It’s well known among sociologists and psychologists that young men are delaying maturation. I’ve written about it before here and here. There’s a whole host of reasons this seems to be happening, the most commonly cited ones being:
The Women’s Movement, and the resulting confusion over male roles
Hypermasculine but immature ideal in popular culture requires constant proving of oneself to peers
The declining value of a college degree
None of this is very good news for young women today, who are looking for a few good men and finding a lot of teenage knuckleheads boys. Many women are fed up with all the bro shenanigans, and are rather impatiently waiting for guys to grow up.
Imagine my alarm when I came across an article written by David Wygant encouraging guys to waste their 20s on Good Times. He urges them to enjoy their adult adolescence, which basically means expecting very little of yourself while enjoying life to the fullest.
First he sets up plenty of sympathy about how hard guys have it nowadays:
“No matter who you were in college — whether you were great with women, a great athlete, or the smartest person in your class — you go into the real world you realize that you are at the bottom of the totem pole all over again. It’s like starting from scratch. You quickly figure out that you have a lot to learn in your 20s. You get your ass kicked throughout your 20s. You really do.”
Next he promises great rewards with zero effort:
“This time in your 20s is really a time to learn. It is a time to get introspective. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t be hard on yourself. Understand that you’re going to be fine. You’re going to have an amazing, kick ass, unbelievable life.”
While setting the bar rather low:
“Your adult adolescence in your 20s is far greater than your teenage adolescence because you are not living with your parents anymore and you’ve got a little money in your pocket. I remember how good that $2.00 beer tasted with those eight quarters I brought with me. I remember truly appreciating happy hours — and seeking out all the best food options (wings one happy hour and Mexican food the next).”
“Here is something I want everyone to do: Help the people who are in their 20s right now. I know when I look back on my 20s, that was an amazing and fun time of my life. It was carefree. So, really, enjoy your adult adolescence because that time is magical. I have videos of myself when I was in my 20s, and I remember how much fun I was having.”
AAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH. You may be wondering–is this a joke? Did I find this at The Onion?
Who is this slacker and why is he trying to breed new slackers? He is directly contributing to the infantilization of men!
David Wygant is a self-proclaimed dating and relationship expert. He’s mostly known on seduction and pickup artist sites, but he’s had lots of media exposure as well. He purports to offer excellent advice to both men and women.
Matrix: This is a great post David. Your 20’s are just like starting all over again.
Andrew: Great post David, as a college senior this is very useful.
Greg: In business, relationships, etc, I have much to learn. I tasted independence when I lived on my own for a few years in Toronto. While I learned alot, I had illusions of grandeur and did not have a realistic plan. Because I failed to manage my finances well, I’ve been humbled to living with my parents. That said, I realize this is just a phase.
Collin: Well I’m about to turn 21, so trust me David. I’m gonna enjoy this adult adolescence quite a bit.
Enabling, enabling, enabling. Undoubtedly, he’s winning over young men at a rapid clip, seeing as how he’s letting them completely off the hook.
Dr. Gary Cross, a professor of Modern History at Penn State, has written a book called Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity. He believes that American males are suffering from a bad case of arrested development. He was interviewed recently by Brett McKay at The Art of Manliness, and he described how he became interested in the issue when he noticed something about the students in his classes:
Very attractive women weren’t dating.
The guys talked a lot about video games, and seemed to spend a great deal of time playing them together.
“Today’s men are not the first to question how much fun can be found in adulthood. Maturing means giving up pleasures, taking on responsibilities, and actively thinking about others. Peter Pan was actually written for an adult audience.”
Cross believes the shift has occurred over the last three generations:
The Greatest Generation
Many of these young men went to WWII and Korea.
They married at an average age of 21.
By their early 20s, most men were prepared to hold down regular employment, own a car, and even make a down payment on a house.
The Baby Boomers
These young men rejected early responsibility, perhaps best demonstrated by Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin in The Graduate.
They displayed an unwillingness to settle down quickly.
Many demonstrated against the establishment.
The Sons of Generation X
The trend of delaying responsibility has accelerated.
Men now marry at an average age of 28.
Popular culture emphasizes play and the indulging of personal pleasure. The focus in on remaining “cool teenage boys.”
There is a specific rejection of skill development, or even personal development.
Cross goes on to identify three factors driving immaturity today:
1. Marriage, family and establishing careers are all occurring much later than they used to.
It takes a lot longer for a man to establish himself. Many young men will turn 30 before they secure a job as good as the one their father had in his early 20s.
2. There has been a huge cultural shift in the last 30 years.
Male character used to rely heavily on demonstrations of honor, courage, and heroism. This theme has all but disappeared from popular culture.
3. The economy provides fewer early opportunities to young men.
Buying a house is out of the question for most men in their 20s, but there is more than enough disposable income to purchase a wide variety of entertainments. This serves to extend teenage values. We honor and celebrate the fashionable, the stylish, those with a strong sense of self, rather than a strong sense of society as a whole.
Cross has three primary suggestions for solving the problem:
1. There is no getting around personal responsibility.
Every man needs to make the personal decision to become an adult.
2. Find new symbols of maturity.
Rather than going back to the old-fashioned ways of being a man, today’s men need to create new ways of demonstrating manliness. He suggests that young men begin by serving as role models to a younger generation. This may range from spending time with a nephew to getting formally involved with a youth group.
3. Young men should embark on a program of personal development.
Developing oneself includes pursuing interests and hobbies that will bring them new skills and make them interesting to be around. Cross notes that in the 1950s Playboy magazine featured many articles geared toward personal development. They wrote about fine wines, stereo equipment, and interviewed respected intellectuals like Hemingway. Today, Maxim offers none of those things, but appeals only to the baser human appetites.
This is an intractable problem, and there are no easy fixes. Women will have to manage the fallout as best they can, keeping an eye out for those men who have their act together.
I’d like to hear your thoughts, both XXs and XYs. Does this resonate? How do you want to spend your 20s?