A Generation of Lost Men

by Frost on July 4, 2011

I came across an interesting Reddit thread today.

Here’s the original link: “Clueless Baby Boomers Grapple Blindly With Young Men’s Rational Pessimism and Detachment in the Hostile, Alienating Society.” (Or something like that).

Of more worth than the article however, was the opportunity to read the pseudonymous responses of thousands of (mostly) young men. For those unfamiliar with Reddit, the community is probably among the most “normal” (i.e, non-loser) out there. It’s often nerdy and proud, as internet communities are wont to be, but it’s not the basement-dwelling, Jolt-Cola-drinking, I’m-just-here-on-a-half-hour-Warcraft-break-because-my-carpal-tunnel-is-flaring, unwashed underbelly of the internet.

As such, the most popular responses give an accurate picture of the mindset of contemporary man-children who have opted out of manning up, features of which include moving out, working a soul-sucking desk job, and getting married. Below, I’ve pasted a selection of the comments from the original Reddit thread. Young men of the 21st century, read and relate:

Just a few decades ago you could walk into most businesses with a high school diploma and get a decent job with benefits paying well enough to support a small family (and a small house). Today… not so much.

Being a young adult male I would say a lot of my lack of motivation to become a “man” so to say is that it’s incredibly hard to find work and because of that in part it’s hard to meet women. No money means no going to the bar, no meeting people through work, not much travelling, not much time spent doing positive activities aside from possibly exercising and playing an instrument, etc. If you’re not in college then it’s even harder. Not having a job / career or SO what exactly are you supposed to be motivated by? We get the most pleasure we can for our money that’s why we buy drugs. We can’t afford alot of the other pleasures of life, and in turn limit our abilities to form relationships. We feel isolated, atleast I do, to some degree and not confident.

It’s interesting that a lot of this commentary seems to revolve around, “Boys aren’t becoming men”. The part that’s lacking seems to be a definition for “man”.

Can anyone think of a solid male role-model? Even just a generic idea of “this is what a good man is”?

I suspect most revolve around full-time work, supporting a family. Argue as you like about whether such a thing should be desirable, but from much of the thread it looks like there’s a significant number for which this outcome is not a great motivator.

The other alternative might be a single, playboy-esque idea of a guy with money and no social attachments. The “lost boys” sound like this but without the money…

Is there another option? It seems like we’ve got 2 extremes; what’s the middle path?

I think their idea of a ‘man’ is the 1950’s style, no more late nights with the boys, get up at 6 am and obsess over things like your lawn and your tobacco pipe.

That sounds just like me. Unemployed for half a year since graduation. I have completely lost any motivation whatsoever.

I know of someone who graduate law school with decent grades, passed the bar, and a year later is working at a California Pizza Kitchen.

I was underemployed for years, after having gone back to school to get a degree in what I really wanted to do. It didn’t pan out, because colleges are quite happy to sell you any line of bullshit for jobs that don’t exist when you come out. Anyway, my advice is get some kind of job that pays something decent.

I actually went back to a job I hated and found that I hated it a bit less after being broke for so long. That lasted a few years. I’m back to hating it, though not quite as strongly as before. Moreover, having experienced marginal employment first hand, I realize that I hate that more so.

Sometimes in life there are no good choices, only ones that suck less than others. You do what you can, get yourself into some kind of position of strength, and then look to see where you can go from there. But, unemployment, my friend, is destructive to one’s character.

Take it from someone who knows, and good luck.

It would be nice if the youth were offered entry level jobs that paid more than their weight in dog shit. Its hard to move out of your parents basement when you’re paying off loans with a KFC salary.

After months of listening to my parents and others who haven’t had to look for a job in the last 10+ years tell me that it’s my fault that I can’t find a job, that they’re out there and I’m just not looking hard enough, I’m so happy to hear someone acknowledge this. I’ve been looking into internships to build up work experience, but that doesn’t help me out with the money situation. This is a huge part of why I’m “postponing adulthood.” Why would I want to get married or have kids knowing damn well a lot of things in my life are still up in the air? Not only is that more stress for me, but it doesn’t seem fair to a potential wife and child.

