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放大字体  缩小字体 发布日期:2011-03-22  来源:华尔街日报
核心提示:本文改编自凯•希莫维茨(Kay S. Hymowitz)的《重振雄风:女人的崛起如何将男人变成了男孩》(Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys),此书已由Basic Books出版社出版,出版日期是3月1日。

Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This 'pre-adulthood' has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated. But it's time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn't bring out the best in men.

'We are sick of hooking up with guys,' writes the comedian Julie Klausner, author of a touchingly funny 2010 book, 'I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters and Other Guys I've Dated.' What Ms. Klausner means by 'guys' is males who are not boys or men but something in between. 'Guys talk about 'Star Wars' like it's not a movie made for people half their age; a guy's idea of a perfect night is a hang around the PlayStation with his bandmates, or a trip to Vegas with his college friends.... They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home.' One female reviewer of Ms. Kausner's book wrote, 'I had to stop several times while reading and think: Wait, did I date this same guy?'

For most of us, the cultural habitat of pre-adulthood no longer seems noteworthy. After all, popular culture has been crowded with pre-adults for almost two decades. Hollywood started the affair in the early 1990s with movies like 'Singles,' 'Reality Bites,' 'Single White Female' and 'Swingers.' Television soon deepened the relationship, giving us the agreeable company of Monica, Joey, Rachel and Ross; Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer; Carrie, Miranda, et al.

But for all its familiarity, pre-adulthood represents a momentous sociological development. It's no exaggeration to say that having large numbers of single young men and women living independently, while also having enough disposable income to avoid ever messing up their kitchens, is something entirely new in human experience. Yes, at other points in Western history young people have waited well into their 20s to marry, and yes, office girls and bachelor lawyers have been working and finding amusement in cities for more than a century. But their numbers and their money supply were always relatively small. Today's pre-adults are a different matter. They are a major demographic event.

What also makes pre-adulthood something new is its radical reversal of the sexual hierarchy. Among pre-adults, women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers (among Americans ages 25 to 34, 34% of women now have a bachelor's degree but just 27% of men), and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends.

Still, for these women, one key question won't go away: Where have the good men gone? Their male peers often come across as aging frat boys, maladroit geeks or grubby slackers″a gender gap neatly crystallized by the director Judd Apatow in his hit 2007 movie 'Knocked Up.' The story's hero is 23-year-old Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), who has a drunken fling with Allison Scott (Katherine Heigl) and gets her pregnant. Ben lives in a Los Angeles crash pad with a group of grubby friends who spend their days playing videogames, smoking pot and unsuccessfully planning to launch a porn website. Allison, by contrast, is on her way up as a television reporter and lives in a neatly kept apartment with what appear to be clean sheets and towels. Once she decides to have the baby, she figures out what needs to be done and does it. Ben can only stumble his way toward being a responsible grownup.

So where did these pre-adults come from? You might assume that their appearance is a result of spoiled 24-year-olds trying to prolong the campus drinking and hook-up scene while exploiting the largesse of mom and dad. But the causes run deeper than that. Beginning in the 1980s, the economic advantage of higher education″the 'college premium'″began to increase dramatically. Between 1960 and 2000, the percentage of younger adults enrolled in college or graduate school more than doubled. In the 'knowledge economy,' good jobs go to those with degrees. And degrees take years.

Another factor in the lengthening of the road to adulthood is our increasingly labyrinthine labor market. The past decades' economic expansion and the digital revolution have transformed the high-end labor market into a fierce competition for the most stimulating, creative and glamorous jobs. Fields that attract ambitious young men and women often require years of moving between school and internships, between internships and jobs, laterally and horizontally between jobs, and between cities in the U.S. and abroad. The knowledge economy gives the educated young an unprecedented opportunity to think about work in personal terms. 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.

Pre-adulthood can be compared to adolescence, an idea invented in the mid-20th century as American teenagers were herded away from the fields and the workplace and into that new institution, the high school. For a long time, the poor and recent immigrants were not part of adolescent life; they went straight to work, since their families couldn't afford the lost labor and income. But the country had grown rich enough to carve out space and time to create a more highly educated citizenry and work force. Teenagers quickly became a marketing and cultural phenomenon. They also earned their own psychological profile. One of the most influential of the psychologists of adolescence was Erik Erikson, who described the stage as a 'moratorium,' a limbo between childhood and adulthood characterized by role confusion, emotional turmoil and identity conflict.

