The Transition From Man-Child to Man

 Photo by Michael De La Madrid

Photo by Michael De La Madrid

Man-Child
/man-CHīld/
noun

1.     An adult human male who has yet to surpass the maturity level of an infantile boy.

2.     One who classifies Nutella as a meal when consumed via spoon.

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I remember the moment I realized I was a man-child.

I was 22-years old, and I was hanging out with my four-year-old cousin in his basement. As he mounted his brand-new unicorn tricycle, I noticed he was wearing his shirt inside out. When I asked him why, he told me it was his favourite shirt and he didn’t want to wait for it to be cleaned in the laundry. I smiled at his infectious cuteness, and grew quietly envious over his badass unicorn wheels.

And then my smile faded. I was looking at myself in a mirror, quickly registering that I shared more in common with my four-year-old cousin than just a profound appreciation for magical tricycles.

I saw that my shirt had a stain on it—a stain that I got while wearing it during a keg-stand the night before.

I noticed that I was rocking my favourite Happy socks, which I hadn’t washed for two weeks because I didn’t want to lose them to the sock-monster in the dryer.

I caught a glimpse of my unkempt beard and quickly got lost in its pubic aura.

At that moment in time, calling me a 'man' would have been as blasphemous as playing getting a Big Mac without special sauce. It became resoundingly clear that despite being Taylor Swift-aged (twenty-two, ugh), I had never actually made that transition from boy to man. I was, and had always been, stuck in the limbo of masculinity. I was a man-child.

Coming to terms with this truth was not easy, as man-children are invariably not 'man' enough to admit their own flaws. But as countless AA meetings have taught me—as I’ve watched them on TV—admitting is always the first step. The next step? Taking responsibility for your life, and ultimately purging that addiction to immaturity.

The question then becomes: how?

How a man-child truly transitions towards being a man.

Step 1: Say you will be responsible for your life, and actually commit to doing it

The greatest indicator of man-child-drome (I took the word 'syndrome' and combined it with 'man-child'. I'm fucking clever, I know) is a robust lack of follow through. A man-child will, at the peak of his immaturity, commit to doing anything under the pretence that he won't actually do it. This includes tasks like cleaning the dishes, doing laundry, making his bed, and generally all aspects of human maintenance. The idea of doing these things every day has a daunting sense of permanence to it—if you clean the dishes once, surely you must clean them when they get dirty again.

But a man doesn’t look at responsibility this way. A true man commits to taking ownership over his life, and treats that commitment like it is golden law. He views his word like it is everything. This means that when a man says he will clean his room, it is no longer a chore. Instead, it becomes a part of his being in the same way that being incompetent with spelling is to a Starbucks Barista. I know this example is extreme for something as mundane as cleaning, but the point is clear: a man has a tidy room not because it’s the right thing to do, and not because he should, but because he said he would. That is the difference between a child and a man. 

Step 2: Be Vulnerable

If I told you that I didn’t cry while watching The Notebook on Netflix the other night, I’d be lying.

The thing is, until now, I would never tell you that. I would never admit to feeling that kind of emotion because I live in a society which demands that men be stoic. The irony is that trying to hold back your emotion in an abortive attempt to be ‘manly’ is exactly what makes someone a man-child.

To be a true man, you should feel secure enough with your own masculinity to allow emotions in—both the intense highs and the intense lows. This type of man is present to his feelings, but is not ruled by them; instead, he lets himself be vulnerable to them. Such vulnerability can give a man a sense of inner peace, and lends him the space to share his emotions with others as well.

When you give up trying to hide who you are, and what you are feeling, you start to radiate with a kind of self-expression and charisma that a man-child will never have.

Step 3: Have Conviction

Man-children are malleable. Without a true sense of self, man-children will shapeshift continually as a means of ‘fitting in’ to social situations. They will shy away from expressing their opinions for fear of not being liked. They will agree to things with absolute insincerity for fear of missing out. This docile attitude towards life is about as spineless as a photogenic jellyfish chilling at Ripley’s Aquarium.  

You see, to truly be a man, you must have conviction. You must believe in something, anything. And whatever that something is, you must cling to it as though you’d be naked without it. Too many man-children lack the integrity to speak up when their viewpoints are being opposed.  A man understands that some people will agree with them, and some will not. Some people will like them, and some will not. At the end of the day, as long as he is acting congruently with his convictions, he will be able to live his life powerfully. 

The Pledge

The above three steps are valuable in theory. Without action, however, they are nothing. Although I’ve made positive strides towards manhood, I’m not fully there yet. So I am going to make a pledge:

I pledge to take responsibility for my life, and to treat my commitments like they are everything.

I pledge to let myself feel, and to share that with the world.

I pledge to hold true to my beliefs. I might as well start now. I fucking love Nickleback. Stop hopping on the bandwagon of hatred.

If you are a man-child, and you’ve miraculously made it through this sermon article, then I hope that you will pledge the same.