The One Thing Keeping Men Trapped In Perpetual Adolescence

"The one thing keeping us trapped in perpetual adolescence" makes for a catchy title, one that I hope will reliably cause readers such as yourself to click through. Welcome, and thank you for stopping in. I'm glad you found the title interesting, even if we both know it's a bit click-baity.

Better this title than what I was originally going to use: "Yet Another Post About What's Really Wrong With Millennials". It seems that's all the internet is about these days, millennials and how they suck ("we suck"? I'm a tweener). Let's face it, we all want to know, including millennials. We might object to the generalizations, and we can post all the infographics and memes and hilarious spoof articles about bad job markets, long wars, and worthless educations we want to, but no amount of statistical positioning can cure us of the conviction that something is desperately wrong in the Westmark of the world.

"Old Economy Steve" is everything
we hate about our parents' advice.
I'm going to lay it on the line and keep it simple, y'all. It may seem like I'm generalizing, when in fact I'll me zooming in with laser-like focus. Well, not quite laser-like. That would be simply saying "Y'all need Jesus." Because we do need Jesus.

Last week I was talking to a guy in his late fifties who was happily anticipating the wedding of his only son, a man in his mid-thirties. He even expressed hope that he might in a few years be a grandfather.

"Back in my day we just got together and started doing things." This man is no Christian paragon, by the way. He's not a Christian today, and he wasn't a Christian when he moved in with the mother of his child over thirty years ago. (When I found that out I made jokes about common law wives; I mean, come on.)

"First we had a tiny studio apartment, the size of a closet. We studied. Then we got a one-bedroom apartment, we started pulling things together, building a life. More stuff, bigger apartment. A career."

Brothers and sisters, circumstances are difficult for millennials, and millennials are difficult. But despite this, most millennials do in fact go get jobs. They also marry, if they're middle class, although they wait for a while longer than most Christians would find tolerable. Or they have children without marrying, if they're not middle class.
Demographers call it the second demographic transition. In societies like ours that exhibit lengthy economic prosperity, men and women alike begin to lose motivation to marry and have children, and thus avoid one or both. Pragmatically, however, the institution of marriage remains a foundational good for individuals and communities. It is by far the optimal context for child-rearing. Married people accumulate more wealth than people who are single or cohabiting. Marriage consolidates expenses—like food, child care, electricity, and gas—and over the life course drastically reduces the odds of becoming indigent or dependent on the state.  
It is, however, an institution under extreme duress in America. In the past 35 years, the number of independent female households in the U.S. has grown by 65 percent, while the share of independent male households has skyrocketed, leaping 120 percent. As a result, fewer than half of all American households today are made up of married couples.
So that's something you're not surprised about. There's a crisis in marriage today, people are not marrying and this leads to individual, family, and societal insecurity. The crisis is especially a problem with men, who continue to leave the house, but won't marry. Continuing from the article quoted above:
Another indicator of our shifting sentiment about the institution is the median age at first marriage, which has risen from 21 for women and 23 for men in 1970 to where it stands today: 26 for women and 28 for men, the highest figures since the Census Bureau started collecting data about it. That's five additional, long years of peak sexual interest and fertility. (And remember, those numbers are medians: for every man marrying at 22, there's one marrying for the first time at 34.) 
Evangelicals tend to marry slightly earlier than other Americans, but not by much. Many of them plan to marry in their mid-20s.Yet waiting for sex until then feels far too long to most of them. And I am suggesting that when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It's battling our Creator's reproductive designs. The data don't lie. Our sexual behavior patterns—the kind I documented in 2007 in Forbidden Fruit—give us away. Very few wait long for sex. Meanwhile, women's fertility is more or less fixed, yet Americans are increasingly ignoring it during their 20s, only to beg and pray to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s. 1
Y'all, marriage is a tool for building the right kind of environment, one to foster prosperity and security. But marriage is not the one thing that millennials need to make the transition out of adolescence.

Some people say that going to war will make you a man. I've never been to war, but I'm here to tell you that it doesn't. It's certainly an environment where a lot of people grow up, but if you've ever talked to a large sampling of veterans or read Generation Kill or Dispatches, you know that a lot of people come back more angrily adolescent than when they left.

So it is with marriage. Marriage maketh not the man. It is a crucible (YEA, VERILY, A CRUCIBLE!) which makes many blades stronger, but it has also been known to turn men even more deeply adolescent.