Like adolescents in the 20th century, today's pre-adults have been wait-listed for adulthood. Marketers and culture creators help to promote pre-adulthood as a lifestyle. And like adolescence, pre-adulthood is a class-based social phenomenon, reserved for the relatively well-to-do. Those who don't get a four-year college degree are not in a position to compete for the more satisfying jobs of the knowledge economy.

But pre-adults differ in one major respect from adolescents. They write their own biographies, and they do it from scratch. Sociologists use the term 'life script' to describe a particular society's ordering of life's large events and stages. Though such scripts vary across cultures, the archetypal plot is deeply rooted in our biological nature. The invention of adolescence did not change the large Roman numerals of the American script. Adults continued to be those who took over the primary tasks of the economy and culture. For women, the central task usually involved the day-to-day rearing of the next generation; for men, it involved protecting and providing for their wives and children. If you followed the script, you became an adult, a temporary custodian of the social order until your own old age and demise.

Unlike adolescents, however, pre-adults don't know what is supposed to come next. For them, marriage and parenthood come in many forms, or can be skipped altogether. In 1970, just 16% of Americans ages 25 to 29 had never been married; today that's true of an astonishing 55% of the age group. In the U.S., the mean age at first marriage has been climbing toward 30 (a point past which it has already gone in much of Europe). It is no wonder that so many young Americans suffer through a 'quarter-life crisis,' a period of depression and worry over their future.

Given the rigors of contemporary career-building, pre-adults who do marry and start families do so later than ever before in human history. Husbands, wives and children are a drag on the footloose life required for the early career track and identity search. Pre-adulthood has also confounded the primordial search for a mate. It has delayed a stable sense of identity, dramatically expanded the pool of possible spouses, mystified courtship routines and helped to throw into doubt the very meaning of marriage. In 1970, to cite just one of many numbers proving the point, nearly seven in 10 25-year-olds were married; by 2000, only one-third had reached that milestone.

American men have been struggling with finding an acceptable adult identity since at least the mid-19th century. We often hear about the miseries of women confined to the domestic sphere once men began to work in offices and factories away from home. But it seems that men didn't much like the arrangement either. They balked at the stuffy propriety of the bourgeois parlor, as they did later at the banal activities of the suburban living room. They turned to hobbies and adventures, like hunting and fishing. At midcentury, fathers who at first had refused to put down the money to buy those newfangled televisions changed their minds when the networks began broadcasting boxing matches and baseball games. The arrival of Playboy in the 1950s seemed like the ultimate protest against male domestication; think of the refusal implied by the magazine's title alone.

In his disregard for domestic life, the playboy was prologue for today's pre-adult male. Unlike the playboy with his jazz and art-filled pad, however, our boy rebel is a creature of the animal house. In the 1990s, Maxim, the rude, lewd and hugely popular 'lad' magazine arrived from England. Its philosophy and tone were so juvenile, so entirely undomesticated, that it made Playboy look like Camus.

At the same time, young men were tuning in to cable channels like Comedy Central, the Cartoon Network and Spike, whose shows reflected the adolescent male preferences of its targeted male audiences. They watched movies with overgrown boy actors like Steve Carell, Luke and Owen Wilson, Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Will Farrell and Seth Rogen, cheering their awesome car crashes, fart jokes, breast and crotch shots, beer pong competitions and other frat-boy pranks. Americans had always struck foreigners as youthful, even childlike, in their energy and optimism. But this was too much.

What explains this puerile shallowness? I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. It's been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles″fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity″are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.

Today's pre-adult male is like an actor in a drama in which he only knows what he shouldn't say. He has to compete in a fierce job market, but he can't act too bossy or self-confident. He should be sensitive but not paternalistic, smart but not cocky. To deepen his predicament, because he is single, his advisers and confidants are generally undomesticated guys just like him.

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.

Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven″and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men's attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There's nothing they have to do.

They might as well just have another beer.

Adapted from 'Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys' by Kay S. Hymowitz, to be published by Basic Books on March 1. Copyright © by Kay S. Hymowitz. Printed by arrangement with Basic Books.


喜剧作家茱莉•克劳斯纳(Julie Klausner)曾于2010年出版过一本感人至深的有趣书籍:《你的乐队我没兴趣:我约会过的独立摇滚乐手、信托投资人、色情作者、罪犯、善于识别假货的时尚人士以及其他一些傻冒带给我的教训》(I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters and Other Guys I've Dated)。她如是写道:我们已经烦透了跟“傻冒”腻在一起的日子。克劳斯纳所说的“傻冒”指的是这样一些男性,他们既不是男孩,也不是男人,而是一种介于两者之间的东西。一位女士在为克劳斯纳著作所写的书评中写道:傻冒们成天谈论《星球大战》(Star Wars),完全没意识到那部电影只适合年纪比他们小一半的人。傻冒们心目中的完美夜晚是跟自己乐队里的人一起玩游戏机,或者是跟大学时代的朋友一起去拉斯维加斯……他们更像是需要我们照料的小孩,却不像开车送我们回家的父辈。读这本书的时候,我不得不多次停下来思考:对啊,我以前不也跟这种人约会过吗?

