The XX Factor

Gen Y Men Not as Commitment-Shy as “Marie Claire” Thinks

Via Tressugar , Marie Claire has a trend piece about how men in their 20s and 30s are afraid to commit to their go-getter, type-A girlfriends and wives. Superficially, this observation is not incorrect. The male mid-life crisis is not a new thing, as the article’s author, Lauren Iannotti, points out with references to Mad Men and Revolutionary Road . Iannotti gets some of the root causes of the generational commitment phobia right, saying “These guys are part of a cause-less generation. They didn’t grow up burning their draft cards or fighting the Nazis … They were spoiled as kids and now they want to spoil themselves as adults. The old cliché was that a man would wake up one morning and realize that he wanted his youth back. The new version is that he never reached adulthood in the first place.”

Certainly it is difficult for modern men to achieve adulthood when the script for adulthood is unwritten: With the recession in full swing, many don’t even have the job security that would make them feel like real grown-ups. But Iannotti gets it wrong when she says that Gen Y men want to be selfish adolescents for the rest of their lives. “This crew feels entitled to fun; sacrifice is not in their vocab,” she writes. That hasn’t been my observation at all. I think men in their 20s are desperate to grow up, to feel like men-they just have no idea how to accomplish this. They’re not intimidated by strong, successful women; they just want to be confident in their own lives and careers, too.

Iannotti also sets up successful wives and girlfriends as a stereotypical foil to these slacker guys, and it does women a real disservice. She finds the most obnoxious ladies around, like Dana, 30, who is the head of global marketing for a cosmetics company, and offers them up as if they were representative of many young women. Dana is married to an engineer-someone who sounds like neither a commitment-phobe nor a slacker. Dana says, “I have specific goals … My husband’s are more general. I’ll say, ‘We should buy a place in the suburbs within the next two years.’ And he’ll say, ‘Let’s take it as it comes.’ That’s when I freak out and start yelling, ‘But what’s the three-year plan?!’ ” Telling a woman like Dana to calm the hell down should not be construed as commitment phobia. It should be construed as good partnership.