If you read the Wall Street Journal article by Kay S. Hymowitz, the author of the new book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys you would think that the younger generation of men are avoiding manhood. I do agree Kay Hymowitz as well as Michael Kimmel and his book Guyland that some young men are extending their youth.
Kay’s article and book excerpt starts off with:
Among pre-adults, 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.
She then explains:
Pre-adulthood can be compared to adolescence, an idea invented in the mid-20th century as American teenagers were herded away from the fields and the workplace and into that new institution, the high school.
We are more than our culture
All of us would agree we are experiencing a shift. Why it is happening is open to different interpretations. Some would say young men are choosing to stay in adolescence. Others would say the stress of so many choices overwhelm them. Then there is the fact that there is no war that is directly threatening them or shaping them.
After reading the huge number of comments on the Wall Street Journal post and throughout the Internet I see further reflection of how our culture is shifting sexual polarities. I don’t mean we are having sex change operations, I mean we are losing the male – female polarities of the past. Men are becoming more feminine and women are becoming more masculine. We see it in our political leaders, entertainers and social media figures.
I also see in the article and in the comments how even this younger generation is being sucked into the culture albeit a different culture of their parents. Particularly with the comments I got a sense that many men feel that women aren’t interested in them not because they haven’t grown up, but because they don’t fit their expectations. I can remember saying that and have certainly heard it from many other men and women.
One great thing about youth is how we use our naïvete and arrogance to do things that we wouldn’t think of doing when we are ‘mature’. As we break out of the boxes of our parents no one can understand what we are doing, including ourselves. We are setting new rules as we break the old ones. As hard as it is for the ‘older generations’ to accept this I believe we need to move into supporting it. Our kids will figure it out. They will do at least as a good of a job as we have.
The underlying patterns
More than any of us want to admit, we get our cues from the media, and now social media, from our peers and from our biological and instinctual urges. This is not bad; it is just the way it has always been. We like to over analyze the whys as we ignore the patterns.
Beneath all the chaos are patterns that have existed before with other generations breaking rules. One pattern that appears is that we often rebel against the opposite sex, or at least we have a difficult time understanding and appreciating them. Men at this age are always about having a good time. As Alison Armstrong points out, they are ‘knights’ looking for adventure. They have yet to step into her ‘prince’ stage where their focus becomes making their kingdom.
I say, take a deep breath. Realize we all are growing up no matter what age we are. We all are still learning to get what we want. The problem is not the other sex or the culture. It might be our memory. We forget what it was like trying to find ourselves. We are too quick to blame others for our situation.
Men, no matter what your age – take the risks you need to learn and get what you want. You will screw up. That is good. You are learning, just not how you would have wanted. Find other men, possibly some that have lived through some of the phases you are going through. Keep your peers, but find your mentors. It will make life a lot easier. I wish had done that when I was younger. I was to stubborn and arrogant to seek guidance.
Focus on being your own Remarkable Man – not someone else’s. You don’t need to get all wound up about the latest sociological phenomena or how women judge you. They are struggling as much as you are attempting to find a place in the fastest changing society we have ever seen.
What will you do to shift from being in reaction to all this chaos to creating the life you want?