Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Deja-vu all over again

by Christina DiGasbarro

Now that we’re back from our first semester at college—our first semester away from each other—my friends and I have been frenetically scheduling lunches and movie nights and times to otherwise get together and hang out. After seeing so many friends, I’ve noticed something that I might not have given a second thought to if it did not reoccur so consistently: literally every time I have a sustained conversation with one of my girl friends (but never when it’s with a guy friend), we always get to the topic of boys.

We never start the conversation there, but once we’ve talked about “It’s so good to see you!” and “How do you like your school?” and “What were your classes like?” and “What are your plans over break/for next semester/for the summer?”, the next question is some variant of “So, is there a guy?” And then we spend quite a long time sharing stories about guys we like or boyfriends or whatever, asking each other for advice, bucking each other up, and otherwise dissecting our love lives or lack thereof, whichever the case may be.

Part of the reason I find the unerring reoccurrence of this topic curious is that these girls and I never used to talk much about guys as anything much more than friends. Maybe the reason we’re more willing or eager to talk about romantic endeavors now is that we have been leading separate lives for a while now and, in our desire to fill each other in, we just talk about everything and anything. But I’m also left wondering why, even when there’s hardly anything to say on the topic, we invariably find ourselves talking for extended periods of time about boys.

Clearly there is friendly interest and concern for each other in our conversations; it is the reason for this friendly interest and concern that I wonder about. I’ve come up with two different hypotheses about this phenomenon. The first is that our concern for things relating to boys is a manifestation of a basic human need or desire to have a meaningful and loving relationship. The second is that our repeated discussions about our relationship statuses is a manifestation of the influence of a societal or cultural undercurrent or idea that a woman needs a man to be truly happy or fulfilled.

Don’t get me wrong; my friends and I are all very happy with our schools and our lives, and none of us would propose to another that she is more or less happy because she has or doesn’t have a boyfriend. But there must be some underlying reason that so many of us, with different interests and personalities, have had virtually the same conversation in the past week and a half.
So I’m curious: girls and boys, have you experienced anything like this? Do you think these conversations are the result of basic human wants or of cultural expectations and pressures? Personally, I would prefer to think it’s the former, but I’d like to see more evidence than my own experience before I accept that as the explanation.


At December 27, 2008 at 2:36 AM , Blogger Roscoe said...


I wouldn't give the latter hypothesis any credence at all. like not even a little bit.

i mean, i am not going to even get into how ridiculous it sounds.

get over it, you like dudes and you like to talk about them...is it really that bad?

the feminists that take this latter hypothesis literally are the ones that give reasonable feminists a bad name.

Fine, women have been oppressed for thousands of years; you won't get any complaints from me about wanting to address that. But honestly? Wanting to talk about guys because it's some societal construct????

I mean, I'm not saying a woman can't be independent. In fact, if you are educated in physics, it's possible that we could all be downloaded into a computer as quantum code (i'm not joking, you may think this is some star wars b.s., but physicists are more and more starting to concede that it's the most feasible theory) then perhaps we will gradually not be attracted to the opposite sex. But until they take out the super-sensitive nerves from our genitalia, i'm pretty sure attraction is here to stay...

At December 27, 2008 at 8:45 PM , Anonymous Sam said...

I agree with you, Roscoe. I don't think its problematic for anyone to talk about the gender they prefer, but I wouldn't totally discredit the second hypothesis. Women are constantly told from a variety of sources that they need a man to complete them albeit in very subtle ways. We have fairy tales where the endings are always about some woman being rescued by a prince. TV shows like Sex and the City (though amusing) feature successful, single women constantly talking about the men in their lives or the men they want in their lives (you could argue that this is just a reflection of society as it stands, but I don't think so). And most annoyingly of all, there are (at least in my experience) always those relatives who will ignore all other aspects of your life (school, job, health) to ask you about men. I think there are all of these tiny voices constantly pressuring women to find men. And from what I've heard it only gets worse as you get older.

So, no I don't really think the desire to talk about men is 100% organic. I'd be really curious to know if a lot of men find that their conversations turn to women.

Granted, none of this is to say that discussing one's love life makes one a bad feminist, but I do think that the impulse to do so comes from both societal pressure and just good ol' human desires.

At December 27, 2008 at 10:36 PM , Anonymous christina said...

Yeah, like I said, I'd much rather believe the first hypothesis, but I still find it curious that the same conversation (really, virtually the same conversation, at least in structure and tone and direction) kept reoccuring. Especially because we almost never talked about guys in high school (though of course we liked different guys then too)--it just wasn't a topic of conversation, and certainly not a topic that dominated large portions of conversation.

I guess the latter hypothesis occurred to me because the consistent reoccurence makes it seem like we almost expect each other to have some sort of romantic interest now that we're in college and away from home (expect it in a completely different way than we did six months ago). So I just wanted to see if anyone else had noticed anything similar, and, if so, where people though that sort of expectation (if it exists) came from.

At December 28, 2008 at 12:37 AM , Blogger Roscoe said...

So i realized I was kind of a douche in my earlier post, because there are indeed societal pressures for women to find men. Your examples, Sam, are perfect to highlight this.

I just think that for the particular example she was giving, i think it is completely the first hypothesis, particularly because we are talking about a bunch of college freshman that are back from their first semester of college.

Ok, so perhaps to discount the second hypothesis, even for this example, is being close-minded. However, I think the amount, if we are to talk about probabilities and statistics here, that it affects it is negligible.

Basically, what I think it comes down to, in my opinion, is that even if we are to erase any idea that women somehow should have a man in their life to be happy or whatever, you would still have these kinds of conversations.



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