We have discussed before on this blog that we live in a culture where maturity is often significantly delayed. In fact there are many in our culture who never grow up. One paradigm of our culture is to that it is fixated on teenage years. Fixation is a psychological description of a person who has not successfully navigated one of the stages of infancy or youth and thus remains stuck in the thinking and patterns of that stage, to one degree or another. Out culture’s fixation on teenage issues and attitudes is manifest in some of the following:
- Irrational aversion to authority
- Refusal to use legitimately use the authority one has
- Titillation and irresponsibility regarding sexuality
- General irresponsibility and a lack of personal accountability
- Demanding all of one’s rights but avoiding most of one’s responsibilities
- Blaming others for one’s own personal failings
- Being dominated by one’s emotions and carried away easily by the passions
- Obsession with fairness evidenced by the frequent cry, “It’s not fair!”
- Expecting others and government agencies to do for me what I should do for myself
- Aversion to instruction
- Irrational rejection of the wisdom of elders and tradition
- Obsession with being and looking young, aversion to becoming or appearing old
- Lack of respect for elders
- Obsession with having thin and young looking bodies
- Glorification of irresponsible teenage idols in culture.
- Inordinate delay of marriage, widespread preference for the single life.
I have often been accused when writing in this manner, especially by younger men that I have little idea what they really face. I do plead to being guilty of being less sensitive to the struggle of men simply because I am a man. I don’t generally like to hear men make excuses, as a man it alarms me. Men tend to tell each other to make no excuses and to “be a man.”
But I was alerted recently to two other articles on this subject. One of them is by a woman who has some good insights to the lack of male maturity today. Sometimes it takes someone on the outside to better grasp the dynamics. I think she shows a little more understanding (in both the intellectual and sympathetic sense of the word), and if it helps male readers to experience greater insight than I have to offer, I offer here an excerpt with comments by me in red:
Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This “pre-adulthood” has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated.
So she coins a term here called “pre-adulthood.” I have tended just to call this “extended adolescence” but her terms does capture the fact that many of the immature men (and some women too) do live away from parents and do have jobs, but otherwise are not so different from adolescents and college preppies. So her term does include a necessary distinction.
But it’s time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn’t bring out the best in men….They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home…..
Exactly. I have had many women tell me how tedious young men are. I usually reply that a feminized culture has largely produced them. So has a culture fixed on teen themes. Men also get mixed messages from both women and culture to the effect “Be a man, but don’t do it in a manly way…Show some leadership but get out of the way…. Many men are rightly confused, especially younger men who are some two generations removed from anything resembling a patriarchal family structure. Today matriarchy is the norm almost everywhere, and if there is even a whiff of Patriarchy it is round mocked and even punished legally. Ms Hymowitz will develop this more.
Among “pre-adults,” (again, her word for the extension of adolescence) women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers (among Americans ages 25 to 34, 34% of women now have a bachelor’s degree but just 27% of men), and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends….Their male peers often come across as aging frat boys…
Yes the feminists in our culture have long ago succeed in emasculating culture and making male proclivities almost criminal. In schools young boys who show the traditional spit and vinegar are declared ADHD and medicated. They are forbidden the rough and tumble that used to be usual fare for growing boys. Leadership and the aggression (within proper limits) that often fuels male leadership is excoriated etc. In this strange land of largely feminine run schools boys are poorly formed and it makes sense that they under-achieve. Nevertheless, despite decades of this, most feminists still claim victim status and continue to double-down on further feminizing the scene. Gone are the days when Father Flanagan caught two boys fighting and issued them boxing gloves and set the time for a proper fight between gentlemen after school.
For a long time, the poor and recent immigrants were not part of adolescent life; they went straight to work, since their families couldn’t afford the lost labor and income….today’s pre-adults have been wait-listed for adulthood. Yes this phenomenon is quite recent and rooted in western affluence and to some degree decadence.
Marketers and culture creators help to promote pre-adulthood as a lifestyle…. Precisely.
Pre-adulthood has also confounded the primordial search for a mate. It has delayed a stable sense of identity, dramatically expanded the pool of possible spouses, mystified courtship routines and helped to throw into doubt the very meaning of marriage.
In 1970, to cite just one of many numbers proving the point, nearly seven in 10 25-year-olds were married; by 2000, only one-third had reached that milestone… In 1974 there were 400,000 weddings in Catholic Parishes in the USA. In 2004 there were 199,000 weddings. Cut more than in half and it has dropped like a rock since.
It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.
George Guilder made this same point in a landmark Book Men and Marriage. Ms. Hymowitz does a remarkable job in just two sentences of describing the remarkable toll the break down of the family has had on men. Along with expansive (Mommy State) government usurping a provider role and the general feminization of culture, men are in a cauldron of confusion and obsolescence, a kind of perfect storm.
Today’s pre-adult male is like an actor in a drama in which he only knows what he shouldn’t say. He has to compete in a fierce job market, but he can’t act too bossy or self-confident. He should be sensitive but not paternalistic, smart but not cocky….
Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There’s nothing they have to do. They might as well just have another beer. Wow.
The full article is here: WSJ: Where have the Good Men Gone?
The article is Adapted from “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys” by Kay S. Hymowitz, to be published by Basic Books on March 1. Copyright © by Kay S. Hymowitz. Printed by arrangement with Basic Books Kay Hymowitz, Wall Street Journal
I realize both Ms Hymnowitz’s remarks and mine too are not without controversy, especially my remarks about the feminizing of culture. I saying this I do not mean to say there is no value in femininity, only that things have gone out of balance for men. Comments are open.
I have also written more on this topic here:
Raising Boys in a Culture Often Hostile to them
Here’s a silly song from another era entirely.