The Brazen Word

My father often reminds me of a story from his high school days to keep my sometimes-sophomoric opinions at bay. One of his teachers, a priest, told my dad’s class to “keep your mouth shut and don’t voice an opinion until you’re 21.” As a 21 year old, I take offense to that. I realize now, at my young age, that you aren’t ready to form well-developed opinions until you’re at least 28 or 30.

By my accounts, I consider myself a boy, not a man. A man is someone who has to shave more often than once every three days. A man is not someone that lives with two guys in an apartment that sometimes resembles a pigpen more than a home. A man is someone with a house of his own or a career or a family, or is at least old enough to have one of the above.

I’m not a man. I don’t give myself that much credit.

Being that I am a boy, an immature, self-involved English student that spends hours a day on little outside of his own affairs and gets scolded for not calling his mother as often as she’d like, I took notice when Esquire magazine recently published an article entitled “The Problem with Boys.”

I love Esquire. It’s a fun, intelligent magazine with some great stories, solid writing, and layout ideas I often take note of when putting The Torch together. In its July issue, Tom Chiarella, a man, unearths some shocking statistics about us boys.
According to recent studies, five times as many 15-to-twenty-24-year-old boys commit suicide as girls of the same age. Two times as many 18-to-29-year-old males abuse alcohol as do females of the same age. Ninety-five percent of state and federal prisoners under the age of twenty-five are male. Forty-two men for every 58 women go to college. When it comes to schooling and behavior statistics, girls are way ahead of the gender curve.

The statistics don’t seem to add up. Why do boys, with their alcohol binges and below-average grades, continue to out-earn women in the workplace? Perhaps there continues to be a worldwide epidemic of chauvinism rampant in all facets of everyday life, but that’s not what I’m interested in. When a woman is the Editor in Chief of The Torch, she can write that column.

What fascinates me about this issue is the gap between the boys and the men. Some switch or something must go off at some point in a male’s life that transforms him from a boy to a man.

When I think of older boys (like myself) and how immature and irresponsible they can be, I often think of a friend of mine who I’ll call “Matt.” Matt attends Loyola College in Maryland. Despite numerous housing and behavioral violations that would earn Matt expulsion from St. John’s, Matt continues to reside on the scenic Loyola campus in downtown Maryland. When Matt isn’t battling this morning’s hangover with today’s buzz, he often finds time to drag himself to finance class. On the weekends, Matt goes bar hopping, seeking the attention of countless women and throwing large sums of money at bar covers and mixed drinks. Matt lives in a fantasy bubble where egotism and arrogance aren’t just common, they’re en vogue.

Now am I to think that Matt, considered by many to be an upstanding 21-year-old “young man”, is responsible and focused enough to have a wife, 3.5 kids, and a career?
[He isn’t a young man, rather, he’s an old boy.]

I often wonder when Matt, or countless other college students, hit a wall where the party is over and adulthood begins.
So Matt’s behavior and the Esquire article on boys got me thinking about life and gender. When a boy acts up, as Chiarella explains, it’s attributed to “boys being boys.” But when a girl misbehaves, is out too late, or fails a test, it’s ugly. There’s something crude and unattractive about it, which is just the opposite case for boys.

Chiarella attributes the misbehavior of today’s boys to poor guidance from today’s men. As an elder boy, I think it’s important that boys everywhere start becoming a little more accountable and responsible. Why, you may ask?
Think about it this way. When you start to expose prejudicial stereotypes, you get the following: blacks are criminals, Jews are cheap, Catholics are anti-Semitic, Italians are guidos, Irishmen are drunkards, Poles are idiots, the list goes on (I don’t want any phone calls from Italians or Catholics, as I belong to both groups. The rest are free set fire to my office this Wednesday).

Think in 20, 30 years from now when people start saying “boys are dumber than girls.” We owe it to our sons, and to ourselves for the headaches we’ll experience from our sons, to start to catch up to the girls.

It’s time for us boys to begin our conversion into manhood before the women pass us by.