Peter Pan Syndrome

The charmingly boyish man who refuses to grow up will age just the same as the men who have careers, mortgages and families. He will grow older too, but with much less in his life. Peter Pan at 60 isn't nearly as adorable as at 20.
11/10/2014 12:28 pm ET Updated Jan 10, 2015

According to Urban Dictionary, the word "manolescent" is a noun and describes a "man of any age who shirks adult responsibilities."

In other words, an adult male, chronologically and physically, who still wants to live the carefree life he had as an adolescent. You probably know a few. They ascribe to the Peter Pan code as defined by J.M.Barrie, "I don't want ever to be a man. I want always to be a little boy and to have fun."

I'm not talking only about those men in their 20's and early 30's; the manolescent can be any age. Indeed, this person is practically ageless! No worries, no concerns, no stress. Getting ahead career-wise is not an objective nor is the idea of a mortgage, a car lease, or any type of relationship commitment.

These men are charming in their guilelessness and naivete. Responsibility is a bad word to them and denotes the dreaded territory known as adulthood. They live to have fun. As one of the original "lost boys" in Never-Never Land, they have a strong female following.

These men are fun to be with! Boyish, of course, and playful, they make dating a joy even though their idea of someplace special for dinner may be Burger King and they rarely have enough money to pay for the both of you at a movie theatre. The woman who dates a manolescent had better always have cash, or at least a credit card, on hand.

It may be fun at first when you find out that their idea of a car ride is more than likely to be bumper cars at a theme park than a ride in a hot, new vehicle. We more than tolerate them. We become their Wendy Darling, wise beyond our years and capable of taking care of 'our boys'. The attraction is potent; we want to be Wendy to the manolescent's Peter Pan. It feeds the female instinct of taking care of the innocent and helpless, it's fun, we feel needed, we're happy...for a while at least.

But eventually, the boy-man charmer becomes a bit much to take even for the most passionate Wendy Darling. How often can you agree to foot his bills for every event? When do his comments that life should be fun and that work is only for drudges begin to sound more like a song that praises his own laziness? How much time are you willing to give to a relationship that is based only on "Let's live for today" and makes no attempt to plan for a tomorrow.

Becoming an adult is a frightening prospect. After all, we become our parents in a way (no matter how much we don't want to) by becoming responsible. With responsibility comes some sort of personal sacrifice; we do have to have a job, we do have to make car and credit card payments. We pay rent and we buy food. That's adulthood and that's being a responsible human being. The manolescent wants none of this to be placed in his lap. It scares him witless.

Maybe because of the shift in societal dynamics, women making their own money and having excellent careers and not having to be dependent on anyone else, the rise of the manolescent has become more easily facilitated. Maybe the manolescent doesn't really have to grow up. The Peter Pan syndrome is very appealing even to women. Who needs all the responsibility anyway?

But we do grow up. The problem is that the charmingly boyish man who refuses to grow up will age just the same as the men who have careers, mortgages and families. He will grow older too, but with much less in his life. Peter Pan at 60 isn't nearly as adorable as at 20.

In Never-Never Land the adventures continued only because Peter Pan never grew up...physically. He really was a boy forever.

Copyright 2014 Kristen Houghton all rights reserved

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