Friday, November 19, 2010

The Phenomenon of the Manhattan Man-Boy

Recently, I had a female client come to me who is truly gorgeous, stylish, smart and serious about meeting the “One.” She is a woman - poised, mature and elegant – and, as she explained, she is looking to meet A MAN. Someone who is, among other things, mature, sexy, confident, unfailingly responsible, an adult also looking to meet an adult.

Looking for a MAN ... in NYC ... the land of Peter Pan. Sorry, guys, but you know where this is going …

Beautiful, intelligent, quality women are constantly asking me where the real men are in Manhattan (to clarify, real single men). Not frat boys, not commitment-phobes, not men who have dated for twenty years but still don’t know the first thing about how to interact with a woman (God, the stories I have heard about dates with seemingly normal guys!). Are they in Manhattan? Or are all they all in the suburbs divorced with kids?
Guys, you must know that most stunning, elegant and successful women are looking to date men, not boys. So, when a guy in an effort to date a woman:

1) shows up on a date already buzzed from partying with his friends; or
2) talks about how hung over he is ... from last week; or
3) invites her out on a first or second date with all his buddies; or
4) uses offensive locker room language with a female he just met

he advertises upfront that while he may use the Men's bathroom, this person is far from the MAN she is seeking.

Now please don't get me wrong, guys, I'm not saying you need to be a boring stodge. The guy whose predominate character is that of a MAN let's say 80% of the time but every so often likes to watch an adolescent flick, enjoys going crazy over his fantasy football picks or looks forward to occasionally hanging out with his posse and having a few too many drinks is NOT who I am addressing here. I know a good number of quality men in NYC who enjoy the foregoing and who are indeed MEN and are very good catches (many are my clients). No, what I am talking about here is the man-child. Whose breakdown is the inverse - 20:80 in favor of the child.

So, my new client’s comments got me thinking about why, here in this fantastic city of ours, a 40 year old man is often the equivalent of a 25 year old everywhere else in the country. What about living in Manhattan stunts many men’s emotional growth? What are the qualities that even make a male “a man” - is it gauged by his technical years on this planet or a level of being that is evolved, emotionally mature and stable?

According to the Jewish faith, a boy becomes a man at 13 – hence the bar mitzvah. But if anyone were to look at a scrawny, pimply, seventh grader awkwardly trying to ask his crush on a date, it’s pretty evident that the being before you is most definitely male but clearly not yet a man. You might think by 21 when a “guy” has certain adult rights – he can finally drive, vote, carry a gun and legally purchase alcohol – he might be a “man.” However, a visit to any college frat house on a Saturday night will assure you that the being with the x chromosome shotgunning a beer in his underwear is closer in his maturity level to his high school brethren than a man bringing home the bacon.

Similarly, according to conventional wisdom, you might expect that when a guy gets out of college, dons a suit and starts being trusted with a certain level of responsibility that you will see a noticeable development in the trajectory of manhood. Yet, in NYC, you have many males who have met some objective criteria of manhood – 30th birthday, 40th birthday, etc., making partner at their law firm or managing director at their bank – and yet you can catch them on any (and every) given weekend getting wasted, possibly doing the worm on the bar floor, playing beer pong, hooking up with random girls, incapable of having a committed relationship, acting completely inappropriately on dates and going home to a rental apartment with no pictures on the wall and crappy furniture (to avoid any confusion, a man-boy can own his apartment and still be a man-boy - the failure to purchase anything is simply a possible indication that this person does not want the responsibility or commitment that comes with owning anything. It also may be a smart financial decision to rent. The totality of his lifestyle and actions is what we are talking about here).

These guys outwardly look like “men” – they might have some wrinkles, possibly some grey hairs on their head and elsewhere (... I am talking about their chests, please!) – but inside their maturity level is virtually on par with the 22 year old doing keg stands on fraternity row. In fact, they watch and laugh at the same juvenile movies as the 13 year old who laughs at fart humor, play the same video games as the 15 year old whose mom still does his laundry and go to the same nightspots and try to pick up the same women as the 23 year old who the year prior was calling these guys “sir” on their interviews.

What’s behind this stunt in many NYC men’s emotional maturity? Why, might you ask, are some 42 year olds in NY often living the same life as a 22 year old? Elsewhere in the country, nay the world, a guy in his 30s or 40s would have some responsibility for something – a house, a kid, a dog … a fish. Something or someone they have to look after other than themselves. I'm not saying you have to have a bunch of kids and a white picket fence to be a MAN. But for these Manhattan man-boys their own satisfaction has been their sole focus since birth and adding to their stunted development is the fact that their lives are almost exactly the same as they were in 1995 (except they have potentially upgraded their neighborhood, they can indulge in more expensive toys and can treat themselves to better vacations). Otherwise, NOTHING IN THEIR LIVES HAS CHANGED, including their maturity level.

What’s behind this phenomenon? I am sure a little bit of research in some psychology journals would come up with a whole host of answers on how we are evolving. Clearly, the landscape has changed since two thousand years ago when boys “became men” at 13 (it made sense then – people lived until 40 and so a midlife crisis came at 25). The world is also a very different place even since the 60s or 70s when our fathers became men in their 20s, getting married and having a complete family by 30. We live longer, we postpone responsibility longer and we have a sense of entitlement that none of the previous generations have had. We now have drugs like Viagra and Botox (yes, even the men) to postpone age/aging even more. It’s interesting to contemplate … if we are pushing the age of men’s maturity back every decade, in 50 or 100 years will a guy have to hit 70 before he's too old to be doing keg stands?

While some women may go on a few dates with the man-boy, many quality women will write him off quickly once they see signs that he is offering the role of a playmate not partner. Without a doubt, that guy that demonstrates on a date (1) that he takes care of himself (e.g. instead of talking about how he was out until 4am the night before, he talks about how he loves to cook and tries to buy organic), (2) that he can add value to another person's life (e.g. instead of talking about the fact that he couldn't commit to his "psycho" ex-girlfriend of 5 years, he talks about how he frequently helps his mother with projects around his parents' house - I mean, what woman doesn't find a guy who can build/fix things sexy?!) and (3) that he knows how to be a gentleman (e.g. instead of saying goodbye at the restaurant door, puts his date into a cab or walks her to the subway showing concern for her safety) is the guy who is going to attract the gorgeous, sexy and smart woman who has got her stuff together.

And a guy who's a MAN in every good sense of the word but can still show a boyish playfulness and charm when appropriate - now that's the guy to be. If you know one, please feel free to send him my way - I know a few hundred women who would love to meet him!

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