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Is That It, the Men are Listless and We’re Perfect?

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Recently I found “Attack of the Listless Lads” in Salon.com

“Passionless and confused, they swim torpidly about in the dating pool, driving me and my single girlfriends to despair,” writes Rebecca Traister. So she asked Benjamin Kunkel, author of the hot new novel Indecision to explain to what’s wrong with young American men.

Of course, the Harvard-educated 32-year old author of a bestselling novel isn’t exactly the most authoritarian source on slacker values. But he does have a point. Namely, that today’s American males are listless and aimless — while the women that chase them are powerful and together. And yet these super women expect men to somehow complete them.

Rebecca’s words chillingly remind me of some of the men I’ve dated in Silicon Valley. They roll out of bed at 11 am and pad over to the computer to hack for a few hours, pull in just enough money to buy a season lift ticket, and have absolutely no responsibility to anybody. Weekends are spent under the spell of halucinogens at raves and parties, putting up a brave false front in the hope of luring women into their eerily-unfurnished, high-rent apartments. Their medicine cabinets and bedside tables are laden with bottles of Paxil, Valium, Prozac or muscle relaxants that have been prescribed for their backpains, depression, asthma and imaginary ailments. And I’m talking about men in their forties here. She’s talking about men a decade younger.

Rebecca writes:

“For some time now I have been anxious to let loose on the sorry state of the young male population of this country…the men I meet are not the rakish, workaholic, cheating cads of yore. No, I’m bearing witness to a bona fide crisis in American masculinity, one that seems especially, but not exclusively, to afflict the young, urban and privileged. And with it, I have observed the birth of a new breed of man: a man of few interests and no passions; a man whose libido is reduced and whose sense of responsibility nonexistent.

These men are commitment-phobic not just about love, but about life. They drink and take drugs, but even their hedonism lacks focus or joy. They exhibit no energy for anyone, any activity, profession or ideology. …And, in an effort to cure what ails them, they have been medicated to the gills with potions designed to dull their feelings even further. ”

But I wonder, what is the female equivalent of these listless men? Is it fair to point the blame for our failed relationships on one gender? And isn’t the root of this listlessness really just the fact that these young men don’t have anyone to perform for?

If society isn’t urging them to get off the couch, if their parents don’t nag and their mothers don’t call, if nobody notices and nobody cares, and most of all, as Benjamin states, if women continue to “put out” and have sex with these guys, they’ll continue this endless cycle of slacking.

(This post originally appeared in Brain Dancing and is first in a series of articles exploring the culture of narcissism in today’s men and women — and how Internet personal ads feed off and fuel that culture.)

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  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    I haven’t read the book you cite, which looks very interesting, but I don’t think the author could have spent much time in New York. Listlessness just doesn’t cut it in cities like this. If you want to earn enough to pay your rent, that is.