In his book Guyland, sociologist and author Michael Kimmel describes the five milestones historically associated with adulthood:
- Milestone #1: Leaving home
- Milestone #2: Completing one’s education
- Milestone #3: Starting work
- Milestone #4: Getting married
- Milestone #5: Becoming a parent
Which of these milestones have you achieved?
While not every adult ends up completing all of these markers, Kimmel explains that these “represent a pattern, a collection of indicators.” In the 1960s, about 65 percent of men had achieved all five of these milestones by the time they reached 30. By the year 2000, however, less than a third of 30-year-old men had achieved all five.
Kimmel acknowledges new challenges men face in a tight economy, but he believes many men are trapped in Guyland: a place of extended adolescence where boys postpone the responsibilities of manhood. Kimmel describes it as an “undefined time span between adolescence and adulthood that can stretch for a decade or more, and a place … where guys gather to be guys with each other unhassled by the demands of parents, girlfriends, jobs, kids and the other nuisances of adult life.”
Think about the milestones you have yet to reach. Has your attitude toward these milestones been shaped by a view of heroic Christian manhood or by the cultural lure of Guyland?
Leaving home. Are you still dependent on your parents for housing, food, insurance, cell phone service or other resources? If you are able-bodied, then these are all things you are capable of providing for yourself. The longer you look to your parents to subsidize your life, the longer you’ll stay in Guyland and postpone manhood.
Completing your education. Educational expectations have changed over the past 30 years, requiring many guys today to spend more time in the classroom in order to achieve the kind of salary their fathers earned. But guys often make this process unnecessarily longer when they aren’t purposeful about their education. College is not a time to find yourself—but instead to find out what you must know in order to use your strengths to meet marketplace needs. Are you on a trajectory to complete your education?
Starting work. Are you working? If so, are you doing the kind of work that could grow into something that would allow you to support a family? Or could your job instead be described as what Douglas Coupland calls a McJob—“low-paying, low-prestige, low-dignity, no future job”? These are the kinds of jobs guys often get stuck in rather than committing to a career path. He explains that in Guyland many young adults “feel they are just treading water, waiting for the right job, the right person, the right situation, to reveal itself.” How intentional have you been about your career?
Getting married. In 1970 the average age men got married was 22. Today, it’s almost 29. That doesn’t mean folks in Guyland aren’t interested in the companionship and sexual satisfaction. Instead, that they are often looking to get all of these marriage-like benefits out of their relationships without making a marriage commitment. Is that attitude shaping your approach and timeline toward marriage?
Becoming a parent. Fatherhood requires leaving childish things behind. Becoming a dad means stepping up into the role God designed men to play as protectors and providers. Guyland, however, encourages its residents to simply protect and provide for themselves—to put off the future demands and sacrifices of parenting so they can cling to the child-free pleasures of Guyland as long as possible. How much has that mindset shaped your attitude toward becoming a dad?
Challenges abound for guys in today’s job market, educational environment and the scene for finding a wife—but heroic manhood requires recognizing the destructive temptations of Guyland and intentionally moving your life in a God-honoring direction.
Going Further: Find tools to help you become more intentional about escaping Guyland by visiting THE INTENTIONAL SINGLE MAN page.