When I got out of college a decade ago, my grandfather suggested I go to the shipyard and tell the foreman I was a good worker and would work two days for free. The 1930s must have been a weird place to work with such primitive HR policies.

It would be nice if “the youth” weren’t told “IF YOU DON’T GO TO UNIVERSITY YOU ARE A PATHETIC FAILURE HERE TAKE THIS $100,000 DEBT NOW YOU MEAN SOMETHING”.

Because they are interested in doing what they want, rather than getting married and having children out of peer pressure.

Good luck in shaming them into marriage and parenthood by calling them non-adults.

As a public educator, I can speak from first hand experience regarding the growing number of failing males in the culture of education.

1) School validates a very specific set of skills. The capacity to sit still, and passively absorb as much information as possible, stored only to be later regurgitated on a standardized test. Now, I’m speaking in generalizations here, but girls are physiologically and culturally pushed toward being better at this skill set. Girls are much more calm, mature, and easily “educated” in the traditional sense. The culture of school is ostracizing males at an alarming rate.

2) The system of external rewards imposed by formal education. For the entire duration of a student’s life, the “reward” that they should strive for is a letter or number (“A”, “100%”) that serves as a kind of psychological medal or trophy that needs to be obtained. When males exit the school system (at whatever point), they find that there is no longer a source to provide the proverbial carrot on a stick for them to strive after … except for video games, of course. Anybody who’s played WoW knows how well they have capitalized on this system.

To combat this growing problem, we need to emphasize the value of internal rewards, rather than external ones. This will help foster a mentality of constant striving and challenging that will turn our lazy young boys into men.

3) Being smart does not help you achieve what our society portrays as “alpha” status. While the cited article focuses on permanent “lost boys”, I think the more likely culprits are the males that we consistently display as having “it all”. Athletes, actors, rich businessmen … we glorify people whose skills lie in something other than their mental capacity, and then we call our students “distracted” when they try to emulate them.

This article disturbed me. It seems to claim that there is something wrong with an entire generation of males. What needs serious critique is the cultural and educational paradigm of the preceding generation.

Having done the respectable job/home ownership/marriage/kid thing, in retrospect, I have no fucking idea why I did any of that. It didn’t benefit me in any way, shape or form, and was all taken away (except that I got the kid, so..yeah). Now I’m a nominally employed, middle-aged man with a kid, living in a shitty house. Most of society, particularly any women in my age bracket, would view me as a complete failure — nothing of substance to offer another woman.

This often weighs on me — makes me feel like a worthless human being. Like if I don’t go back to the corporate grind stone, sell my soul to the executives again (and I’ve seen this “sign your right to sue away” line on many applications), get another suburban shiny house, then I must have no value in this world.

Sometimes I want to end it all, because no matter what I do, I’m fucked. Either I’m an impoverished slob for whom society has no use, or I’m an enslaved cog with no choice in the direction my life takes.

Then I come home, and the kid says, “Dad. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or not. You’re raising me, and I’m a good kid. Don’t worry about anything else.”

And then I tarry on.

And finally, one comment that any Freedom Twenty-Five Readers not yet on board with some sort of fitness and resistance training program must read:

This will sound weird, but I FINALLY feel like I have become a man lately.

All due to ONE thing.

Lifting weights. It makes you more confident about yourself, releases bad energy, makes you stronger than women, and there are VERY real changes in your testosterone and body chemistry.

You KNOW you are more capable, and people cant say shit about the changes you can FEEL in yourself as you lift. You just know.

I started late, but I will recommend it to EVERY SINGLE MAN.

ESPECIALLY to the typical redditor, who is generally less active and nerdy and feels less “manly” about himself than he could.

Seriously. Do squats. Do deadlifts. Your testosterone and muscles will be undeniable to yourself. You will automatically FEEL like more of a man.

To which I add EAT LIKE A MAN as well. Meat. Vegetables. Fat. Protein.

