Not only do I not have a problem with Man-Children, but I think I might be one.
Cultural criticism trend pieces have become absurd. Many of these pieces, like Alex Williams's "The End of Courtship" and Hannah Rosin's "The End Of Men," are fun attempts by non-millenials to expectorate their distaste for "kids these days." In a new article published in The New Inquiry, Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern (a web search delightfully reveals that Moira herself was featured in a NYT trend piece in 2011) take the blustering cultural critics to task by insisting that, when it comes to sex and gender, the issue isn't with consumption-obsessed women, but with Judd Apatow-style men. "[The Man-Child] adopts a playful pose that prevents real Young-Girls [and] Grown Women…from calling them out….Mancession Lit portrays the Man-Child as pitiful, contrasting him with women who are well-adjusted and adult."
They also continue on to explain that, like the "Young-Girl" archetype to which "Man-Child" lends parity, anyone — even the vagina'd among us — can be a Man-Child. Hannah Horvarth is what Weigel and Ahern call "isomorphic with the dick joke."
I love dick jokes. Not only do I not have a problem with Man-Children, but I think I might be one. Here's my defense of the Man-Child.
1. Body humor is always funny.
Sometimes, when I'm particularly bored, I re-watch that maligned "We Saw Your Boobs" Seth MacFarlane Oscars skit. I don't really get why having or seeing tits is something we should act weird about. When I only occasionally get to see A-list celebrity boobs, I get excited about their appearances. Can't I have a song acknowledging that they're usually hidden from me? That Oscars song struck me as a good thing for the world: it made me LOL and I got to question the conventions around nudity in Hollywood. Similarly, I really dig absurdist T shirts with butt jokes on them. Recently I stayed up all night curating Zazzle Ts: what would life be like without buttholes they wonder. Or, butts is just where legs start. Note the failure to capitalize any letters or change the font from Times Roman– classic Man-Child. I'm buying one.
2. I say offensive things I don't endorse, and it's okay, because it's the thought that counts.
A disclaimer– your precise diction matters when you're a public figure and you say something racist/sexist/homophobic. But in most situations, especially when you're speaking one-on-one, the rules are a little different. It's healthy to be able to say things you don't endorse. In fact, not committing or taking a stand is essential to the outlook of the Man-Child as outlined in Weigel and Ahern's article. Just like there isn't only one capital T Truth, we never have only one feeling. Sometimes I say things for their performative value; it helps me determine which version of my feelings I actually want to adopt.
For example, I met my friend Kristof at a barista training session. I had attended a queer party the night before (I'm bi) and I didn't particularly enjoy it. The next morning at the training session I ran into someone I had seen the night before. He asked me what I thought of it and I (dishonestly) told him that I didn't enjoy it because "I hate gay people." At the time, I thought that was funny, particularly coming from me. He was visibly and understandably offended, so I course-corrected by proclaiming that I also "hate straight people." That's when Kristof walked in. Today he's one of my best friends and this anecdote has become cliche dinner party fodder, but he steered clear of me for a couple weeks after he heard me deride the vast majority of the human population.
I never got too freaked out about freaking him out because I knew that my intentions were good. I also knew that part of me really does hate queer culture, just like a large part of me loves queer culture. The same thing goes for straight culture. As long as you spread the offensiveness equally, you're okay.
3. I'm not even sure I stand by this essay.
Like all Man-Children, I'm incapable of making a firm decision. I've never voted in any election and I don't want kids because I'm not sure I want more of me (or people influenced by me) in the world. I'm a total pussy politically, professionally, and personally. Unless I'm drunk and dancing I have very little game and I usually let the other person make the first move. Once, I successfully engineered a flawless walk-on-the-beach/ midnight dinner/3AM movie combo with a guy I liked but I never hooked up with him because I fell asleep (perhaps willfully). You might call this cowardice; I add to that list curiosity and openness.
4. I'm not wearing pants right now.