对我们当中的大多数人来说,孳生半成年状态的文化生境已经不再是什么引人注目的东西。说到底,将近二十年以来,流行文化当中一直都挤满了各式各样的“半成人”。上世纪九十年代早期,好莱坞用《单身贵族》(Singles)、《四个毕业生》(Reality Bites)、《叠影狂花》(Single White Female)和《全职浪子》(Swingers)之类的电影为这股风气开了先河。不久之后,电视也赶来推波助澜,为我们提供了一系列可爱的半成人组合:莫妮卡(Monica)、乔伊(Joey)、瑞秋(Rachel)和罗斯(Ross)(《老友记》);杰瑞(Jerry)、爱琳(Elaine)、乔治(George)和克拉默(Kramer)(《宋飞传》);以及卡莉(Carrie)、米兰达(Miranda)(《欲望都市》),等等等等。



尽管如此,对这些女人来说,一个关键的问题却始终挥之不去:好男人都上哪儿去了呢?她们的男性同龄人往往是些长不大的老学生、笨头笨脑的怪物或者肮脏邋遢的懒鬼──这样的性别鸿沟在导演贾德•阿帕图(Judd Apatow)2007年的影片《好孕临门》(Knocked Up)当中得到了完美的呈现。影片的男主角是23岁的本•斯通(Ben Stone),由塞斯•罗根(Seth Rogen)饰演。有一次喝醉酒之后,本和凯萨琳•海格尔(Katherine Heigl)饰演的爱丽森•斯科特(Allison Scott)上了床,后者由此怀孕。本和一群穷酸邋遢的朋友一起住在洛杉矶的一个临时居所里,每天只知道打游戏和吸大麻,想办个色情网站也没成功。与他相反,爱丽森是一个正在蹿红的电视记者,住的是一套整洁的公寓,屋里的床单和毛巾看着也挺干净。决定留下肚里的孩子之后,她马上做好了所有的筹划,随后便付诸实施。本却只能跌跌撞撞地一路前行,努力变成一个有所担当的成年人。

一场宿醉使尚未成熟的Ben Stone(塞斯•罗根(Seth Rogen)饰演)成为了一个孩子的父亲,他决定一定要逐渐成长起来。



半成人阶段跟青春期有几分相似,后者是二十世纪中期才有的一个概念,那时候,美国那些十多岁的少年被人从田野和工厂里赶进了一个新兴的机构──高中。在很长一段时间之内,穷人和新移民都没有什么青春期生活,因为他们的家庭承担不起劳动力和收入的损失,他们就只好跳过青春期、直接走上工作岗位。不过,美国渐渐地富了起来,由此就有了空间和时间上的余裕,可以打造教育程度更高的市民阶层和劳动力大军。很快,十几岁的少年就成了一个商业上和文化上的明星群体,还获得了一张专属于自己的心理分析报告。青春期心理权威之一埃里克•埃里克森(Erik Erikson)将这个时期形容为一次“暂停”,亦即童年和成年之间的一个过渡时期,以角色混淆、情感混乱和身份冲突为特征。







与《Maxim》的到来同时,年青男人纷纷转向“喜剧中心”(Comedy Central)、“卡通网路”(Cartoon Network)和Spike之类的有线电视频道。这些频道以男性为目标受众,由节目内容可知,受众的口味都还停留在青春期。他们爱看斯蒂夫•卡瑞尔(Steve Carell)、卢克•威尔逊(Luke Wilson)、欧文•威尔逊(Owen Wilson)、金•凯利(Jim Carrey)、亚当•桑德勒(Adam Sandler)、威尔•法雷尔(Will Farrell)和塞斯•罗根等“老男孩”出演的电影,为他们那些妙不可言的汽车碰撞、下流笑话、胸胯特写以及喝啤酒比赛之类的男童恶作剧而欢呼。在以前,美国人的活力和乐天精神总是会给外国人留下朝气蓬勃乃至天真幼稚的印象。不过,发展到这个地步就有点儿太过分了。







──改编自凯•希莫维茨(Kay S. Hymowitz)的《重振雄风:女人的崛起如何将男人变成了男孩》(Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys),此书已由Basic Books出版社出版,出版日期是3月1日。


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