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The Peter Pan Myth: The Real Reason Men Won’t Settle Down

The question isn't "Why aren't more men getting married before age 30?" It's "Why are any?"

by
Michael Weiss

Bio

November 19, 2008 - 12:36 am
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At the age of twenty-six or so, having noticed that he was obviously not a particle more grown-up or less reckless than he had been at thirteen, he had been greatly relieved to come across a newspaper article by some fashionable psychologist saying that adolescence among human males could be a drawn-out process, lasting in some respects and cases until the age of twenty-five or even thirty. This assurance had given him intermittent hope and comfort of a sort until about ten years later, when it had come back to him in a moment of what had been, even for him, an outstanding act of goatish irresponsibility. Thereafter, he had clung to the consolation that there was nothing he could do about it.

— Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils

Just how popular is Kay Hymowitz’s City Journal essay, “Love in the Time of Darwinism,” which decries the phenomenon of marriage-avoiding man-children? So popular that it was sent to me by no fewer than three different friends today (all males) and it’s been featured on two different traffic engines this week: Arts & Letters Daily and Real Clear Politics.

Her brief is actually a mild apology for a previous essay in which she reprehended the jaded and loveless men of my generation for, as she puts it here, “whiling away their leisure hours with South Park reruns, marathon sessions of World of Warcraft, and Maxim lists of the ten best movie fart scenes” instead of humming Cole Porter tunes and throwing their jackets over puddles in the street for their intendeds. Courtship is dead, and mankind may well be facing extinction given how many men refuse to grow up, get hitched, and start procreating. What happened to Cary Grant? He turned into Seth Rogen.

As far as forays into contemporary masculine psychology go, Hymowitz’s essay wasn’t terribly original. Laura Schlesinger caterwauls about the same subject on her weekly radio program (there’s nothing that a little wifely put-out can’t fix), and Caitlin Flanagan has earned a reputation hovering somewhere between Cassandra and Queen Bee for writing about these domestic complications in much more elegant form in the Atlantic and the New Yorker. But what was original was just how much of a backlash Hymowitz herself incited –all of it from the boys. Her inbox overfloweth with righteous invective styling itself as the “Menaissance,” which sure sounds as ridiculous as “Iron John” did in the ’90s, but recommends an altogether healthier program than banging bongo drums naked in the woods. The Menaissance mantra seems to be, “We’re mad as hell, and we’d rather be masturbating”:

Here’s Jeff from Middleburg, Florida: “I am not going to hitch my wagon to a woman . . . who is more into her abs, thighs, triceps, and plastic surgery. A woman who seems to have forgotten that she did graduate high school and that it’s time to act accordingly.” Jeff, meet another of my respondents, Alex: “Maybe we turn to video games not because we are trying to run away from the responsibilities of a ‘grown-up life’ but because they are a better companion than some disease-ridden bar tramp who is only after money and a free ride.” Care for one more? This is from Dean in California: “Men are finally waking up to the ever-present fact that traditional marriage, or a committed relationship, with its accompanying socially imposed requirements of being wallets with legs for women, is an empty and meaningless drudgery.” You can find the same themes posted throughout websites like “AmericanWomenSuck,” “NoMarriage,” “MGTOW” (Men Going Their Own Way), and “Eternal Bachelor” (“Give modern women the husband they deserve. None”).

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