Readers: Any other comments from that Reddit thread that I should record here for posterity? Thoughts on the experience of being a young man in the western world today? Comments are open, as always.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Jaansen July 10, 2011 at 11:34 am

Tell me about it Dave… strenght training is like magic bullet, even for skinny fat guys like myself. Once pushed thru obstacles like useless routines, hurt ego and paralyzing DOMS the results is so worth it you almost curse yourself for not starting earlier.

For the wow geeks like me out there: Strenght training is the perfect “Leveling Experience”. Leveling up my bench, squats and especially deadlifts beats anything that can be experienced in virtual.

Stryker July 7, 2011 at 2:30 am

I have two words for you – drug trade Excitement, cash, glamor and more than your fair share of danger. In states like CA where medical marijuana is legal there is what they call a ‘Green Rush’ going on. All the cash and excitement and 70% less(legal) danger.

And that is another reason we will never win the drug war.

1lettuce July 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Being a Western Man is a tough sell, I feel. Particularly, if you are/were the Western Man who followed his elders: went to college, abstained from excessive partying/drinking/smoking, and focused on building your future career. That defined me to a T, and still does in some ways: I’m more likely to sacrifice good times for the sake of my education or job. My pot-smoking friends call me the “Responsible One”.

I guess we all grew up believing that doing the above would net us a nice house, a comfortable living, and a dutiful wife. In this current age, there’s no guarantee for any of that. I’m 26 now, and up until last year I was living with my folks while job hunting. I’ve now got a teaching contract for the 2011-12 school year, and share a townhome with my older brother.

As for women, I do pretty well, but very few women are turned-on by my ‘responsible boy’ way. Those few that do are on my cock pretty quickly, but most young women want FUN! and EXCITEMENT!. And that’s beyond dating, and bleeds into their regular life: all fun, no responsibility, no planning.

I suppose one of things I’m most thankful for is how my folks understand the difficulty of modern twenty’s life. They knew I worked hard to find a job, and also knew how tough the market is, so I was never told “YOU’RE NOT LOOKING HARD ENOUGH!”. Rather, they’d say “We know you’re trying and we know things aren’t easy, but what else can you do?”

And I suppose that’s my final thought: what CAN you do? We either strive for what we want, and disassociate ourselves with the nay-sayers, or… what? We kill ourselves?

I refuse to ‘check out’ like that.

Donna Sue September 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Check out teaching ESL in a foreign country. They are screaming for teachers to teach English in China, Indonesia, Japan, etc. They all have different terms and teaching schedules. But, they mostly pay your travel and accommodations and a small salary. It is like getting to become more worldly on someone elses dime. You are learning another culture. It is a risk to leave the US, do good research, and be safe, but there are jobs in other countries.

dave July 6, 2011 at 2:39 pm

See, I like my co workers and my boss. We drink, go to ballgames, and play sports together. I don’t have to “fake it”. I suppose faking it could slightly increase the rate at which I advance, but its such a small difference that I much more enjoy just acting however the fuck I want.

I get your feeling, believe me we all feel the soul sucking. I just don’t think that one needs to act like its the end of the world. I encourage you to try and do something different, if we had universal HC I might do the same. But if you end up 30 and haven’t made it I wouldn’t approach cube life like its some funeral.

dave July 5, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I do the cube thing, its not that hard. I do about 5 hours of shit I don’t like every week, 10 hours of projects I moderately like, and then I just slack off and socialize the other 20 hours. I have a very flexible schedule so I don’t really have to give up much because I have to be in work at such and such a time.

What’s the alternative?
Inherit? Wasn’t lucky enough.
Start a business? Seems unlikely given my health and circumstances. Besides, this advice can by its very nature only work for some men.

Cube stuff is only “soul sucking” to the degree you actually give a shit about it. If you only work when you feel like it and minimize the tasks you don’t like to the absolute minimum then the salary is a pretty good trade off for minimal effort. If your obsessed with getting the maximum and being an absolute fast tracker then I suppose it could stress you out, but the truth is anyone with a decently high IQ is going to be upper middle class whether they try hard or not. I still get great reviews and promotions exerting little effort. I understand the sentiment and I feel it every time I’m filling out the equivalent of a TPS report, but thats such a small part of my day it seems silly to complain about it.

