Dear “Bachelors”: A Follow-Up,
Now I’m starting to get huffy. Following this letter, a debate raged (trickled) on FB regarding the appropriate definition of the word “bachelor.” I am going to respond for a few reasons. #1 reason is that I know the definition of the damn word. #2 reason is that I was trying to be nice but it’s an old-timey word to represent an outdated concept and now that I’ve thought about it I have more to say about it. And if you want to willfully misunderstand my point about this word, then don’t continue to read, because I’m going to try to make it hard for you to do so.
Don’t give me that thing about everyone who isn’t married is a bachelor/bachelorette and that’s why we have those parties! We have those parties for a lot of reasons, but the existence of those terms is not primary among them. In reality– we have those parties, and we use those words within the context of those parties, which means those terms really only apply for the very short span of two weeks before a wedding. We also drink out of penis straws during those parties. SO THERE’S THAT PIECE OF EVIDENCE REGARDING THAT SOCIAL MOMENT.
I don’t know any women who self-identify with the word bachelorette outside of that context, and that means that there’s no gender equivalent for women, which in and of itself should tell you that “bachelor” is a gendered, sexist, and outdated term.
Yes, the technical definition is any unmarried man. However, let’s be real: we don’t consider men in serious long-term relationships to be bachelors, and we don’t consider 18 year-olds to be bachelors. And if we operate by that technical definition, then any gay man will be a bachelor for the REST OF HIS LIFE no matter how committed he is to his partner. And that’s absurd. I refuse to accept that, on both a linguistic and a cultural/legal level. (P.S. Let’s change the laws so everyone can get married if they want to!)
Language does not operate in a technical sense, it exists within context— sociocultural, political, economic, daily, living, real lives contexts. So yes, while the dictionary defines “bachelor” as any unmarried man, we do not think of all unmarried men as bachelors. The word carries with it the idea of a certain age or development in life in which a man could or should be married but is not. This is seen in the fact that the term is defined against being a married man: it’s parameters are defined by what it isn’t.
Thus, my argument about the 18-year-old…while 18 is certainly a legal age to get married, we do not expect 18-year-olds to be married, therefore they are not defined by their unmarried state and slapped with the label “bachelor”. And in this day and age, the average age for marriage is being pushed farther and farther back— and expectations for marriage in general have changed—- thus my question, at what age does one become a bachelor? (My (male) cousin claims bachelors are “creepers who are 50+ and probably airline pilots.” My guess is men over 50 and airline pilots will object to this.)
And so my larger, central claim is that there is no age at which one becomes a bachelor. There is one’s relationship status at all times, yes, sure. But I don’t self-identify by my unmarried status or claim it as some sort of glamour/sexual badge, and why should men?
And yes, these are still the connotations that bachelor carries: a swinging man, out on the prowl, free to have sex and drink and generally have a better time than those of his friends “trapped” by marriage or relationships. He has a certain economic status, a certain swagger to his step, a certain eligibility for marriage– he’s a “good catch” and yet unfettered. And he might be a sexual predator with black satin sheets. (Oh yeah, baby.) He also has an empty fridge. This is because only women grocery shop and he will only be well fed at home once he finally decides to settle down.
HOW MANY STEREOTYPES CAN WE FIT IN THAT ONE PACKAGE.
A friend in the comments of the previous post mentioned “Classically Bachelor has meant a single, well educated, decently groomed, man. A man who is unattached by choice, not by circumstance.” Ok then. Unless you’re George Clooney, my argument stands that you’re really not a bachelor, you’re just a guy with or without a relationship or a love interest or a crush or a partner.
He continues…”That’s the ‘Bachelor’ lifestyle, getting ready for the day at 7PM hung over, eating top ramen because you are to lazy to go to the store to get anything other than video games, and having a pile of clean and dirty laundry no where near where you do laundry or keep your clothes normally. Bachelorhood has somehow devolved from a post under-grad singlehood, to a slovenly debauched state filled with costco bricks of cheese and inebriated Call of Duty sessions well into the night.”
Sooooo— guys— that sounds fun…Look. I get it that calling yourself a bachelor maybe makes you feel better when you’ve just been dumped. Which maybe explains men’s reluctance to relinquish this term fully. But that alone should tell you something– when it’s a term you only whip out when you’re feeling bad about yourself, doesn’t that indicate that it’s about appearances and social myths rather than any sort of personal reality? Plus there seems to be some sort of separate attachment to “bachelor pad.” Men who won’t describe themselves as “bachelors” are totally willing to call their houses or apartments “bachelor pads” which also seems to be about appearances– the desire to feel that they’re living in a sweet space with a certain social cache rather than a farthouse of doom and mold.
I’d like to point out that when I started taking a poll of men that I know, asking if they self-identify with the word, three of them responded with a joke about having a “bachelor of arts” degree. WHICH I’VE GOT TWO OF. One said that he preferred the term “girlfriend impaired.” Another said “hecks no.” Two married friends responded with “nope.” Which is a valid poll result, in that I was taking a poll, and it was a result. Sort of the same way in which you qualify as being a bachelor by being over 18 and unmarried— and so do I. BACHELOR LADY, BABY.
…Lady bachelor? I don’t know. I just don’t think I can do it. I feel a proximity STD coming on just saying the word.