Wednesday, January 30, 2008

We Just Don't Want To Grow Up

Over at City Journal, there's an interesting article about men who just won't "grow up". Here's the way the article starts out:

It’s 1965 and you’re a 26-year-old white guy. You have a factory job, or maybe you work for an insurance broker. Either way, you’re married, probably have been for a few years now; you met your wife in high school, where she was in your sister’s class. You’ve already got one kid, with another on the way. For now, you’re renting an apartment in your parents’ two-family house, but you’re saving up for a three-bedroom ranch house in the next town. Yup, you’re an adult!

Now meet the twenty-first-century you, also 26. You’ve finished college and work in a cubicle in a large Chicago financial-services firm. You live in an apartment with a few single guy friends. In your spare time, you play basketball with your buddies, download the latest indie songs from iTunes, have some fun with the Xbox 360, take a leisurely shower, massage some product into your hair and face—and then it’s off to bars and parties, where you meet, and often bed, girls of widely varied hues and sizes. They come from everywhere: California, Tokyo, Alaska, Australia. Wife? Kids? House? Are you kidding?

I've been interested for some time in the topic of how people of different generations have matured--what was expected of people of different generations at certain ages. In 1900, at what age was a young man supposed to be able to care for himself and a family? What about 1950? 1980? Today? It's definitely changed. I've blogged before about related phenomenon, such as the fact that we're incapable of fixing things today (and often aren't permitted to anyway), and my theory that the age-segregated socialization model we use on our kids tends to retard (and occasionally disrupt entirely) the process by which our young people are matured into adults, who are willing and competent to accept the full range of adult responsibilities and liberties.

This new article is along those lines. Basically it argues that our society has systematically removed the incentives for men (in particular) to grow up. Men now have the option, in a way they didn't have in previous generations, to enjoy the benefits of adult life--good incomes, high-powered professions, frequent casual sexual relationships--without the responsibilities that were once associated with adult life--commitment to one woman for life, the need to raise children, the need to sacrifice on behalf of one's household. (Additionally: we have, through divorce laws and the family courts, given men a huge disincentive to start a family in the first place.) All this is impacting society in a number of ways--including the rapidly increasing age of first marriage, and a sense that it's a lot harder now for women to find good men who are willing to commit to them.

(I note with some chagrin the statistics the author lists about mens' use of video games, given that I played Sid Meier's Pirates! for a couple hours tonight. Really, I don't do this every night! I usually only play this kind of game once every few months. Tonight was just weird.)

The article is written by a woman (one who writes frequently on the state of marriage and relationships in America) who approaches the topic with something of a Jane Goodall outsider's viewpoint of the male phenomenon; but I think what she says has truth in it. After all, when she lists the kinds of things we men find interesting, I found myself thinking "Yep. What's so unusual about that? Cyborgs are cool, especially the female ones."

Anyway, check it out. Let me know what you think...

1 comment:

Chris said...

On an unrelated subject, "Tag, you're it!'

See my latest entry for info on a "what are you reading" meme that I'm tagging you for.