If you want meaning in life try to find it outside of “work”. Work will never be truly meaningful, that’s why its work. Some project or hobby of yours might one day make money, but you need a day job until then. Even if you take a sabbatical like Frost, you still need to save up money for said sabbatical and start up capital for any business you want to start by working. If your on the not working so hard plan at your job you may have 20-30 hours to work on your side projects while being paid to sit in your cube.

Frost July 6, 2011 at 10:35 am

Your attitude towards cube life is similar to mine when I started. 9-5 was going to provide funds and free time to support my REAL life, which took place outside the office. But my problem with it is that I’m spending 1/3 of my life acting fake. I don’t care about the work I do and I don’t like most of my coworkers, but I have to pretend to. I don’t think it’s possible to turn authenticity on and off with a switch – if you’re “faking it” some of the time, it’s going to leak through to your soul.

True, I have 10-20 spare hours in every given week at my desk… but I waste too much of it for my liking. I have a very real sense that my job is sucking the life force out of me. Melodramatic, I know.

Rowan July 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm

@Ancalgon
“Emigrate to South-East Asia in our forties when the hachet-faced feminists come clamouring for marriage”

That sounds like a decent plan but why wait till you’re 40? Why not head East as a young man? I’m a software developer and I’m strongly considering heading to China to learn Mandarin at a University. All expenses for a year come out to $8kUS and English tutors are in such huge demand you can pay all your expenses with just a dozen hours of work a week. After 2-3 years of Mandarin I will do my masters at a Chinese University and either start my own business or join a Western company in China. If you speak Mandarin and have a technical/useful skill it’s easy as anything to find employment. And, I’ll be living an upper-middle class lifestyle in a safe booming country.

There’s not much here for me in the West, living in a tiny house on a mattress I got from the dump, a girlfriend who never wants to get married or have kids but wants to blow every cent she’s saved on travelling then move back in with her parents and get a teaching job. I could probably go back to a soul sucking cube job but we all know how that ends.

Why not head East? The land of opportunity, have some fun, challenge yourself, experience a whole other world, try to make some money, educate yourself and if it doesn’t work out after a number of years, head back home. I’m sure most people reading this blog have the wits to get back into a cube after a long break.

Frost July 6, 2011 at 10:39 am

Exactly. What’s the worst case scenario? I have the credentials, resume and network to find a new cube if I ever want to return.

As for heading East, semester #2 is fast approaching!

Capsaicin July 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm

In addition to weight lifting, consistently getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for increasing and maintaining testosterone levels, and thus the masculine mood-enhancing states that raised t levels bring. Plus, you look much better–fresher and younger, which can only help elevate your mood.

From the guy who writes the Peak Testosterone blog, in his post about the top three ways to naturally increase testosterone (he puts weight lifting at number four actually, after sleep, competition, and sex):

“Remember this: you don’t need pills, you need your pillow. Remember how mama used to put you on your bed and tell you it was good for you. Well, mama was spot on with this one and it’s time to go back to your childhood – you’ll likely improve your testosterone levels by a good 20-30%. Modern living leaves most of us watching TV late at night or sitting at our computers until the wee hours or a thousand other destractions that can keep us from significant testosterone improvement, around 30% or more according to some studies.”

http://peaktestosterone.com/Improve_Testosterone.aspx

Lack of proper sleep just kills my motivation and energy. It’s been hard maintaining a disciplined sleep schedule, but I know how important it is. I’m recommitting myself to getting back on a good sleep plan.

Anyone who needs help improving their sleep should get Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep, by Michael Breus.

I read it, and went on his 28 night sleep bootcamp, and definitely reaped the rewards. Just gotta get back on that horse now that I’ve fallen off here lately.

I will.

Frost July 6, 2011 at 10:45 am

Thanks for the peak testosterone link, looks like a good site.

