Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Power of I Am

When I began corresponding with a new friend in São Paulo he said he was single. Wanting firsthand knowledge of the namorar-social scene there, I shared Dating in Brazil Vs USA: Paquerar & Namorar and he agreed with some of what was said about how relationships are "conducted" Brazil.

A few emails later he told me about his girlfriend. So I was curious -- does he consider himself single because he's not legally married? I know there are people who consider themselves single even if they're dating someone. Dating is the process of getting to know someone until you decide if you want something more "serious" or "committed" or to take things to the "next level". You can date more than one person. By law, in the US, it's illegal to be married to more than one person. But here the majority of people don't consider themselves "single" if they're dating only one person.

I let him know that yes, some people use the term being "in a committed relationship" to describe their relationship status if they are monogamous and exclusive but not legally married. His explanation of his personal situation was yes, he does have a girlfriend and yes he's single. "Unless you're talking specifically about this topic with someone else (you would mention "I'm dating someone" or something like this), you are: single, married, widowed or divorced. I think you have a word for this relationship status: "committed", right? Anyway we don't have a equivalent word."

His definition of "single" makes a lot of sense to me. How many people do you know that are quick to "claim" partners and make assumptions about relationship statuses? It frustrates me to no end. When people list their relationship status as "it's complicated" that is what makes things complicated.

I am single.  I am in a committed relationship.  I am dating.  I am not single.  I am "off the market".  I am single and ready to mingle.  I am married. I am with him.  I am with her.  I am with them.

Those statements are pretty straightforward. Straightforward although they may mean different things to different people. 

Then my São Paulo buddy wrote this:

You know, this thing about commitment brought me something I heard some years ago, in a project management class, it's very interesting.
In Portuguese we have two verbs which are equivalent to the English verb "to be", they are "ser" and "estar". They mean the same thing, the only difference is the time factor of the state. Let me try to explain:
"I am sick". In Portuguese "Eu estou doente". It defines something temporary, right? I'm sick today, but I'd be fine tomorrow. Now the other verb:
"I am smart". "Eu sou inteligente". Now we are talking about something perpetual. Normally when someone is smart, it's for the whole life. See how I used two different verbs in Portuguese, but the same verb in English. This may seem just a semantics thing, but in my opinion it tells a lot about the different cultures we have. The phrase "I am committed" gets two completely different meanings in Portuguese depending on which verb you use. I don't know if I managed to be clear, but I think this is a very interesting topic :)
Brilliant. I need to speak Portuguese to men. 

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