culturally led to look for the ONE guy, while men are led to believe there are a lot of potential wives?" and my response was "no".

The questions is framed differently for men than for women. (By "framed differently", I'm thinking about something I've heard a lot recently in political discussions-- that one of the reasons that the Right tends to do so much better than the Left is that they are much better at "framing the discussion", so the Left is at an immediate disadvantage, discussion the issues within the context and vocabulary set by ther Right.) Back to my point, our culture frames it differently for men than for women. For women, it is framed in terms of Mr. Right, Price Charming, the One True Love. It's about the person, and it's either that person or "settling". With men, it framed in terms of finding a woman whose qualities (be they beauty, grace, intelligence, wit, charm kindness, creativity, humour, moral strength or whatever-- they will differ from person to person) lead you to love her and want to spend the rest of your life with her. Either she has these or she doesn't. If she does, you are expected to propose. If she doesn't, you shouldn't. They question of "number" and "settling" don't come up. They can't, because the way the situation is framed.

Or so it seems to me.
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)
In talking now with Tara and trying to explain it to her, her response was "So women are culturally led to look for the ONE guy, while men are led to believe there are a lot of potential wives?" and my response was "no".

You know this made me laugh out loud, don't you? Because that over-the-shoulder interplay about issues like these -- or almost any issue, really -- also happens all the time in this house; Thomas smiled at it, but also nodded some at the rest of the post.