Getting good sleep is huge, and it’s definitely a weak point in my current fitness regimen. I actually had an incredible sleep last night, 11pm-8:30am, and I feel amazing today, but that happens maybe 1-2 times a week. Rarely have a problem falling asleep, I just need to wrestle with the willpower to actually put myself to bed early.

sth_txs July 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I recall my first job at an engineering firm after obtaining a paid for graduate degree in engineering as well. I moved to a state that also had an income and a few other taxes. After I paid health insurance and 401k contribution, I took home about $2k per month. $1200 gone for rent, school loan, groceries. I figured out that before and after my check that I could visibly count, it was not until May that I worked for myself, though I figure with the built in costs in everything else it was probably June before I worked for myself.

This was several years ago. I’ve got an easier job and back in a state with no income tax, but I’m not much better off than a few years ago.

One of the few areas a young man can get a good paying job in a short period of time is a plant operator at refineries. You take a half year or so course. You gotta like shift work though.

Frost July 6, 2011 at 10:47 am

Also have to like serious risk of death or disfigurement, and spending your every waking hour with meth heads. At least, so say my buddies that worked a similar job one summer in undergrad. Their take, when I asked one of them how it was – “let me put it this way… I made $25k in 2 months. And I’m never going back.”

Tschafer July 5, 2011 at 11:14 am

“What needs serious critique is the cultural and educational paradigm of the preceding generation.”

Absolutely right, and until the Boomers are knocked off their perch, and the cultural atmosphere is cleared, anything attempted will simply be palliative. This will certainly happen sooner or later, but sooner would be better than later. But don’t be too brainwashed as to what the ’50’s were like. Things were a LOT better for guys then – trust me on this.

And yeah, work out and eat Paleo. No sense in letting the hippies destroy your body as well as your mind.

HollowedMan July 5, 2011 at 5:28 am

The unstated theme of the responses:
“I was sold a dream by those whom I trust, who themselves believe the dream, and now they won’t even recognize the internal turmoil that that dream has caused.”
And because the dream is no longer true for our time, you might as well replace “dream” with “delusion.”
When I read all these posts, I relate heavily. But what do we do about it? What are we going to replace the delusion with? We all are crying out for motivation, a purpose for which it would be worth dying. We (here) are striving to create a better man through self-improvement, because it feels right, but a whole generation needs more than a feeling. You often speak on how to improve your own lot, and to save the world we do have to be strong enough to carry it, but how are we going to inspire these men-in-waiting, and what are we going to inspire them too?

Donna Sue September 26, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I know this is kind of out there. But, the lost generation might consider looking outside the box for a job. By that I mean, apply to teach ESL in a foreign country for a year. They pay all expenses and a small salary. The jobs are not here, not now. But, 3rd world countries are sending their kids here for an education. For that they need to speak English. So, you “Lost Boys”, learn about a new culture, and possibly a second language. Indonesian, Chinese, the list goes on.
Big corporate America have shipped labor to 3rd world countries. Countries like China and Japan are sending their kids to the US for an education in English. I personally became a host mom for a year. The kids are well funded. Their English needs help.
Now my “lost boys” have come home from college and cannot find work. So, they become depressed, thinking the degree would be the ticket to a great job. And, all of the above is so true. One son is no working out, to keep from going crazy.
And, before you knock those boomers off their perch, remember we, as parents are doing the best we can to support our kids until the current administration get’s the hell out of the oval office.

dave July 5, 2011 at 1:34 am

Agree on weights. I’ve always been a very sick person. Asthma, diabetes, bone deformities, immune system deficiencies. Lots of obstacles and sometimes I felt like I had no chance with a body like mine. I was “in shape” from a cardio perspective and playing lots of sports but I was really weak (still am, but headed in the right direction quickly). Lifting and getting strong is probably the most important thing I young man can do.

The best advice I can give is to be smart about it. I was in and out of gyms for years without getting results. Just monkeying around on machines not knowing what I was doing. I was too cheap to get a trainer and too intimidated to seek out knowledge. Finally I paid for a few training sessions and did a lot of research. I found a realistic training regimen and started seeing results fast. Its such a confidence builder its unreal. It hurts like hell, and it pushes someone like me with a frail body to the edge. But if I can do it you can do it.

