The myth of the male child

A friend gives me an insider tour of Atwater Village in LA. As with eye contact through a bar, it is possible to see a neighborhood for a brief and fair moment. know. Bungalows of craftsmen, omakase chefs with smileless excellence, a backdrop of mountains a la Santiago: in a few hours, I organize a month-long Airbnb here. I’ll see which Southern California enclave I like after this. There is a magazine subscription to forward, a few bags to lug around, but no spouse or child to inform, let alone square.

This life without ties is not for everyone, not even for a large minority. Yes, fathers tend to squeeze in and inquire about the path not taken. But let’s put it down to curiosity, let’s not regret it. One clue to the public’s real thoughts on celibacy is the lack of it in elected office. Lately, the maneuvers of Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris have rekindled the question of whether the United States will ever wear a gay or a female president. I bet we’ll see at least one of each before the next bachelor. Britain in the 1970s elected Ted Heath, that’s right, but with the tacit agreement that he wasn’t doing much with all that private freedom.

This exclusion from high office is undoubtedly a dodged bullet. The gently mocking films (both versions of Alfie, for example) also do not leave deep bruises. But it all hinges on the premise that singles are case studies in arrested development. To see the friends who remained single until their thirties, it is a trope less and less credible. What emerges from them is not so much their frivolity as their austere opposite.

The most mature conversations I have are with those without children. They read more, hang out more, travel more, and (for lack of mental distraction, I insist, no higher intellect) notice more. If you tend to like this column, know that half of the ideas come from these supposed gimmicks. The idea of ​​us helping each other and swapping obscene stories in front of Leeds for Arsenal is a slander from Nick Hornby.

In fact, in manners and demeanor, singles often have more in common with the old maid cliché. It’s decorum, almost a formality, born out of the aversion to smells, stains and the general hustle and bustle of a house full of children. Against the term “man-child”, each one I have in mind seems older than the age of their passport. This phrase seems to fit better with rounded shoulders and overly washed out T-shirts, not to mention scatological anecdotes, fatherhood.

The mistake is to think that Eros is what keeps people single. More often than not, it is the promise of maximum control over their life (including, more often than not, the option of loneliness). I know with some precision the list of cities in which I want to spend the rest of this decade, and in what order. No one with dependents could be so mobile or so cavalierly strategic. Whatever part of me is exercising here, it is not the id. Indeed, it would only take a moment’s reflection to see that many single people have already accomplished an act of discipline. There is no greater feat of self-control than walking away from a happy romance because it hinders other calls in life.

The accusation of self-esteem is more correct. If anything, those who do don’t know how true it is, or why. If you rarely have to do anything that doesn’t exactly reflect your current desires – no lessons at school, no cooking – you become less and less tolerant of such claims on your time. . And so, reversing the usual order of things, I’m more selfish at 39 than at 24. At 50, I will even consider the decennial census as an imposition.

But self-esteem is not the same as stupidity. Selfishness is not the same as immaturity. The misconception of celibacy (“Oh, you boys”) does not allow this often to be an offer for a more, no less serious life. Even the glorification of it by the married but curious misses the point. Our horizons widen as our commitments narrow.

Email Janan at [email protected]

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