A couple years ago, Kay Hymowitz wrote a book called Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys. In an excerpt of this book which appeared in the Wall Street Journal back in February 2011, Hymowitz writes about the rise of the “pre-adult” men; men who spend their twenties playing video games and shirking responsibilities, never committing to relationships or careers. She points out, “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.” She goes on to say:
“Guys talk about ‘Star Wars’ like it’s not a movie made for people half their age; a guy’s idea of a perfect night is a hang around the PlayStation with his bandmates, or a trip to Vegas with his college friends. . . . They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home.”
My first reaction upon reading this is, “What? Star Wars was made for people of all ages and I have personally had many in-depth conversations about the many themes present within the franchise.” Then I realized that was not the point and also, she is talking about me. I was that twenty something in college, playing video games during the day and looking for women at night. Life was easy. Life was simple. Then I had a son. Life changed and so did my outlook.
A recent article in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter titled, Don’t Rule Out Having Children Because You Want To Have A Career, looks at the trend of young college grads choosing to remain childless. She quotes the preliminary findings of a University of Pennsylvania study which asked recent college grads about their family plans. The amount of men and women who answered Yes or Probably to the question of whether they will have kids or not was less than half in 2012 compared to 1992. Part of this trend is because women are more likely than men to believe children will interfere with their career, which is a fair sentiment. When you combine this data with the fact that men and women are getting married later, what you see is the prospect of fatherhood being pushed back into the early thirties for men. But why are men reacting differently to this new trend? Why are the “good men” disappearing while women are surpassing them academically and professionally?
The answer to why men are spending large amounts of time “pre-adulthood” is simple; there is nothing better to do. It may anger certain people when I say this but men are programmed as protectors. Whether this is due to a history of patriarchal social conditioning or God imbued virtue has little significance to our present period. The responsibilities of a husband and father are the driving forces in a “good man” and if these are removed the man has no purpose. I’m not saying men will have no purpose if they do not rear their own progeny but if they do not have someone to guide, they will struggle with feelings of insignificance and then only achieve insignificant things.
The desire to mate enters into a young male around twelve years of age. They must then suppress these urges for 15 to 20 years. Culturally this doesn’t work so well. I have seen countless young men devastated by losing a young female love to her desire to “broaden her horizons” or “advance her options”. An entire genre of music was created in response to this; it’s called Emo These men were ready to give their life to a woman and settle down. Studies show that men are just as likely to seek meaningful relationships as women. They are also more likely to seek out casual sexual relationships then women though, and when the meaningful ones don’t work out, many men opt for the casual ones. And yes, this includes developing a network of “bros” to keep them company; hence the desire to converse about Star Wars and music with people who really understand the importance of these escapist topics.
Give a young man a young wife and the prospect of children, and he will work to support and protect the well-being of this unit. Take this away, and he will drift into a hormonal laden man-boy with nothing better to do. I don’t want women to think I am demonizing their decisions to postpone the family for their own career and self-sufficiency. It is precisely because of the deadbeat dads and abusive fathers that have pushed women to seek a safety net before jumping into the nuclear family. Unfortunately for men though, the minority of jerks have been projected onto the gender as a whole as far as how our culture is organized. More depressing still is the jerks have won. Now casual sexual encounters with no commitment, no children, and no feelings, are easily obtained. So easy, that many of the good men are choosing this enticing path in life since it offers no stress or heartbreak. Men will continue to resemble the “kids you babysat” until they become the “dads who drove you home”.