What's actually keeping millennials from flourishing, to use a popular word in parenting magazines today, is not enough being married with children.

According to Glamour magazine, one-third of Millennials say they never want to have children. Instead, they prefer to "construct their own personal paths to happiness".

The 11 Brutally Honest Reasons Why Millennials Don't Want Kids straight-facedly include such gems as not wanting to give kids your mental issues, not liking children, being "squicked out" by pregnancy and labor, not being programmed with maternal instincts, and children not fitting every lifestyle. People do get married, though. That's, like, normal.

And for more in-depth statistics on how millennials combine marriage and children, the Wall Street Journal tells us that, ultimately, more children will be born to millennials in wedlock than out. But barely.

It's not just our experience that teaches us that becoming a parent doesn't magically turn you into a responsible adult. Even MTV knows it; it's a commonplace. What on earth makes us think that if a child can't turn a man into an adult, a war or a wedding or a job could do it?

What makes a man an adult is doing what God made us to do: to give our lives up for others. And the way God has called most men to perform that task is to marry, make children, and work for his wife and kids until he dies. He is made to give his life for many. Planning out how to die to self and give life to others is tactically and strategically complex. It weighs a lot and it gives your life purpose. Charm is deceptive and perfect hair is fleeting, but a man who fears the Lord is to be praised. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who put their hope in the Lord shall mount up on wings as eagles.

Making a family and maintaining that family is what makes us men. And it is, to say it plainly, faithless to believe that we ought to wait until after we check off a certain number of prudent or pleasurable boxes off our life's list before making a family. It's what God made most of us to do. And when I say most, I'm excluding you from the exception, dear reader. You're supposed to make a family; you're not that special.

The sooner you understand that God has called you to a mundane but fulfilling life of simple and profound joy, the better for you (I could have put that more succinctly: a mundane life of joy). Get thee a willing Christian woman. Nearly any one will do, as long as you and she beg often for our Savior's own grace. Then get some children upon her.

Then we will be on our way to being men. Then the selfish platitudes of this generation, and the shades that haunt us, will take on their true meanings. Then we will know what it means to not be your job. Then you will be the all singing all dancing crap of the world.


  1. I don't see why staying celibate until your mid-twenties is "unreasonable". It is difficult. But what about being a Christian isn't? I don't see why celibacy is more "unreasonable" than being honest, self-controlled, kind, not self-serving, humble, forgiving and all the other things we're supposed to be. Christian behaviour is unreasonable. That's kind of the point. It's impossible. You need a whole lot of Jesus to even attempt it.

    Other than that. I keep reading these lists about how Millennials are not selfish and entitled. And every single reason on the list is basically driven by selfishness. Or the idea that you have to be the "perfect parent". The same thing with how Millennials try to explain that it's not entitlement that drives their desire to vote for Bernie. Every single item on their lists is entitlement.

    I wonder how these millennial attitudes will impact the next generation. Will there even be a next generation?

    1. I'm not a huge fan of Millennials, but I don't dislike them. I reserve my dislike for baby boomers. Except for my parents. And yours, of course.

      Christian behavior is indeed unreasonable. Buy on the other hand, you shall not tempt the Lord your God. I would not tell an individual what was right for them, but as a class, young males were made to go make babies, and are much less built for continence than young females.

      To go really ad hominem (ad mulierum?), and perhaps a little aggro (if so, forgive me), I have a hard time arguing the topic with females. It would like me telling women they shouldn't be afraid of childbirth (some are, some aren't) because God wants us to have children.

    2. That is fair. My husband has explained to me that celibacy is extremely difficult for young men. And it seems like it is indeed more difficult for your men than young women. I just think people give up and declare that it is impossible far too easily.

      I happen not to be afraid of childbirth. I've wanted to have babies since I was thirteen. I would have married 6 years ago if I had my way.

      I absolutely agree that men should marry early. "Having a career", and "getting established" and "seeing the world" are all terrible reasons to delay marriage. Secular sources back this up as well. Men live longer, do better at work, make more money and save more money when they are married. I've also observed that men are by and large terrible at taking reasonable care of themselves.

      Our RUF pastor aggressively promotes marriage amongst the male young 'uns. It seems to be working. It appears that the average age of marriage in our church is around 22.

    3. Oh, man, I laughed out loud when I came to the part about taking care of ourselves.

      You are, of course, correct.


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