Why Is a Good Man So Hard to Find? 6 Ways to Spot a 'Man-Child'
But ask me to define what it is to be a man-child, and I come up frustratingly short. "Well, for starters they play a lot of video games ..."
It's especially troubling because these days we're more in need of a definition than ever. Men are delaying adulthood in record numbers. Fewer move out of the home post-college and fewer still settle into committed relationships in their early 20s, which makes sense considering the amount of times they change jobs their first 10 years in the work force.
And yet based on their age, stage and receding hairline, they are men. The problem is that if it doesn't walk like a duck or quack like a duck, it seems ridiculous to call it a duck. And, more importantly, if it's not a duck we sure as hell don't want to be tricked into dating it.
Enter the phrase "man-child." I don't know who coined it but I can tell you she went on one too many first dates with guys who showed up in concert T's.
But there I go again using a very specific example to define an entire genre of men.
The truth is that there is no definition for a man-child, just lots and lots of postulating on the part of people -- fine, women -- who live on the front lines of this social trend.
"I think it's a guy who, for whatever reason, hasn't had to make hard choices. His current lifestyle (whatever that might be -- weed and video games, sure, but really anything) suits him just fine, he has a tendency to get out of personal jams just fine, and he's so used to that that it's actually difficult for him to make choices that might limit or affect some of that life," said one anonymous commenter.
"I think a man-child will do anything to avoid picking a career. School is like a latent form of his mother's womb. And he is doing whatever he can to stay there," said another.
"If a guy is still hanging posters on his wall with a device similar to thumb tacks, things aren't looking good. If that poster is the one of Bob Marley smoking weed, he's a man-child," said a third -- oh wait, sorry -- that one was me.
Kidding aside, if we were really to develop a definition I think the easiest place to start is to say that a man-child is a child who never grew up and yet is physically grown up. Of course, then we have to define what it is to be a grown-up. Check list items like "is responsible for one's own finances" and "has career and life goals" seem fair. So do things like, "lives on one's own" and "makes decisions that benefit rather than detriment one's life."
So, in that sense you could be a 40-year-old who still plays video games for hours a day if you bought all those video games yourself and play them outside of work in your own apartment. But what about a guy in his mid-30s who doesn't know how to take a woman on a legitimate date? Or a 25-year-old who will bring his laundry home for his mom to handle? How many examples of childish behavior does one man have to exhibit before he is rendered a man-child?
It seems there's a range of man-child just like any other developmental stereotype (angsty teen, wild 20-something, 30-something "spinster"). In my mind, a man-child is a man who is electing against or blind to the possibility of reaching the major milestones of adulthood. Some people struggle to get there for various, legitimate reasons. Other people avoid getting there because it's not fun to deal with certain elements of adulthood. I think a true man-child either doesn't think it's necessary to be an adult man or doesn't know the difference between man and child. He's irresponsible. He's impulse-driven. He doesn't have a wild sense of what the future should/can/will hold. He behaves either recklessly or with a total lack of motivation.
Then my friend Kirsten weighed in with this dissenting opinion, "See, I see man-children as something different entirely. I dated a dude who was unbelievably successful, very articulate, completely loaded, and functioning as a highly successful adult ... except he had the emotional maturity of an 18-year-old. He spent his young adulthood and early 30s chasing everything he thought would make him a "grown-up," but in the process didn't actually grow up. He doesn't see it because his apartment/car/clothes tell him he's made it, but I see it because he had a complete inability to communicate past asking me what I thought of the Zinfandel he ordered at whichever trendy restaurant he found on Yelp last week. Make sense?"
Unfortunately, it does. Unfortunately, that also means we're even more screwed in the "how to avoid dating one" department.
Spotting a man-child from across the bar might not be as easy as we'd all like to imagine, but discovering you've got a live one after dates one through three is entirely possible. Here, according to several male and female sources, are some tell-tale signs:
- Does he ignore your thoughts and needs when you spend time together, focusing entirely on either himself or the pursuit of immature fun?
- Does he still tell stories that end in, "and then I blacked out ..."?
- When you ask him where he seems himself in two/three/five years does he look at you like you're the crazy one for having a clue?
- Is he still bank-rolled by his parents despite having a steady job?
- Has he opted against a steady job despite his ability to secure one?
- Is he completely unaware that God has invented Clorox Wipes for use in both the bathroom and kitchen?
Jessie Rosen recently moved from New York to Los Angeles to pursue her show business dreams. She writes the blog 20-nothings, about getting through that decade with minimal wind resistance, no matter where you live.
Related: Has the Rise of women Turned Men Into Boys?
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