James Strictland July 5, 2011 at 12:44 am

Good article.

The punditry outside the blogo-sphere seems to be completely unable to understand that even if a young man wanted the traditional manly role, there is simply no way for him to have it. The money isn’t there. Until that is fixed, it can’t happen.

Of course my cynical heart thinks that since they also come with social baggage and an expectation of power sharing they really don’t want those roles restored anyway. They want men plugged in to the old system like a draft ox so they can exploit them.

The “man-child” alarms them because its an unbeatable revolution of NO! and deep inside their brains they realize the peaceful advanced civilization they enjoy is almost entirely sustained by men. When those men opt out well , no matter what they think much shabbier, much poorer ,much less safe world.

rawr July 5, 2011 at 12:19 am

enough of this bullshit, work on trig

Ancalgon July 4, 2011 at 10:58 pm

On a (very) tangential note, the same website (the Ottawa Citizen) carried an article about the Royal visit to Canada.


Cari Vanlingen, 54, travelled from Halifax to claim her spot next to Willis and Devoe. Asked what motivated her to camp out for a glimpse of Will and Kate, she sighed, eyes gleaming.

“I’ve always looked at it as a fairy tale and wanted to be a princess myself,” she said.

Yep. 54, and dreams about being a princess. Batty old women like this one being taken seriously enough to be quoted by newspapers is enough to make any level-headed 20-something man go mad.

(I’m assuming the Ottawa Citizen is a semi-respectable newspiece, not a Daily Mail type rag. Still, ghastly.)

And definitely agree about the exercise. Let’s spend our twenties getting fit, and indulge in whatever easy women come our way. Emigrate to South-East Asia in our forties when the hachet-faced feminists come clamouring for marriage :)

mark July 7, 2011 at 1:31 am

There is no respectable newspapers in Canada. Same goes for all of our media.

Brah July 4, 2011 at 10:31 pm

I’m glad to see on that Reddit thread that there are many guys out there in the same position.

We gotta hold onto each other. I don’t know how we all can get out of this mess, but we gotta back each other. Right with you, brah.

Laws of the Cave July 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Double post, I know.

The past week I’ve been off my workout routine recovering from wisdom teeth extraction, and I have to say I feel myself slipping towards darker regions of my mind. That place where you start to doubt. Self-doubt is a scary thing my friend.

So point being, when working out, you lose that doubt. You know you are strong and that you have the capability to accomplish things. That thought is coal to a mans fire.

Frost July 4, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Yup. Kind of funny actually, how people psychoanalyze themselves… whenever I feel, not down necessarily, but low energy and complacement, I know the best cure is a hard workout and/or a good sleep.

Brutus July 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Good to know I’m not the only one whose mind slips to the dark side when not working out. I had to travel extensively for my job for the last six weeks and it has thrown off my gym routine completely. I also split up with the girl I was seeing because she wanted commitment and we had only been dating for a month. She hadn’t done anything to earn my commitment yet. Plus,, I have to resist oneitis and beta backsliding which can cripple even the most stalwart alpha. I’m new to game so it’s been a challenge to say the least. It’s been a challenge to resist going to that dark place.

But the good news is that I am going to a gun range this weekend to learn how to shoot with a guy friend. I also got rejected yesterday during a cold approach. She was a waitress and since I could not think of anything to say, I used direct game and asked if she were single. She said, “No”, but I kept my frame and showed no reaction. Pretty good for someone who would have not even said anything a few months ago. Plus I’ll be back in the gym and on my diet when I return from my trip. Kettlebells, push-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts, and squats are the foundation of my workouts.

Laws of the Cave July 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Agreed with weight lifting. Not only is there a physical component that makes you feel better (test, strength, ect) but you also get a sense of accomplishment. I hate to call it a carrot, but you could say that.

Men love projects. Working out is a never-ending project.

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