Once the preserve of whacked-out teens and college slackers, this testosterone-filled landscape is the new normal for American males until what used to be considered creeping middle age, according to the sociologist Michael Kimmel. In his new book, "Guyland," the State University of New York at Stony Brook professor notes that the traditional markers of manhood—leaving home, getting an education, finding a partner, starting work and becoming a father—have moved downfield as the passage from adolescence to adulthood has evolved from "a transitional moment to a whole new stage of life." In 1960, almost 70 percent of men had reached these milestones by the age of 30. Today, less than a third of males that age can say the same.
I guess I'm pretty much the poster boy for this phenomenon, as evidenced by the name of this blog. Here I am at 40, and like I like to say, I'm living exactly like I did when I was 28, except with better restaurants. What happened here?
A couple of things, I guess. In my actual 20's, I was working and then going back to school and generally not really concerned with growing up at all. None of my friends were grownups, so why should I be? I got married but we weren't in any rush to have kids.
Then in my 30's we moved out of the city (big mistake - I'll write another post someday about why Santa Cruz might be the worst place on Earth) and it seemed like it was time to settle down. My new friends in my new town started having kids. (Incidentally, I'm kind of using having kids as the shorthand for actually growing up, since no one I know can afford to buy a house here, the other traditional marker).
But my then-wife and I still weren't ready, I guess, and good thing, too, because we moved back to the city a couple of years later and broke up. So then, all of a sudden, I was in my mid-30's and had no wife and no kids and no house. What was I supposed to do, join a monastery?
This trend - 30- and 40-somethings acting like 20-somethings - has been discussed before, most notably in this article a few years back.
When did it become normal for your average 35-year-old New Yorker to (a) walk around with an iPod plugged into his ears at all times, listening to the latest from Bloc Party; (b) regularly buy his clothes at Urban Outfitters; (c) take her toddler to a Mommy’s Happy Hour at a Brooklyn bar; (d) stay out till 4 A.M. because he just can’t miss the latest New Pornographers show, because who knows when Neko Case will decide to stop touring with them, and everyone knows she’s the heart of the band.
Ouch. You're saying that stuff like it's a bad thing. What, just because I'm 40 I can't listen to Bloc Party any more? Now I feel bad about wearing the blazer I bought at Urban Outfitters. Sigh.
Anyway, I realize that I'm sort of stream-of-consciousness rambling here, but I'm trying to figure out if I should feel bad about the way I am. Well, fuck that. This is where life has taken me. I'm now a 40-year-old man who plays in an indie rock band, lives in a rented house in San Francisco, listens to Vampire Weekend, regularly sends and receives text messages, and writes a blog. I'll grow up later.