Growing up is tough on everyone. The teens and twenties are full of uncertainty, as we’re still trying to figure things out. I think it’s much more difficult for young men, and for a few reasons. We have a patriarchal society, and young men are expected to be our next leaders. Unfortunately, they’re constantly in a state of sexual anxiety because of hormonal overload. Testosterone production in males peaks in the late teens through the twenties. I think Lily Tomlin was right when she said testosterone is the deadliest of substances, not plutonium. Most men grow out of these mental deficiencies in their 30s or 40s, but some never do.
If you hear a car roaring down a street, you can be pretty sure the driver is a young male in his twenties. I’ve got one down the street from me. He turns onto the street and guns his little red shitbox like he was Mario Andretti. I’ve often fantasized about waiting in hiding for him — you can hear him coming from quite a ways off — and as he screams by, I put a 9 Iron right through the windshield. SMASH! Obviously my Driver would be much more appropriate, but it’s only wood. This desire isn’t born from testosterone, though; I think of it more as a civic duty. It’s no matter though, because from the sound of that car it won’t be with us much longer, anyway. Besides, I’m the one who would get into trouble, and I doubt the young man would gain anything useful from the experience. Great fantasy, though.
Most guys who used to have fistfights and now have shootouts instead, are males in their twenties, as are a vast majority behind the many mass shootings in the last few years. Most of our prison inmates are young men in their twenties, but there are a multitude of reasons, societal and racial, for this situation. Young men have predominantly been the ones who fought in all our wars, and those of every other country, as well. Of the population, it is they who can most easily be trained to be homicidal maniacs. Before I go any further, let me say that the young men to whom I refer represent a tiny minority of all young men. The rest are bright, energetic, wonderful people lacking nothing but the wisdom gained by experience.
Young men also suffer a universal malady, and I went through it myself when I was young. Everyone around them is a total dumb-ass, and they are the only ones who know anything at all. And they’re always right, never wrong. Never. But you can’t tell them that, because you’re one of the dumb-asses, remember? Again, they usually grow out of it. Something very odd happened to my dad as I grew up. When I was a teenager he was one of the dumbest people I ever saw. As I got older, he kept getting smarter. Oh, dad was right about that, too. By the time I was forty, he was a regular Einstein.
Between the testosterone and the fact that you and I are morons, it can be a challenge to communicate with these guys. Going extended periods of time without thinking of sex — say, up to five seconds — makes it difficult for them to concentrate on most of what you, or they, are saying.
Young men can be volatile, what with all that testosterone and adrenalin coursing through their veins. That’s why they get into fights, and shoot each other, although these are extremes of behavior. This problem has been greatly exacerbated by Big Pharma, who has convinced parents to give their children behavior modification drugs. Short of violence, far more common you will see primitive simian threat displays, as they metaphorically throw feces at each other in competition for the most fertile and available females. The alpha male has his pick, as we’d expect. Determining the alpha status involves a complex matrix of gestures and subtle social clues (including the feces throwing). There are a few shortcuts to alphahood, like playing lead guitar in a band, or quarterback for the football team.
Because Western civilization is mostly patriarchal, the great heroes of literature are the young men, with a few notable examples like Sacajawea, Pocohontas, or Joan of Arc. J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Herman Hesse’s Damien, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, all have young men as the protagonist, just for starters. I suppose we could include the unfortunate Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, too (a metaphor of bad acne). Odysseus, Jason (he of the Argonauts), Siegried, and Hamlet come to mind. Alexander the Great had conquered the world by his twenties. So we see the best and worst of ourselves in our young men.
In the event that you become engaged in a confrontation with a young man, I can offer some guidelines. Do not try to reason with them, as rationality won’t carry the day here. The best you can hope for is to defuse the situation by remaining calm and collected. If it looks like the conflict is escalating, there are two responses you might consider. 1) you can run, or 2) you can quickly point to somewhere behind him, yell “What’s that?” and when he turns to look, hit him as hard as you can, and then run. I would advise against either, as the guy can most likely outrun you. It’s always better to seek a peaceful solution.
While we all have to deal with these people, we should remember that this raw, powerful, active/aggressive masculine energy, when channeled creatively, produces wonders. In those cases we get Orson Welles, Van Cliburn, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and so many others. That’s sounds like a pretty good trade-off to me. Oh, there goes that guy down the street again.