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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 07:04 pm (UTC)
(Note: all speculation. I grew up in the 70s/80s, and I've never been married. I don't even want to extrapolate from my own life here, because I am not typical and so my position probably doesn't reflect general culture. Even *my* general culture, meaning geek types.)

It's my general culture as well, but I pull from other sources & influences around the edges.

I would quibble a bit with The first-order reaction to that is feminism, but that doesn't obviate the notion of that life as the thing to avoid., although I think I understand the contextual use of the statement -- but I also grew up in the 70's/80's, when feminism did not mean "bitchy man-hating lesbian" to the vast majority of high school kids.

In a social structure where your very survival depended on having a husband, the concept of settling as it is given us by Gottlieb didn't exist. You were expected to marry. You married as well as you could (in theory, hormones and wisdom being what they have always been). I see marriage in that context like getting a job.

When you need to put food on the table, in the end, a job is better than no job, and how many of us have taken jobs that we do not love because we have responsibilities to put food on the table?

But there's no romance in that view, and it's the clash of the romantic vs. the practical that produces the concept, I think.