When Do Men Grow Up-Part 2

Today I’m returning to the discussion on “when do men grow up?” which I began on Monday. I’ll be answering the question in a few different formats over the next week or two with the good the bad and the in-between from 40-something men and women alike. Today I’m digging into the good with Tom Matlack, co-founder of The Good Men Project, a cross media platform dedicated to fostering a nationwide discussion on modern manhood. The Good Men Project’s online magazine offers an alternative to traditional “lad” magazines – less male fantasy and more guys’ reality. They cover the issues men care about — from sex and fatherhood, to sports and politics, to health and values – with candor, humor and honesty.

“We let guys be guys, but we do it while challenging confining cultural notions of what a “real man” must be.”


Given the growth of the magazine since it launched in 2009, it seems there is definitely something in-between “sex-obsessed buffoon” and “stoic automaton” when it comes to the male species. Thank you.


A former venture capitalist and professed bad boy turned good…or perhaps more correctly put…a former confused guy trying to be a “man” to just a guy figuring out how to be a good father, son, husband, worker and man, Tom has some great insight for us on male myths and stereotypes.


A lot of people talk about men who don’t want (or seem able) to commit as “bad boys”.  The saying goes, “once a bad boy, always a bad boy” or “don’t think you can change them”. The latter is true, but don’t give up hope, they can change.


A few months back I asked Tom the question “do bad men ever turn good”. His answer – yes — as his touching and real reply reflects.


“I started a foundation to help at-risk boys, wrote a book and made a film documenting real men’s stories which inspired the online magazine. But I think we can all agree that as men the most pressing question is how to be good fathers, sons, husbands, workers and men. It turns out; the answer is not that simple.


I thought being a man was about fighting, winning, drinking, making money, getting laid, and being tough. Right? That’s certainly what I picked up along the way. And I did plenty of all of it. I played sports. I made money. I chased sex (although not very successfully). I drank. A lot. I flipped cars and punched holes through walls.


Lucky for me, I did manage to have two children by the time I was 30. I’d screwed up a lot of things in my life, but my babies were unquestionably mine. And they unquestionably saved me. Six years to the day after my last drink, I remarried. Elena and I had a son named Cole. I’ve been married now six years and sober 12.  Cole is now 6, Kerry is finishing 11th grade, and Seamus is 15.


So I’d have to say that “bad guys” can become good.”


So 20-something women, don’t try to change them, but don’t assume they can’t change themselves. Don’t hang around the drunk, fighter boy, but maybe you’ll meet the reformed fighter guy who still has a lot of good living to do and you’ll have a little more understanding for where he has been. Similarly ask yourself – how do you define a guy? Do you look for the aggressive guy? Think it’s romantic if he’s jealous? Do you fall for the bad guy or fall prey to stereotypes of men?


This brings us to the second point Tom had on when guys grow up – maybe when we stop expecting them to be the male slacker portrayed in the media.


In case you haven’t heard, men have been “De-Manned”. The new book “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys by Kay S. Hymowitz was published with a lot of press around the refusal of men to grow up.  According to the except in the Wall Street Journal article, “Where Have All the Good Men Gone?”, 20-something women can expect their male counterparts to “come across as aging frat boys, maladroit geeks, or grubby slackers.”


The article goes on to quote Hymowitz:


“Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men’s attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There’s nothing they have to do. They might as well just have another beer.”


It is these one-dimensional media portrayals of men that Tom rejects and believes can only exacerbate the problem the 20-something women seek an answer to. It’s just not that simple as he reflects below:


“All this stuff about 20 something guys being slackers is a bit problematic from my perspective (See my response to the WSJ piece with that headline: http://goodmenproject.com/good-feed-blog/how-the-wall-street-journal-is-spreading-negative-stereotypes-about-men/


I think gender roles for both men and women are changing rapidly and probably nowhere as much as in folks in their 20s.  It’s dangerous to generalize, as I have learned the hard way, about what men think and do.  I have seen via my 17-year old daughter that the mating culture is very different than it was when I was her age (even though I was such a loser I didn’t have a girlfriend until my sophomore year of college).


Here’s the good news for young women as far as I can tell. Young men are not bound by prior restrictions about what it means to be a man. They are more open to women being the successful ones.  They are more open to being domestic.  They are, on average, probably more sensitive than men were a generation ago.  But in all this newfound sensitivity and role reversal I think young men are pretty darned confused, in general. And of course they want to get laid.  Let’s be real.


So I have no crystal ball to help 20 something women find a guy who will commit, but I do think they are out there. I do think that given all this change, there are more options for women to find a man who suits their needs and desires. And in the end pointing a finger at the other gender and saying, “these guys/girls are all such losers” isn’t going to get anyone anywhere.  It’s a matter of deciding what you want and putting it out there and not settling for less, living your life, having fun, and being patient until the right thing comes along.


[Case in point] My daughter was disgusted with the hook-up culture in her high school where committed couples numbered in the single digits across a class of 300. She became an amazing actress, studied hard, made tons of friends…and met a really sweet young man who has been devoted to her for the last year.  He does things like sending her texts first thing every morning saying, “You are so beautiful and smart. I adore you”. I only know this because my wife tells me.  I am on the need to know basis when it comes to the boyfriend.


So in a nutshell, get clear about what you want, stop bashing the other gender as a whole indiscriminate mass of slackers, and enjoy your life until that guy comes along.  He will.


Hope that helps.


Thank you Tom!

So 20-something women: Don’t give up. Let him grow up. And once again, go have your own good time until you find your good man.


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