Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What is Wrong With Boys?

I'm taking a quick break from ruining everyone's fun to ask a question that has been on my mind: What is wrong with boys?

I have been observing my son and his pack of 10 to 13-year-old friends like an anthropologist. (Or sociologist? Psychologist?) Behaviors, which appear to be innate and impervious to the civilizing influence of a good home,  include: pool games such as Sharks and Minnows, the object of which seems to be drowning each other. Underwater wrestling, until at least one competitor is near death. I actually asked the boys: "Please explain to me what is fun about that." They stared at me blankly.

The point of another game, called "Taps," seems to be whaling a ball at the opponent's head until a concussion is achieved.  On land the boys play games such as Zombie Tag, Cops and Robbers and Capture the Flag. Grouped together, these activities could be referred to as "Lord of the Flies." Or maybe "The Hunger Games."

I asked my husband if he had any insights, and he said: "They are boys."

Men and boys really are different. And not in a good way. Which reminds me of a Lynda Barry cartoon from The Village Voice, which I had posted on my bulletin board for years, called "Why I Like Men." I couldn't find it on the internet but I can quote it pretty much verbatim from memory: "Why I like Men: Well, for one thing there's their big muscles. They like things that are on fire and loud noises. I cannot explain why I like to kiss them. For life is filled with such mysteries."


  1. I have thought A LOT about what's with boys. Not having one, they often seemed like wild destructive little animals when I observed them.
    The short answer is that that's how (some/most) boys challenge and prove themselves and mark their status: through physical challenge.
    And (some/most) girls do it through interpersonal relationship stuff.
    When I went camping with teenage boys the summer I turned 18, they were mainly concerned with starting large fires, pouring more lighter fluid on already large fires, throwing beer cans into the fire, knocking down trees with their bare hands, jumping off cliffs into water of unknown depth, seeing how fast the car can go and so on. And getting drunk and getting high. And years later I feel like I was challenging myself by even being there, which now seems like not something I would want to let my daughter do. (though in the end NOTHING actually happened)
    I don't know why WHY they gotta do that stuff, but it seems to have been that way from time immemorial.
    But "Men and boys really are different. And not in a good way." ? Do you want them to be like women? But all the time I think they should. I listen to the news and I think MEN! YOU ARE ON NOTICE!
    And I love that you referenced Lynda Barry. I do agree about the big muscles.

  2. I know exactly what you mean about boys! I taught boys in grades 6-8 for years, and while they are so much fun to work with, the things that delight them can be pretty crazy.

    Somehow, this post reminds me of "Rite of Passage," by Sharon Olds. :)

    1. Wow Jill, what a nice compliment! Just read the poem, and I loved it. last summer his 11th Birthday sleepover was what set me off, and I blogged about that too. but of course I love my smart boy, it is just the group mentality of boys that is scary.

  3. I grew up the last of 3 sisters and basically had no clue about boys until I started hanging out with more of them in college. Then I married like the 4th or 5th one I really ever got intimate with. And now I have 3 boys of my own (ages 5, 7, 10) and I'm still clueless. They are so loud and rumbustious and yes it is like they are trying to kill each other the whole time. We've had two broken bones, 3 split lips and one scalp busted open. With the scalp incident, I was someone comforted by the pediatrician who told me boys typically have 2 - 3 accidental injuries a year or something like that. Horseplay in the pool has been a big issue for us this summer, and regarding the difference between men & boys? I think in the pool that disappears. When my husband gets in there with them it is like a war zone.

  4. THIS is why I'm glad I have two girls. I never thought I was a priss, but after seeing some of the boys in our neighborhood, I guess I am.