Saturday, August 14, 2010

Unemployed vs. single

If you don't have a job and would prefer to have one, it seems that you're not supposed to describe yourself with the most straightforward adjective for this situation: "unemployed." It's considered better to say, "I'm between jobs."

So why is it that if you're not married or in a relationship, the socially accepted way to describe yourself is with the straightforward adjective: "single"? The situations are similar: unemployed people and single people are often very interested in finding a job or a relationship, respectively. Both types will often hope they're in a short, transitional stage. But why are you not allowed to say, "I'm between girlfriends," "I'm between boyfriends," or "I'm between relationships"?



LemmusLemmus said...

Difference in stigma attached to being not employed/not partnered. In fact, "between girlfriends" or such a thing would denote that you're single against your own will, which is low status, whereas "single" leaves open the possibility that you're not all that keen on acquiring a partner. Perhaps the best analog to "single" in the employment case is "not employed"?

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

"Between girlfriends" implies that a girlfriend is a possession, an acquisition, a niche that will inevitably be filled, her individuality being of secondary importance.

And conversely it could mean that one's girlfriend defines one's role in life: "I'm between owners."

Actually, we're all between everything. And we're between nothing and nothing.

Jason (the commenter) said...

"I'm between jobs" sounds like you are trying to put a positive spin on a negative situation. Everybody understands that being unemployed sucks. It's nice to hear someone who can handle it.

If you hate being single so much that you have to say "I'm between boyfriends" that just makes you sound needy. And do you really want to date someone who has to use euphemisms and can't be direct?

Ann Althouse said...

"Between girlfriends" sounds very sexy.

Meade said...

Skip the euphemisms altogether: I'm hunting.

Anonymous said...

"I'm between ____" sounds odd when there is an expectation of permanency. That might be why it is okay to say "I'm between jobs," but it sounds odd to say "I'm between careers." And who would even dare to say "I'm between religions"?

Jason (the commenter) said...

Ann Althouse: "Between girlfriends" sounds very sexy.

I'm sure it does for many people, when YOU say it.