THE WOMEN ARE IRATE. The women are talking about men, young men, the men they’d like to date and marry, and are they ever pissed. Here’s what they’re saying:
“All they want is sex. They don’t care about relationships.”
“They’re so lazy.”
“All they do is play video games.”
“They aren’t men. They’re boys.”
The women are a little bewildered. They’re good girls. They followed the script: did well in high school, got into college, worked hard there, got out, got jobs, started looking around for someone special to share life with, and …
“I met a guy the other night. Good-looking, smart. Twenty-eight years old. He still lives at home. With his mom.” Young men are now nearly twice as likely as young women to live with their parents; 59 percent of guys ages 18 to 24 and 19 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds live at home. Based on those Census Bureau stats, 64,000 young Philly men have returned to or never left the nest—and they all have mothers, ex-girlfriends, grandmothers, dads and other friends and relations worrying about their plight.
The women know what everybody’s saying: It’s the economy, stupid. Young men have been whacked particularly hard in this “mancession.” The statistics are scary: From 1960 to 2009, the number of working-age men with full-time jobs fell from 83 percent to 66 percent. In Philadelphia, half of all young adults are unemployed. But three in 10 young men ages 25 to 34 had stopped looking for work before the recession hit. So it’s not just the economy. There’s something more at play.
Sociologists cite five “markers” or “milestones” that have traditionally defined our notion of adulthood: finishing school, moving away from the parental home, becoming financially independent, getting married, and having a child. In 1960, 65 percent of men had ticked off all five by age 30; by 2000, only a third had. The experts have plenty of explanations for what’s come to be called “extended adolescence” or “emerging adulthood”—or what New York Times columnist David Brooks calls the “Odyssey Years.” They blame helicopter parents, the burden of student loan debt, much higher poverty rates among young people (nearly half of all Americans ages 25 to 34 live below the national level), and a dearth of vo-tech training and manufacturing jobs. Almost 60 percent of parents are now giving money to their grown kids—an average of $38,340 per child in the years between ages 18 and 34. Whatever happened to the son looking after his mom?
But those are the grousings of an older generation. We’ve always complained that those following after us are shiftless, goal-less, unmotivated. Remember walking 10 miles to school, uphill both ways? What’s different now is that half of one generation is complaining about the other half.
“The majority of the guys my age that I meet are immature,” says Jessica Claremon, a blunt, outspoken 24-year-old who grew up in Fort Washington and now lives in New York City, where she works for Nickelodeon. “I would never call them ‘men.’” Bruno Mars seems to have articulated an entire gender’s worldview in last summer’s hit “The Lazy Song”:
Today I don’t feel like doing anything
I just wanna lay in my bed
Don’t feel like picking up my phone
So leave a message at the tone
’Cause today I swear I’m not doing anything
Why has doing anything become so difficult for today’s young men?