Daily Archives: January 28, 2008

Child-men and theory X of being an adult.

NPR had an interview with an opinion writer from the Dallas Morning News, who wrote this about the phenomena of “Child-men”


This was one of two pieces on the subject in the DMN on Sunday. I listened while I drove to work, then I wrote them:

I think it was Charles Darwin who pointed out how important female choice of mates was for us ‘higher’ animals. Judging from my experiences (I am 51, married, with a child and a mortgage, of many years), and popular literature back through Jane Austin, young women have been disappointed with their choices among young men for at least the last 200 years, in Western societies. Probably longer, and in other places, too.

Groups of young women “packing leisure hours with shopping, traveling and dining with friends”, (but not, apparently, *male* friends) may seem more appealing than groups of young men hanging, “out in a playground of drinking, hooking up, playing Halo 3”, but neither sounds particularly adult to me.

Both the speaker’s piece and a companion piece in the Dallas paper take what I would call a “Theory X” view of growing up- women do it by magic, by overachieving, and (some) men don’t because (too many of them) are lazy. So (more) men have to be compelled to ‘grow up’, get a mortgage, have some kids, marry someone… And they have to do this because its good for them, whether they know it or not.

I can’t follow the reasoning. Frankly, guys who choose to be louts (or lads) when they are 26 are going to be louts when they are 36, maybe 46 too. In the bad old days they DID marry, they DID have children, and their unhappy and neglected wives and children are a cliche, as are they. And I don’t blame only the men, or only their mothers, Dr. Spock, etc, etc. It may have been great in the Garden of Eden, but here on Earth happiness takes more work and is less certain than either critic seems ready to acknowledge. Putting upper age limits on video game ownership would be a great ‘feel good’ but isn’t actually going to improve anything.

Leaving popular culture, ANY popular culture, to raise our kids, or even someone else’s kids, is foolish. In a world that includes ‘abstinence only’ sex education, gangsta rap, the sub-prime mortgage derivatives market, murderous ethnic politics and the dozens of other challenges that face a parent raising a child today, the underachieving child-man is a concern, but hardly in the top 10. When you remember that the current cohort of young adults in China has 50,000,000 more men than women, because of the 1-child dictate and the impulse that favors boys over girls, maybe our underachievers can find carriers as coaches….

Its not hard to find a copy of “To Kill A Mockingbird” or “The Maltese Falcon”, in print or video, if anyone needs reminding what it means to be a man. “Cider House Rules”, any version of “Emma”, “The Pursuit of Happiness”, “Raising Arizona”, “The Princess Bride”, the recent “The Great Debators” and about a quarter of all other popular entertainment cover it pretty well too. Including animated films (“Ratatouille”) and graphic novels (“Bone”). Even filmed comic books like “Saving Private Ryan” cover it.

Guys who can’t pay attention without fart jokes or handle anything more complex than “Star Wars” may be best-off NOT reproducing. Even if they didn’t read/watch any of the above, or read “All Quiet On The Western Front”, “A Lesson Before Dying”, “Huckleberry Finn” or “The Red Badge Of Courage” when they were assigned in school, they still can’t say they weren’t notified. You can lead a boy to culture….