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wshaffer
On growing up... 
24th-Nov-2008 03:16 pm
prattling
I usually find Radio 4's Thinking Allowed pleasantly thought-provoking, but a good chunk of the most recent episode was mostly just provoking. It was devoted to the premise that men just aren't growing up any more. Three principal pieces of evidence were invoked for this thesis:
1. Men are living with their parents longer than they used to.
2. Men are getting married later in life than they used to.
3. It's now considered entirely socially acceptable for men to play video games.



1. We have a persistent media stereotype of guys who continue to live at home because the free laundry and meal service facilitates their carefree video-game playing lifestyle. These people may exist, but I've not met many. On the other hand, I've known a number of people who continued to live with their parents after the age of 18, and they pretty much fell into two categories: People who were continuing their education, and/or people who were working relatively low-paid entry level jobs and who found that living with their parents let them minimize their debt or build up some savings. Sounds pretty grown up to me. A couple of them did have pretty sweet video game collections, though.

2. Apart from the fact that getting married later tends to follow from living with your parents longer, I was rather disappointed that neither of the sociologists interviewed seemed to realize that average age at first marriage varied quite a lot over the course of history, usually for economic reasons. There were periods during the Middle Ages when people often didn't marry until their late twenties, and it wasn't because they were playing Grand Theft Destrier.

3. I could say a lot of things about this, starting with the proposal that people who pontificate about video games ought to be required to have played at least two of them, one of which is not part of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. What I think it really boils down to is: assuming we accept the premise that grown-ups ought to be allowed leisure activities at all (and one of the sociologists interviewed comes dangerously close to denying that premise), what makes one form of play more grown up than another?

Actually, that's what really boggles me about the "Thinking Allowed" episode. Everyone involved seems to be working from a shared definition of "grown-up" that no one ever actually bothers to articulate. I think that if I had to define grown up, I'd probably define it as, "Capable of independently fulfilling a reasonable number of one's obligations to one's family and society." Which I think you can still do while being single, living in your mom's basement, and owning a PlayStation.
Comments 
25th-Nov-2008 02:03 am (UTC) - On Maturity....
Does it mean I'm not a grownup if I really, really want to play Grand Theft Destrier? 'Cause I do.
25th-Nov-2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
Ironically I think there may be something to this - right ideas, wrong reasons. I think there is a problem with thwarted psychological development in modern men, but it's not seen in video games or living at home. It's more likely to be found in the priorities men choose, the tactics they employ, and how they cope with failure.

I believe this results from a number of factors, but two in particular: The loss of rites of passage (how a man knows he has become a man) and in the conflicting roles (social, romantic, sexual, and financial) that men are "supposed" to fill (what a man is supposed to look like).
25th-Nov-2008 09:32 pm (UTC)
You might be right - I think that part of the reason why I found the podcast rather annoying is that it took a potentially interesting hypothesis and treated it in a very shallow way.

Rites of passage did come up in the podcast. I think it's kind of an intriguing idea, that we're missing these definitive markers of adulthood. (And is it adulthood or specifically manhood? Is this more of a problem for men than women?)

I don't know - it's an interesting idea. Do you have to know you're a grown-up to be a grown-up?

26th-Nov-2008 12:12 am (UTC)
>>Rites of passage did come up in the podcast. I think it's kind of an intriguing idea, that we're missing these definitive markers of adulthood. (And is it adulthood or specifically manhood? Is this more of a problem for men than women?)<<

Adulthood is more obvious in women than it is in men. At the risk of being crude, when you start to bleed, you're a woman. The transition from boyhood to manhood is much more gradual and has fewer unambiguous markers.

>>I don't know - it's an interesting idea. Do you have to know you're a grown-up to be a grown-up?<<

No, but you're more likely to act like an adult (or to feel obliged to) if you know (and everyone around you knows) that you are one. Also, a proper rite of passage is psychotheater in addition to an award ceremony. Ideally it shouldn't just label you; it should change you.
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