I don’t want to be in the position of promoting or perpetuating stereotypes…of males or anyone else. I certainly don’t like it when other folks do that with stereotypes of females. So I’ll say this right up front: Most men mature right on schedule, while some women never grow up. On the other hand, sometimes I just have to wonder…
Is it testosterone? Is it something on the Y-chromosome?
Yesterday evening, on the way to the bank and the library, I got stuck at a traffic light next to a car full of boys. I use that word - “boys” - deliberately, even though I never looked over at the car and so I have no way of knowing how old they were. You’ll understand why I didn’t look in just a minute. However, from their voices, I would imagine that they were all - it sounded like three or four of them - somewhere in their mid to late teens.
As soon as they realized that there were women in the next car (mine) and that our windows were down (at around six p.m. it was still around 90 degrees F, and gas is much too expensive to use the car’s air conditioning), they started in, very loud. At least every other word was an F-bomb. There were disgustingly graphic descriptions of sex acts and cannibalism. It was a very long light, and they went on and on and on.
I refused to even acknowledge that I heard them, since that was what they so obviously wanted. To shock and to provoke a reaction. Sorry boys; I wasn’t shocked, and you had just proved how infantile you can act. I did wonder if their parents have any idea exactly how rude and vile their sons can be (not likely, and I doubt they would believe it if someone told them). I had a fantasy of washing their mouths out with soap - I’m not a prude, and I’d be lying if I tried to claim that I never use the word “fuck” - but what was coming out of their mouths was particularly vile. The light changed, finally. I suppose they went on to annoy someone else at the next light.
Fast forward five minutes, as I turned into the parking lot at the bank. The bank was, of course, closed by that time, and the parking lot was empty. Just as I was approaching the parking spaces closest to the ATMs, a car turned into another driveway into the lot, sped up to beat me, and made a tire-screeching u-turn into the spot I was about to take. It was an obviously expensive car…I want to say a Jag, but I’m not very good at identifying makes and models…and the man who emerged was in his mid-forties and dressed as if he belongs to the country club set, or aspires to it. I guess he felt it would be an affront to his manhood or something if he let another driver take the closest parking space or something. Surely it couldn’t have been the whole step or two more he would have had to walk had he parked in the space I ended up taking. The parking space isn’t even the issue here. As I said, the difference was a matter of a couple of steps. Not a big deal as far as I was concerned. The issue, rather, is how willing he was to take the chance of a collision - if I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have hit him - just to get his way.
It isn’t merely a question of chronological age, as these two examples show. I don’t know what it is a question of, to be honest. A need to be acknowledged as dominant? Sheer selfishness? Just a bid for attention? The anthropologist in me wonders if anyone has studied this, has established if men in our culture here in the US really do have an ingrained need to act in these sorts of ways at a greater rate than women. Or was I just in a position twice within five minutes to witness these various little male tantrums? Because that’s what they were in both cases, I think, when it comes right down to it.