There has evolved a social symptom amongst the male population of Western society that I like to call Manchildism. Now, this isn’t a male bashing article, but merely a genuine observation and hypothesis. I began to notice this phenomenon a few years back when myself, along with 3 other women were dumped by guys that apparently ‘needed to find themselves’.
My experience was the least severe case, as I had only been dating the guy for a couple months, but the other women had been with their boyfriends/partners for years and in one instance, were living together. However, in all 4 cases it was totally out of the blue and completely bizarre. All these men were in their early 30s, had a good job, nice car and of course, each had a great lady. Then, out of nowhere, we all got a very similar speech that went something like this:
“I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I feel like I need to find myself and I don’t think I can take you with me on this journey; I have to take it on my own.”
At first, I thought it was the latest ‘go to’ dumping excuse, like the “Let’s be friends” or “It’s not you, it’s me” standard lines. I guess in a way, it’s an evolution of that later excuse, but with a soul searching twist. Then I started thinking about what has changed in the last generation – which is a biggie. Our fathers and their fathers before them and so on were given a strict road map of life to follow: School – Job (usually the same job as their father) – Wife – House – Kids – Work – Retire. Not many questioned it – it was just how it was done; they didn't have to think. Most of our fathers got a job straight out of high school or college and worked at that same job for 35 years and then retired. They didn’t necessarily all like their jobs, but it supported their families and that was good enough for them. They took pride in being the provider for their family, above all else.
After the baby-boomer generation had great personal success, they realized that their children could possibly have even more opportunities and success. They threw out their previous road map and told their sons that they could be anything they wanted to be – not even the sky was the limit! Now, their daughters got this speech as well, but women can usually process this easier and we can make our own life decisions fairly logically – we like having ‘a plan’. I’m not trying to be cruel, but even some men will admit that they are, in fact, simple creatures. By not telling all these boys exactly what they should be or what they need to do ‘when they grow up’ is making their heads explode. They are wandering aimlessly through their twenties waiting for that huge life-altering epiphany that is supposed to tell them what they have to do – and then they wake up one day and they are thirty.
At this point, even though they probably have a great life, some weird suppressed anxiety slaps them in the face and says, “But my mommy said I could be an astronaut, or a fireman, or a helicopter pilot, or anything I wanted – and I’m just another office flunky – Ahhhhhh!” POP! Their goes their head... along with their voice of reason. They have a little tantrum and question, "What about MEEEEEE?" They quit their jobs, dump their girlfriends (or wives) and go backpacking across Nepal. And there it is – Manchildism.
I don’t think there is anything that can be done for this generation – the damage was done a long time ago. Let’s hope the traditional mid-life crises that happen at around 55 aren’t too turbulent – which we won’t be able to see for another decade or two. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see what happens with their children, and if these men, as parents, will be able to learn from their unrealistic and aimless expectations and perhaps instil in their sons a sprinkle of realism; maybe somewhere that fits nicely between having their head in the clouds and their nose to the grindstone. Is there is such a place? I hope so.
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