Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shallow, Puerile, Pre-Adult Men

Kay Hymowitz, noted conservative commentator on dating, marriage, family, and such, has a new piece in the Wall Street Journal titled (really) "Where Have the Good Men Gone?" The thesis is that movies about responsible, grown-up women trying to civilize and domesticate overgrown frat boys represent a real and important social trend.
"We are sick of hooking up with guys," writes the comedian Julie Klausner, author of a touchingly funny 2010 book. . . . What Ms. Klausner means by "guys" is males who are not boys or men but something in between. "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." One female reviewer of Ms. Kausner's book wrote, "I had to stop several times while reading and think: Wait, did I date this same guy?"
Later on Hymowitz contemplates the culture of Comedy Central and Cartoon Network and asks, "What explains this puerile shallowness?"

Actually Hymowitz has some answers to this question that are not ridiculous -- the years of education and internships needed to secure a good job in many fields, the expense of housing -- and she even glances at the point I am going to get back to at the end:
American men have been struggling with finding an acceptable adult identity since at least the mid-19th century. We often hear about the miseries of women confined to the domestic sphere once men began to work in offices and factories away from home. But it seems that men didn't much like the arrangement either.
Nonetheless, Hymowitz still exudes contempt for anyone who doesn't man up, get a job and get married.
Given the rigors of contemporary career-building, pre-adults who do marry and start families do so later than ever before in human history. Husbands, wives and children are a drag on the footloose life required for the early career track and identity search. 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.
To which the obvious retort is, so what? Why should we hurry into marriage and parenthood? Where is it written that 25-year-olds should act like 40-year-olds? If you ask me, the reason many young Americans, male and female, aren't rushing to get steady jobs is that the rewards offered for low-level, white collar work are nowhere near worth the price it exacts. Nobody is impressed that you are a manager or even a junior vice president, and your salary is only 2% of the CEO's, so why bother? Personally I can't see any reason at all, unless you really want to buy a house and raise children. That can be put off until you are over 30. So why rush into it? The weird thing is, Hymowitz doesn't eve try to explain why, puerile shallowness aside, young marriage is better than extended adolescence. It just bothers her somehow that men aren't more serious and responsible. Too bad for her.


Unknown said...

She seems to wants a man who is both careerist and looking for marriage. It's not clear to me that marriage and hypercareerism are much more compatible, or incompatible, than marriage and permanent pre-adulthood.

And, does she really expect that, to be adult, one must give up all sense of play? Does she want to marry a funeral director? I bet they don't talk about Star Wars . . .

Bundle Brent said...

Huh. I've met lots of under-30 guys who want to get married and have kids and take life seriously. And I've met lots of gals who have no interest in doing any of those things.

It seems like she's expanding her own personal experience into a "trend," which seems to be popular among opinion columnists. If she doesn't want to go out with puerile, immature "guys," fine. Just...don't date those guys. Problem solved. I really don't see how "It can be hard to find a compatible partner" is still news.

Plus, if she had been paying attention, maybe she'd know that one day, geeky, Star Wars-loving gamers will save the world (see the recent work of Jane McGonigal, for example).

Pax said...

Of course with any blanket statement, the blanket never seems to be big enough to really cover everyone. So there are certainly many young men who take things seriously.

I think the point she's trying to make is that the number of "guys" who think binge drinking two or three times a week is cool is on the rise. It has effectively become "cool" to be (at least outwardly) a seemingly ill-educated, time wasting semi-alcoholic.

As a female college student, I know many of these "guys" but I also have a fiance who is none of the sort.


ArEn said...

I wouldn't go near a guy who didn't love Star Wars.

Anonymous said...

In this day and age, marriage puts a man at a distinct financial disadvantage. Women are the higher earners, society has moved on but the divorce courts remain stuck in the 1950s. Would anyone in their right mind join a business endeavor that has a 50% chance of failure AND you have to pay your business partner a significant chunk of what you earn for the rest of your life?

In this day and age, you'd be an idiot to get married if you're a guy. Too many negatives, not enough positives.