Monday, January 28, 2008

Perpetual Adolescence

Listening to Talk of the Nation over PlayDoh this morning, I half-heard a really interesting discussion.

My ears tend to perk up when I hear women bashing men for being immature because I know there is more than one side to any story. Men aren't (generally speaking) pigs, women aren't (generally speaking) always arbiters of good breeding and sense. Yes, I've met a lot of man-children out there (and how some of them every got married and procreated is beyond me-I'd have thrown them out on their behinds), but have I met more than my mother or my grandmothers met at this stage of their lives?

Kay Hymowitz seems to think that I have. There are some interesting marriage statistics to back this up. Back in the good old days, men used to be married with jobs and even houses and kids by their mid-twenties and thirties. Now, they tend to float around having a good time instead.

I may be laughing in the face of the destruction of civilization as we know it, but I don't have a fundamental problem with that. Go have fun! The world needs rampant silliness. Not that I want to be anywhere near the drunken, stupid fratboys while they behave disgustingly mind you, but I think society will survive their collective decade long bender.

One reasonable argument against this self-centered lifestyle is that it is a drain on society's resources. My response is that parents could probably nip some of it in the bud by just not financially supporting their poor young man struggling to find himself. And women need not marry them and procreate with them, either. And if they do, it's not unreasonable to expect some heartbreak. Just know that going in.

Nearly all of my girlfriends were complaining a decade ago that "all of the good ones are gay or taken!" so I set out to prove them wrong. It took one personal ad in the Reader. (Yes, you may "awwwwwww" now, Andy and I had our first date nearly 10 years ago.) The dating scene has changed a lot since then so maybe there's a smaller pool now. But it can't possibly be that small. Find a good life partner instead of the first warm body that comes along. And definitely don't try to reform some dashing and dangerous dude, because it's never worked out well in any of the novels I've ever read.

And, in my humble opinion, some of the hysteria over the child-man is born of envy.
How come women can't do that too?!
'Cause we could get pregnant!
Oh wait, there's contraception.
We'd disappoint our families!
Oh wait, your inability to handle disapproval is not some boy's fault.
What about the future, the next generation, our biological clocks?!!!!
Pick your priorities. These things may not be compatible-choose.

And voila, because the boys aren't doing what the girls want them to they are selfish.

At this time in history, we have a large population of young men in our society who do not see benefits in commitment to others and especially to women. This may be a harbinger of a strange new society but I tend to think not. The "every man for himself" mode of living is extravagant, wasteful, and unsustainable in the long run. Partnerships and communities can be much more efficient a use of resources. Eventually, even the most self-centered individuals (male and female) are going to want some of that. All of this hand-wringing about the child-man seems a little premature to me.


Swubird said...


Good post. It definitely was well thought out, and in my opinion, right on point.

I was married at twenty-one. Kids came right away. Even way back then I tried to rationalize that it was all good because I would still be young when the kids got old enough to really relate to and converse with. Wrong! The kids grew up and left. The wife left too.

Wife number two turned out to be the life partner. Why the success with number two? I don't know. Maybe it was the wisdom gained from all those agonizing years with number one. Or maybe it was age, and all the other things that are supposed to come with aging: maturity, wisdom, patience, sensitivity, understanding, commitment, etc. That doesn't sound like much fun.

Oh well, the bottom line is that if you ever figure out the answer to the question of what makes a relationship work, you'll be rich! Then you probably won't want to get married.

SWE said...

Thank you, swubird. And I'm glad you found wife number two. :)

I think it's really tricky to decide between marrying/procreating "young" and waiting to find oneself. I kind of tried to split the difference and now have a hard time imagining which way I woulda/coulda/shoulda leaned. So far so good, eh?

Hand-wringing about the loss of the great good old days is (to me, anyway) just another way of choosing the devil you know instead of the devil you don't know. It will be interesting to see what society is like in another 25 years or so, regardless!

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I heard that story too, and had an interesting conversation with my wife about it. My beef about the story is that the author never explained why it was bad for a working single man to spend a lot of time playing with expensive toys. Maybe there are reasons why this is a bad thing, but the story just assumed it was bad and then talked a lot about how widespread it was. I guess Neal Conan just wasn't on the ball that day!

SWE said...

I thought the same thing, Arlo. I think maybe Mr. Conan was having an easy afternoon of it.

Apparently, that article a lot of discussion. Browsing Fark today, I found a link to:

It will be interesting to see what people say!