You have to have a heart of stone, not to feel vicarious joy at the sight of young love in bloom.
But you also have to have brain lock, not to feel some dismay at the incongruity of more and more him-and-her pairings we’re seeing these days.
Such was my "yes but” reaction to the twenty-something couple having pizza next to us at a neighborhood eatery the other night.
We’ll call them Brooke and Travis. She was vivacious, middling pretty, casually but carefully dressed and groomed for their little Sunday evening date. He was a big guy whom you might have called nice-looking if he had bothered about his appearance.
Only he hadn’t, not in the slightest. Jogging suit, unshaven for days, tattoo visible at the neck, ball cap on backwards, slouching in his chair — Travis not only didn’t look his age or look the part (of a man to take seriously), he appeared uncaring or unaware of what that might even mean.
Yet Brooke, his together girlfriend, was really into him, you could tell. Her body language and vocal inflections (of a conversation inaudible to us) bespoke, “This energizes me, I like you.”
And of course, why shouldn’t she? No reason in the world, especially since we all know you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Give Travis and Brooke this much: at least they were present with each other in the moment, talking as people used to do, not staring at their phone screens and eating in silence. His passivity and her in-chargeness were impossible to miss, though.
A typical enough contrast of the sexes, it’s true — but quite pronounced and (to my fatherly or grandfatherly eye) concerning as to their chances long term.
I went away wishing them only the best, yet musing on how often you tend to notice an apparently mismatched young couple like that one. What, if anything, does it mean?
What does Ms. With It see in Mr. Arrested Development, after all? Under the garb and demeanor of a perpetual dorm rat is there a protector and provider she can build her future on, a father to help her raise the kids and model for them (whether boy or girl) what manhood is? You have to wonder.
What was it I said a moment ago about “typical contrast of the sexes”? And just now about “what manhood is”? Think how commonplace those two phrases were in America a generation ago, and how problematic — to the point of politically verboten, to the point of fighting words — they are today.
The two (count’em, two) sexes anatomically identifiable when doctor holds up a newborn by its feet are now wished away and decreed oppressive by an army of culture commandoes who demand that we say “gender” not “sex” and that we genuflect to a dizzying array of 58 (count’em, fifty-eight) self-chosen gender options recognized by that secular church called Facebook.
As for saying what manhood is, don’t even try. We live under a dictatorship of relativism that can’t even say what “is” is. If Travis thinks John Wayne was a fascist brute and opts for the dorm rat look up to his 30th birthday and beyond, who are we to say him nay? Countless movies, magazines, and websites validate the guy. Purging campuses of “toxic masculinity” is this year’s fad in higher education.
The patriarchy is dead, after all, and largely unmourned. Brooke and Travis were both indoctrinated to that effect ever since kindergarten and clear through whatever college they attended. It permeates policies and attitudes in their workplace today. If they attend church, it’s probably pushed there too.
Maybe a big reason she’s so into her slouchy fella is that the together young woman of today doesn’t have all that many together young men to choose from. Our culture isn’t producing them the way it used to. So a Brooke is more likely to settle for a Travis, pickings being rather slim out there.
The problem isn’t new. Some of the seminal analysis was done over a decade ago, in fact. Terrence O. Moore, now of Hillsdale College, published through the Claremont Institute way back in 2004 his brilliant diagnosis of men-unmanned in a piece called "Wimps and Barbarians," and followed it up with his lament for the women-settling phenomenon in one called "Heather’s Compromise." Earlier, in 2000, Christina Hoff Sommers had indicted the educational malpractitioners in her courageous book, The War Against Boys.
There was an American religious sect called the Shakers that went literally extinct by failure to reproduce themselves. How tragic if America herself were led into a similar downward spiral by the unhinged gender zealots and the utopian delusions of millions who sip their Kool-Aid.
Alarmist? I don’t think so. Look at the data. Look at the trends. Fewer marriages and starting later. Falling birth rates. Soaring numbers of fatherless children. Tens of millions of men in their prime earning years, dropping out of the work force (see Charles Murray’s Coming Apart and Nicholas Eberstadt’s Men Without Work). Abortion and contraception exalted as a holy grail by progressive elites across the West. The government-dependent single mom “Julia” as a key to Obama’s 2012 reelection.
We need to understand that gender reinvention and gender antagonism are ground zero in the culture war for our civilization’s very survival. Right now the forces of insanity are winning that war.
It’s not Brooke and Travis’s fault. They’re doing the best they know how, but it’s not going to be good enough. For the recovery of sanity before it’s too late, politics, economics, ethics, and scholarship all have a part to play. But ultimately the answer lies in religion as expressed through true theology and true anthropology.
“So God created man in his own image,” we read. “Male and female created he them… and behold it was very good.” There, my young friends on your Sunday night pizza date, there is your identity and destiny. There is your fulfillment. There and there alone is your answer.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.