Raising young men
This post was inspired by an episode of Bill Maher. Scott Galloway shared some alarming statistics about young men in our society. It’s 5 minutes long. I hope you watch it.
Jules and I were watching an episode of explained. It’s a fun show on Netflix of mini documentaries about random topics. We recently watched an episode about dance crazes.
There was a group of young teenagers obsessing over dance videos on TikTok. As I watched it, I felt a wave of anxiety come over me as I thought about raising my two kids in this world.
I am so grateful that I was born before cell phones.
I have a son and a daughter. My daughter is only two weeks old, so most of my ideas about parenting have been (so far) focused on my son.
I think about what it means to raise a boy into a man. I think about masculinity and how important it is for my son to understand what it is to be a man. There are people who say there is a “war against masculinity” (dramatic) but in my view, the much bigger problem is the lacking of masculinity.
What does it mean to be a man?
The best I can come up with is that you become a man when you become responsible for others.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you become a father, but that’s an obvious example. Being responsible for others could also include taking responsibility for the well being of your mate, or a sibling, or members of your church or community fellowship.
I think people mistake community for responsibility. There are obvious benefits to being involved in a community, but taking responsibility over the situation is one step further.
Are you responsible to pick someone up and give them a ride to church? Are you responsible for bringing your handicapped mother groceries every weekend?
I think you understand the point.
Men are no longer required to be responsible for others?
Why do you think this is?
The answer: Tinder.
Sex and relationships used to be the ultimate motivator
When I was in middle school, I used to go ice skating at Wissahickon skating rink on Fridays. I remember I asked a girl to couples skate with me and she said no. She embarrassed me in front of everyone. Oh man, even thinking about it today makes me wanna curl into a corner and die. I remember feeling so terrible that I went up to my room and cried and my dad sat in the room with me. He didn’t even ask me what happened, he just knew. Because all men know that feeling.
I was mortified. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. 😍🤦♂️
Those harmless (yet awful) experiences are natures way of reminding us not to be losers. That embarrassment is evolution training us to become competent. The pain of rejection is so awful that we will do anything to never experience it again.
If that girl could see me now, I hope she feels so stupid.
Women and men want competent partners, and so from an evolutionary standpoint, the best way to find a partner is to be competent. Competent men have a higher probability of accumulating resources and harboring safety.
But young men don’t ask women to couple skate with them anymore.
Young men slide in the DMs, or swipe right on Tinder, or send text messages.
Young men definitely don’t ask strangers out on a date, or strike up conversation with someone waiting in line.
Worse, young men hardly have sex anymore. They watch porn. Young men get to avoid those life experiences all together. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, because these behaviors allow for them to avoid the potential pitfalls and despair of rejection while achieving the same feelings.
This is tragic, and much more dangerous than I think we realize.
The side effects are cumulative.
This is when young men turn to video games or isolate themselves in their parents basement. This is how boys stay boys.
They don’t learn responsibility, because they have nothing to be responsible for.
Note - **I realize that this entire article is an over generalization. However, the complexity of the situation would require much more data points and evidence, none of which I feel is relevant for this high level article. I think we can all agree that these problems exist and they exist for a reason.
How do we address this?
I have no idea. It scares me.
Here’s my best guess.
We need fathers who will teach our sons what it means to be responsible. Yes, we need men to hold doors open for women, the elderly, and the handicapped. We need young men who are willing to speak up in crowds and ignore the types who complain about “mansplaining” or “toxic masculinity.” (I’m still not sure what those terms mean).
We need fathers to teach our sons what it means to show up when you say you will show up, what it means to carry the luggage for your guests, and what it means to carry the burden of fear for your family.
We need men to look other people in the eyes and say “everything is going to be okay.”
I’m not an alarmist. I don’t think social media is destroying the world, but I certainly am realistic about the changes it is making in the minds of our young people. As such, this problem won’t be fixed on social media. This problem CAN ONLY be fixed through conversation. These conversations will happen in huddles of sports teams, in the car, while on a walk, in the garage, or while doing yard work.
I’m also not a traditionalist. There’s no going back to the 1950’s, and even if there was, why would we want to?
We need to be in the now and we need fathers to raise boys into men.
We need to teach young men how to ask a girl to couple skate with him, and we need to teach young men how to deal with the risk of rejection. We need to teach our young men what it means to be responsible for others.