An Ode to Boys

One of the silliest things a guy has ever said to me was when I asked whether his ex-girlfriend and I were at all similar (a terrible, terrible question, I know): “No,” he said. “She’s a girl and you’re a woman.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of this–besides feeling uncomfortably, vaguely flattered and realizing that his propensity for cheesy commentary was easily exacerbated by red wine.

Frankly, I have no clue what separates “girls” from “women” in guys’ minds. (Thoughts welcome, fellas. I know you’re in double-digits now: out yourselves.)

At the moment, though, I am preoccupied with what separates “men” from “boys” in mine.

This largely stems from the fact that, the other day, my dad sent me an email in response to a post in which I used the term “boy.” (As in, S and I were “talking about boys.”)

“Didn’t you mean ‘men’?” he wrote. “Or am I missing something?”

I honestly hadn’t considered my word choice, which I wrote back and explained. And by way of daughterly edification, I added that many males my age are still, in fact, very much boys.

“That’s a pity,” he responded.

I laughed, and thought: yes. And then, no.

You know the boys I’m talking about: those twenty-something (and sometimes thirty-something, it probably goes on but I’m not dealing with that yet) guys who act like they’re still in college. They probably live with a couple of other guys, have no clue how they’re ever going to make a living and drink and/or smoke pot on a daily basis. Basically: dudes.

On the surface, these do not sound like the most attractive qualities. And generally I think we girls (excuse me, women) do get excited about finding a “real man”: someone with a stable, salaried job, his own apartment and a controlled relationship with drugs and alcohol.

But sometimes a boy is really, oddly compelling. There’s something refreshing–comforting, even–about guys who like to sit around, tell penis jokes and muse enthusiastically about some collaborative movie/website/reality show idea that is perpetually growing more elaborate and less done.

I wonder if it’s that they remind me of the boys I went to college with–the ones I met when all of us were eighteen and impressionable, and toward whom I’ll forever harbor a deep and warm affection.

Or the fact that things like tenderness and chivalry do not usually come naturally to these boys, and so when they actually do make the effort one feels that much more appreciative–and special.

When a “man” drives me home/sends a sweet post-date text/drives me to the beach so I can put my feet in the ocean because I live in the desert, I appreciate it–but I’m not all that impressed. Maybe he really likes me, but maybe he’s doing it because he knows he should. When a boy does any of these things, I’m fairly sure  it’s not because he knows anything: chances are he’s kinda smitten.

I also wonder if it has to do with the whole “odyssey” thing that afflicts us twenty-somethings: the tension between the desire to settle down and the one to keep moving. There’s part of me that does feel drawn to stability at this point in my life, and that part is likely the one that generally drives me toward men–the ones with careers and maturity.

There is still, though, the part of me that isn’t totally ready for that: the part that is still wandering around the country figuring out what my own life is gonna look like.

Perhaps this part is the one that can be vulnerable to the charms of those pot-smoking, Lebowski-quoting dudes. Cause they’re not sure either, and they’re okay with that. Once in a while, I am too.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “An Ode to Boys

  1. Sausagepants aka "boy/man"

    I find interesting that behaviors bear a different meaning when they are seemingly spontaneously elicited from “boys” instead of consciously chosen by “men”. How can you tell the difference between a playin’ “boy” and a sincere “man”? Are you giving men much of a chance to be “smitten”?

  2. Well hello “boy/man”–thanks for, um, outing yourself 🙂 I was hoping someone would bust me on my ridiculous generalizations in this post, so thanks! I absolutely do give “men” a chance, usually more so than “boys.” I guess what I was trying, clumsily, to say is that you less expect a “boy” to pull out the romance, and when he does you’re pretty wowed. So I guess the moral of the story, as always, is that it pays to keep expectations low!

    • Sausagepants aka "boy/man"

      Perhaps I came down a little hard on the hyperbolae disguised as generalizations. I am apt to do the same on occasion of discussing the mysteries of the opposite gender.
      Initially I thought the definition of girl vs. woman would be pretty straight forward but after some initial thought, I realized that verbalizing intuition is not that easy as I would like it to be. So, here goes nothing…
      The clearest indicator of a woman to me is purpose. Women seem to project that sense of purpose, however haphazardly, in their day to day lives. Girls on the other hand seem to approach life in an undecided somewhat ephemeral fashion. Women seem to know what they want while girls can quite clearly be fickle.

      I would certainly agree as a guy that there are desirable traits from both women and girls. Spontaneity as a girlish trait, emotional stability as a womanesque trait. A patient sense of humor as a girlish trait, a rich sense of sarcasm as a womanesque trait.
      Then of course there is that ever so unique interplay between dependence and independence.
      I would say that this is probably the second biggest indicator of woman vs. girl for me. Girls don’t tend to know how to balance the two, often coming off as either a leaner or a stand alone. As a guy I little bit of both…

  3. Pingback: Storytime: On Being, and Not Being a “Dude” « Dating in the Odyssey Years

  4. Ugh, precisely. I tend to find myself stuck between guys that are nearly too old for me… with a house, and a job-job, and drained of spontaneity, and dudes that I find myself wildly attracted to, even though I can never gauge if they actually LIKE me or they think they can play me. Feels. Definitely will be following this blog of yours, lady!

  5. Jen

    Back in my single days I used to say that I was looking for someone who had already had their “wild time”. I needed someone capable of one, but who had already experienced it so I wouldn’t be accused of calming them down.

    For me that was how I looked for a “grown-up boy.” I dated some lovely men who were not capable of a wild time. That was too tame for me and while I recognized how wonderful they were; there was never a spark on my part. And I dated some really fun boys who were still in the midst of being wild, and after initial attraction and spark, I wasn’t wild enough to keep up with them and it usually died a fiery death as those things are want to do.

    Just my way of what I was looking for… still loving the blog!

  6. dc

    I hadn’t thought of this in any articulate way until reading your post, and maybe this is basically what all these comments are saying, but for me the difference between a ‘girl’ and a ‘woman’ or a ‘boy’ and a ‘man’ is self-possession, which comes out in a lot of ways. In kind of a small example, and maybe not a very good one, I think when you’re out with a girl or a boy they like to tell you what they’re ‘like’ with sentences that start with, ‘I’m the kind of person who . . .’ Not that there’s anything horribly wrong with this kind of sentence (I’ve probably dropped one or two in the last few months), but a string of them can be, well, tedious. A man or a woman is more likely to just be themselves and let you figure it out, which is much more interesting. Not that they’re not talking about themselves, they’re just familiar enough with their own quirks that they’re no longer amazed by them and don’t expect you to be either. That’s my 2 cents!

    • Thanks for weighing in, dc. Interesting distinction. I’m the kind of person who likes continuing our blog conversations over beers…can we do that again??

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