Ryan Baron North
Coming of Age
Writing these posts, I feel like Kurt Russell in The Thing talking into his little microphone. Instead of a body-snatching alien, I’m talking about…I dunno’…societal implications.
I was talking to a friend the other day about Prom. Most of my memory from before half a decade ago is pretty hazy, and I’m not really a fan of nostalgia, but the discussion got us talking about expectations. As I said, I don’t remember much from before, but I do remember that every night between the ages of 14 and about 25, I would be struck by anxiety. It happened because I was so scared that I would miss something. Not just something, but I would miss the moment—the one that would transition me from a boy into a man.
Let me explain…
In American society, we are bombarded with “coming-of-age” tales. Everything we are shown, everything we are taught is that the people we are going to become all teeter on the edge of one great moment in our lives. Whether it’s that one party, that one kiss, that one fight, or that one act of rebellion, when it’s over, we will be a totally new, adult person on the other side of it. Well, between the ages of 14-25, I did not have the self-awareness or the reflective capabilities to tell myself that it was all bullshit, or even that’s what I was doing—that I was chasing a fantasy moment. It’s not real.
Well, in the Midwest bubble, it seemed all the more urgent being surrounded by corn with no opportunities outside the mills, and being born to rich, boomer parents…
Every year, more of those coming-of-age movies come out, and we keep propagating this ludicrous concept to the next generation. There was a woman present for the prom conversation I referenced earlier. She told us about how the expectations for her sex were completely different than what it was for the men at the table, and how prom was this penultimate “…fairytale night.” That’s also bullshit! She told us about how it’s left this regret inside her that her husband could not have been the one she shared that night with.
I can’t understand what it is like being a woman going through that, but I can empathize that it is damaging. I’m a grown man now, I recognize that it’s all a lie, but it still damaged me. I sometimes think about encountering my coming-of-age, even though I know now that coming-of-age is a journey, not a moment.
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