Monday, March 28, 2011

Signs of Male Coming of Age in The United States

As the American culture homogenized from a mixture of religious and ethnic backgrounds, certain things were lost.  One of these things is the right of passage into manhood for a young teen boy.  One of the most recognizable ones still remaining is the Bar Mitzvah in Jewish culture.   But around the world, the rites can vary greatly from the catholic confirmation to a young sapling being split down the middle and a young boy crossing through the split sapling to signify a rebirth into manhood.  So how exactly does one know they have crossed that boundary when there is a lack of formal recognition?  Below, I have listed a few of the informal means of reaching manhood.

  1. Changing your animated movie or adventure series printed sheets to a bland color.  This is a very intimate and personal decision.  I remember when I no longer had my Charlie Brown sheets. 
  2. Swapping printed undies for regular tighty whities.  This one actually comes in two parts as you trade in your tighty whities for boxers or boxer briefs.
  3. Trading in your transformer plate set for a regular one.  For years you fight with your siblings over who gets the printed cup or plate or spoon, but eventually you just get the cutlery and dishes of the proletariat.
  4. No longer playing “guns” w/ your friends.  This one is especially delicate because it is a more public acknowledgement of your decision.   If you have a group of 5 to 6 friends that you play this with, one or more may make the decision to cease this activity.  The depletion in the number of people to play “guns” could cause premature maturation in the remaining group.  Fortunately, a method was found to help minimize the impact of premature maturation, paintball.
  5. Combing your hair.  This one might hit a little early, but for the most part, when a kid actually spends a few seconds worrying about their hair, they are emerging from the sapling. 
  6. Shelving the toys.  Who hasn’t seen the sad plight of toys as depicted in the Toy Story movies.  For boys, the elimination of toy time comes much later than for most girls.   Toys are an outlet for a fertile imagination.  When you box them up, you have made the decision to choose practical matters over imagination.  However, because video game playing into adulthood has become an accepted activity, this can often blur the line of maturity for outside viewers, especially woman. 
  7. Watching sports.  As a child, you watch sports because that is what is on the TV, but once you hit that mature age, you begin to watch sports.  You watch them to get ideas on how to play them, but mostly you watch them because by the time you reach middle school, every male will have identified himself with a college and/or professional team.   They show their maturity by wearing their favorite teams clothing.  In fact, when this particular rite of passage is at its peak, it is possible that the young male may not even own any clothing tops or hats that don’t relate to a sport team.  The odd part of this rite of passage is that it works counter to the next rite of passage, which is an interest in woman.  Think about how attractive a young man dressed in  a KU hat, Royal’s sweatshirt, and Chiefs printed sweatpants must look to a young woman.  Usually this rite doesn’t end for many until after college.  This may explain why many woman prefer older men.
  8. Interest in the opposite sex.  When teasing turns to flirtation, enough said.
  9. **Update**I almost forgot the most important one.  You know you have reached that rite of passage when you would rather sleep in than wake up.  As a younger kid, parents fight to get the child to sleep longer so that the parent can sleep longer, but once they hit maturity, then the parent fights to get the child to wake-up on time.   There is never a happy medium. 

We may not have an actual ceremony, but if you cobble together all of these experiences, it is clear when you can say, I’m a man.  


Kansas Bob said...

I can relate to #4-9. Another rite of passage might be getting your driver's permit.

jrchaard said...

Yeah, I think that is a good one too, but I thought it might be a year or too further down the line than I was thinking.

Kansas Bob said...

I might be confusing coming of age and maturity. :0