How long is long? Do men and women perceive long differently?

How much longer? How much longer? How much longer will it take? From the point of view of the person waiting, longer can seem forever. From the point of view of one trying to get ready, longer may seem like a very short time. We say the movie was very long, the speech was very long; the job took a long time to get done. What this means is that we were not really excited about the time we had to wait. Long is not a very precise word, but it generally denotes a length of time that is greater than we expected or more time than we wanted to spend.

In men speak, “how much longer” might be translated as “would you please hurry up, I would like to leave now.” In women speak; the answer might be “I still need to get ready, would you please stop rushing me.” If men and women have different language and thought patterns, do we differ in our conceptions of time and our methods for handling time? To some extent, there may be differences due to culture and social influences. However, I think the concept of long is more related to expectations and where expectations differ by culture then long will have a different meaning.

I was once told that Asians think in centuries, Europeans think in decades and Americans think in weeks. If you don’t agree about this, think of how obsessed American business is with the quarterly report and end of month figures, not to mention the daily stock market prices. Americans are very pragmatic, but we typically have a very short time horizon. Our conception of long is very short compared to other cultures. Hence, we think of a long war as anything over four years, where many cultures would think of a long war as lasting decades if not centuries.

How long is long for you? How long is long for your spouse or partner? Do you think gender plays a role in defining long? Does it vary depending on who is waiting and who is not? What role does patience play in waiting? What role does respect play? Do you hesitate to start things because they will “take too long?” What if you had more tolerance for “long” in your life?

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