I am really liking this. There is a new kind of man up and about and he makes me re-think all my notions about men and relationships. There was of course the spectacular younger man that I had the good fortune to be with for a brief while. And there are my other friends and acquaintances. They have one thing in common – they’re all twenty-five. Of course it is the fact that they’re 25-year-olds viewed from my 30-year-old eyes. I don’t think I quite liked 25-year-old men when I was 25 myself. At the risk of sounding all haughty-superior, I’m now at the vantage position of viewing them from an older and yes, wiser perspective.
25 seems to be right time to call him a man-child. There are traces of his boyishness and childishness (some of which he may never grow out of). And there are stirrings of adulthood, many-hued, whether it is the seriousness of ambition or the charm and ruthlessness of a Male Slut, the depravity of the grown-up Bad Boy, the ‘tortoise in hare-and-tortoise’ of the Beta Male or even the decisiveness of a human being who is just older and more confident. He could go any of those ways (or all of them), he’s poised on the treshold of who he is going to be for the large part of the rest of his life. You can almost see how he’s going to turn out as a husband and father. It’s watching his adulthood in its crystallization.
The love of my life made the mountain-moving decision of his life at twenty-five – that it wasn’t going to be about finding a perfect woman but finding someone who’d do and making it work with her. That was a drastic shift from the ruthless, nearly-Nazi-like quest for perfection that marked his earlier relationships (including the one with me).
What makes it truly sweet is watching the vulnerability that also accompanies him. Either it gets shattered with heartbreak, disappointment and such. Or it is hidden away, as is the case with most men and their need to be ‘manly’. And in a few, very few cases, it grows along with him (though to be quite sure, I’ve only seen this happen with gay men).
Amidst all the fun and laughter that spotted my last (and only) association with a younger man, there was one serious discussion about relationships. At the very base of his multitudinous flings, I unearthed a fear in him that every woman he’d meet was likely to cheat. And all because he had received (willingly, I may add) the attentions of a woman who was already in a relationship. I could tell it was early days and that fear had not solidified into an attitude as yet. But I could very easily see where this was going. I could see him as the kind of guy who’d jump from fling to fling, with little regard to the feelings of the people concerned, because he was in so much of a hurry to get away before he got hurt. It was almost tangibly painful to realize that his tenderness, the sweet solicitousness with which he received me might very well be gone in a couple of years. And yet, it could go the other way. If he found someone who could change his mind about that, he might be a very different person indeed – a wonderfully caring partner and a delightful friend. At the end of it, in my mind, it is symbolised by his voice – deep-throated and firm most of the time, but briefly turning plaintive and tentative when he said,
That’s what I wonder. Is there any loyalty in relationships anymore?
It was haunting in how vulnerable it sounded and it moved me. I haven’t felt moved, really touched by something a man said or did for a long time.
I also recently had a conversation with yet another man-child (unsurprisingly twenty-five). He’s tired of being called ‘cute’ and he imagines that he’ll never get a girl if this continues. So he wants to revamp himself into a sexier, more macho, adult avatar. I don’t know why he can’t see what I see – a guy who’s quite pleasant to look at, affable, fun, intelligent and nice to boot. What woman wouldn’t fall for that? And they probably already are, only he isn’t realising it. But I can’t stop him if he decided he wants to turn Neanderthal man. I hesitate to tell him that it will only make him look ridiculous because that so isn’t him. I wish he would realize that his cuteness, this little-boy vulnerability that makes women want to take care of him…that’s his greatest draw. Well, perhaps he’ll realize it on his own. Man-child he may be, but he isn’t stupid.
And finally, I get something out of this. Seeing the vulnerable side of a man, much before it has been buried or strangled out of existence or mangled beyond recognition…it’s a moving experience. It brings me back the respect I had for the male species, that brought me so many close friendships with them. It also brings back the tenderness and affection, banishes my own fear of all men being monsters. It makes them look human in my eyes and that can only be good.
I raise my glass to the wondrousness of the twenty-five-year-old man! Cheers, baby, you’re awesome!