About Those Apatow Man-Boys, Again

Yet another writer wants to tell us, unequivocally, that twenty-something men are "stunted"

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Are you a well-adjusted 20-something guy who's reasonably ambitious and showers regularly? The media would like to talk to you. They are not sure you exist.

The "stunted, twenty-something male" meme has been old for a while now. There are at least half a dozen Judd Apatow movies portraying the stereotype. A six-year-old Time magazine feature once described the current generation of young men as "these twentysomething Peter Pans." Last year, a Newsweek cover story urged floundering males to "Man Up!" by embracing the changing workforce or be left behind. And a 2010 Atlantic cover debated at length question of whether "the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men."

The latest to opine about plight of these Apatow-style pre-adults is Kay S. Hymowitz, who pens a Wall Street Journal essay noting that all the "good" twenty-something men have disappeared--replaced by "frat boys, maladroit geeks or grubby slackers." Thankfully, Hymowitz acknowledges that the idea of an emerging pre-adulthood has been pondered for decades but nevertheless argues that this demographic has ballooned recently. Why? She points (partially) toward the "knowledge economy" displacing these slacking "boy rebels": 

They are looking not just for jobs but for "careers," work in which they can exercise their talents and express their deepest passions. They expect their careers to give shape to their identity. For today's pre-adults, "what you do" is almost synonymous with "who you are," and starting a family is seldom part of the picture.
...Single men have never been civilization's most responsible actors; they continue to be more troubled and less successful than men who deliberately choose to become husbands and fathers. So we can be disgusted if some of them continue to live in rooms decorated with "Star Wars" posters and crushed beer cans and to treat women like disposable estrogen toys, but we shouldn't be surprised.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.