It’s 2008, and you’re a 27-year-old white girl in Texas. You have a mid level professional job. You rent an apartment with amenities including but not limited to a pool, gym and business center. You have your own credit history, your own car payment, your own vibrator.
You are more affluent and liberated than any woman in history.
Read Kay Hymowitz’s unflattering portrait of the twentysomething male here.
While it may be true that your male counterpart often fritters away his free time with basketball, gadgets and clubbing, replace ‘basketball’ with ‘shopping’ and both sexes are mirror images of each other.
It’s doubtful Hymowitz has walked into Forever 21 any given Saturday afternoon and seen the appalling lineup for a dressing room. Young women 17-37 endure the wait and the madness for cheap going out shirts/dresses/skirt-top combos. Disposable incomes thrown away at discount retailers, disposable dresses for a disposable Saturday night at the bar repeated ad nauseam, all to snag a guy (Cosmo speak). It’s acceptable, encouraged even, and females have all but given up questioning the power retail holds over their lives.
Most young women today invest a significant portion of their hard earned paychecks on a series of beauty rituals that make Cleopatra seem low maintenance: eyebrow threading, highlights, tanning,
manis/pedis, fake eyelashes, bikini waxes, aromatherapy facials, hot stone massages – I’m going to stop where my list ends but be assured it goes on and on…and it also adds up. So while men may be spending frivolously on iTunes, at least the songs they buy don’t need to be purchased again in 4-6 weeks.
Let’s take a moment and genuflect to Naomi Wolf who wrote, “As women released themselves from the feminine mystique of domesticity, the beauty myth took over its lost ground, expanding as it wanted to carry on its work of social control”.
What is the male equivalent of Sephora?
Sure, more men today use moisturizer and hair products. But our products still outnumber theirs, by
(my) estimates of 30:1.
Why doesn’t Hymowitz call out women for this “hyperfemininity crisis”, the Appearance Myth 3.0? If young men exhibit “general passionlessness”, women exhibit extreme overzealousness with their appearance, ostensibly to attract men. Yet these expenditures of time and money receive none of her scrutiny.
I have struggled personally with the Peter Pan type, the ultimate sports fan, the video game addict, the slacking stoner from Knocked Up – all rolled into one person. But he could also debate foreign policy while cooking a gourmet dinner for two using his own Calphalon. And he knew more about my clitoris than I did (do). He was not averse to deep attachments. He just wasn’t sure if he wanted to marry me. He wasn’t sure he ever wanted to marry anyone. I consider that prudent, not fucked up.
In Hymowitz’s eagerness to lay bare what she perceives as new and harmful character flaws young men have developed, she doesn’t leave room for the complex, personal contradictions most human beings live with.
Besides, when a love interest does indeed turn out to be a one-dimensional douche we don’t sit around wringing our hands like Hymowitz. The tendency is to bitch to our girlfriends over happy hour for a couple weeks then channel our inner Beyonce and it’s to the left, to the left…
Depicting all young women as lonely powerhouses killing time in silent desperation as they wait for scores of baby-men put down the Wii controller and fork over 2 months’ salary for a half carat stunner from Zales is a ghastly generalization only an older woman standing behind the Manhattan Institute could make without being laughed at.
“Masculinity crisis” is the cry of an alarmist.
And claiming that women have evolved as men have regressed is just a mortifying oversimplification.
But while Hymowitz’s picture of the modern guy falls flat and conveniently glosses over some ugly truths about young women, I don’t mean this to be a defense of men.
There’s room for improvement on both sides. Both genders could put their free time to better use. Both genders could use less escapism and more pursuits dedicated to intellectual development, social justice, community involvement. Young adults in this millennium are positively rolling in luxury: of free time, of personal possessions and dispositional arrogance. As a natural response to all of the above we are in transition, re-defining what it means to be an adult and re-writing the formula for happiness.
Clearly the formula needs tinkering.
Hymowitz’s most offensive phrase may be the shudder-inducing “reciprocal obligations”. Does she realize she’s speaking to the open source generation? The bisexual reality dating show generation? The no contracts, no enrollment fees generation?
I don’t want a man to be obligated to me.
And I don’t want to be obligated to a man, though I’m painfully aware tradition and popular culture expect me to want to.
‘Obligated’ is such a loaded term. It sounds like bondage, and indeed Hymowitz means it that way. She claims that men need to be legally forced to grow up. She says that marriage and kids are exactly the kind of weighty, unfun obligations a child-man needs in order to become a regular man. Assuming, as she does, the definition of man remains “provider”.
I don’t buy it.
If men “get the benefits of a wife without shouldering the reciprocal obligations of a husband”, then isn’t it axiomatic that women would enjoy some of the benefits of not being a wife?
I know I have. Big time.
Since it hasn’t proved itself to be a sustainable vehicle of commitment and devotion, and not in small part because it excludes a segment of our friends, marriage as an institution reeks of irrelevance to this generation.
As irrelevant as an aging researcher’s provocations on the mating habits of young men.