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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. 13th, 2008 12:38 am (UTC)
I don't feel like I need to be in a relationship to be happy at all, but I think a lot of it might be cultural conditioning, especially related to children. Men can still have kids at age 50, 60, whatever, but women have a much shorter time span and it seems like a decent percentage of the media that's directed at women plays upon the fears of a woman's "eggs drying up" or of a biological clock that's ticking. I don't know how much effect that has firsthand because I'm not the maternal type at all and neither are most of my close friends, but I'm starting to wonder if part of "settling" is from women who want to have kids but feel like time's running out to find the right person to have them with. *hopes this makes sense*
Mar. 13th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
but I'm starting to wonder if part of "settling" is from women who want to have kids but feel like time's running out to find the right person to have them with. *hopes this makes sense*

It absolutely makes sense, and I think that's probably who Gottlieb had in mind when she was writing the article. It's not a position I've personally been in, possibly because what Gottlieb wanted and what I wanted out of a marriage were two very different things, and I married before the biological clock started ticking.