Saturday, September 20, 2008

Manlychildishness--a guy thing

Being a guy for all my life has been mostly fun, but a struggle at times. I work very hard and at work, I try to be as effective at solving problems (and helping people) as I can be. But when I am off from work, which isn't often, I want to enter more of a responsibility-free child-like state. Some men spend more time in this child-like state, and pose some difficulty for the women in their lives.

An intriguing new book examines how guyhood got that way. "Men to Boys," by Gary Cross, a "cultural historian" at Penn State, examines the gradual devolution of manhood over three generations. It goes from the lingering Victorian ideals of masculinity and self-restraint, being a gentleman and "measured deference to female culture at home" in the 1940s, 50s, and early 60s (seen currently on the TV series "Mad Men") to the comic outlandishness of radio host Howard Stern and ex-basketball player Dennis Rodman-- and then tells us what it means. The patron saint of manhood has morphed from Cary Grant (mature, decisive, and manly) to Hugh Grant (less mature, indecisive, and ambiguous), and we have left behind the Victorian patriarch without finding a good substitute.

In the Wall Street Journal's words, Mr. Cross's takes us on a "thoughtful journey through the male-strom of modern masculinity." Their review of the book is at the following web address:

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