Friday, February 1, 2008

What's the female opposite of a mensch?

Last week I wrote about the City Journal. A publication I recently discovered and very much enjoy. But this article, on what David Brooks labeled the "Oddesy Years," is so devoid of a reasoned argument that I had to devote a post to it.

First, I reject the premise that there is something wrong with people in their 20’s waiting to get married and settle down. For our entire youth we’ve heard about 50 percent of all marriages ending in divorce. I think I remember that statistic with more clarity than any other I heard growing up. The 26 year-old in 1965 the article mentions is now twice divorced and has been paying alimony for the last 30 years. To purport that we should blindly follow the paths our parents blazed to broken homes and visitation rights is ridiculous and moronic.

Second, this paragraph: But while we grapple with the name, it’s time to state what is now obvious to legions of frustrated young women: the limbo doesn’t bring out the best in young men. With women, you could argue that adulthood is in fact emergent. Single women in their twenties and early thirties are joining an international New Girl Order, hyperachieving in both school and an increasingly female-friendly workplace, while packing leisure hours with shopping, traveling, and dining with friends [see “The New Girl Order,” Autumn 2007]. Single Young Males, or SYMs, by contrast, often seem to hang out in a playground of drinking, hooking up, playing Halo 3, and, in many cases, underachieving. With them, adulthood looks as though it’s receding.

So women in their twenties and early thirties are shopping? That is so adult of them – and so revolutionary, they must be the first generation of women to shop. They dine with friends? Nothing says adult like eating with friends.

As for her assertion that 20 something men “hang out in a playground of drinking, hooking up playing Halo 3 and, in many cases, underachieving” it’s difficult to argue against as she has provided no “facts” or “statistics” from which to examine. Although according to her characterization of the prototypical SYM in the second paragraph, he’s finished college, of which only 29% of the male population over the age of 25 has, and (according to the 7th paragraph) he makes an average of $60,000 a year, $12,000 more than the average household income in the US. Hardly an “underachiever” by any unbiased metrics. In fact, the only area where he seems to underachieve is in the mind of Ms. Hymowitz who likely has a daughter (who shops and has dinner with friends) that just had her dreams of a $75,000 wedding dashed by a “mensch” tired of her nagging and horrified of his potential mother-in-law.

Also, it is curious to think of who these SYMs are hooking up with, certainly not the shopping adults previously mentioned.

And Third, Ms. Hymowitz makes an argument that SYMs are not interested in settling down by using a series of references to pop culture and celebrities (yes, of course Sex and the City gets a mention). Perhaps she’s onto something here, I know that I am invariably turned off when I see a woman reading gossip magazines or discussing vapid programming. But I’m not sure if she meant it that way.

One last note on this article, in this sentence: the Frat Packers are the child-man counterparts to the more conventional leads, like George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

Why does Clooney get a pass? Isn’t he the eternal child-man according to her definition? And Pitt’s been divorced for fucks sake.

Maybe it's not such a good idea to judge "manliness" by a willingness to get married and have children.

Maybe there is a reason the word settle is so prominently involved in the term settle down.

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