Are You Dating a Peter Pan?+comment
I’ve often had the conversation with girlfriends about guys we’ve dated that have been total Peter Pans. You know the character and the comparison: Peter never wants to grow up, he hangs out with the Lost Boys all the time, he flirts shamelessly with Tinker Bell, goes on lots of adventures, and charms Wendy and her little brothers. J.M Barrie was writing a children’s story not a dating archetype, but sadly today’s lifestyle has turned the idyllic childhood character into a dating nightmare. Look at the character of Ray on “Girls.” He admits to being a 31-year old loser that works at a coffee shop and secretly started living with his much younger girlfriend (by staying there every night until she realized he was just living with her… rent free). Ray is an honest, smart, charming guy, but very much a Peter Pan. Even though he’s aware of this, he does nothing to change it. But for every Peter Pan type of guy, there is a Wendy type of girl that commits to this relationship waiting for him to grow up. This is a long and frustrating wait, and those women should be reminded that Wendy did decide to grow up and leave Neverland.
Back in 2011 Wall Street Journal ran an article “Where Have the Good Men Gone?” discussing this very issue. It described how, “Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance.” I can’t tell you how many times my girlfriends and I dated the Peter Pan guy that didn’t have a car, a job, lived in a house with three other guys that smelled like dirty socks and perpetually felt like they lived in Animal House. We would say to each other, “I just want to meet a guy with his shit together.” Interestingly, none of the women lived like this. We all worked, handled bills, pursued our career, had apartments, etc. My problem is too many women end up becoming a Wendy. While the fictional Wendy is lovely, the real life Wendy is stuck in an imbalanced relationship filled with disappointments and frustration.
According to that Wall Street Journal article women, “graduate from college in greater numbers (among Americans ages 25 to 34, 34% of women now have a bachelor’s degree but just 27% of men), and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends.”
I’m not saying I think everyone should be married and working at the bank by 22. Far from it. Our 20’s have become a time to figure ourselves out, build careers, continue education, travel, etc. However, women seem to be better at the figuring it out part (even if we don’t think so all the time). Yet the Wendy girlfriend will end up doing all of that heavy lifting and in addition cleaning up his place, paying all of the rent, cooking for him and his friends, driving him around because her car runs and his doesn’t if he even has a car. There is nothing wrong in wanting to look after the guy you are seeing and support him, but it’s not fair or attractive to be in a relationship with only one functioning adult.
Sadly it’s a dynamic Hollywood loves to embrace. It’s Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up – he is the lovable slacker while she is the ambitious career woman. It’s understandable, Peter Pan was a really fun guy with lots of attractive qualities. Hence the multi-millions of dollars made from overgrown Peter Pan type actors: Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Ashton Kutcher, etc. Our society rewards and embraces this Peter Pan lifestyle and attitude, yet I don’t see the Wendys getting the same love and career path. Women are always characterized as the nagging one, pining for marriage, but maybe she’s whining because he’s lazy and pining for maturity? Guys should remember that Wendy wants to grow up and leaves, and women should remember that Peter stays in Neverland with Tinker Bell. No one is bashing the world’s cutest fairy, but casting yourself as Wendy is giving yourself too heavy of a load in the relationship. This type of immaturity is fine in college and a few years after, but it turns from adorable and charming to pathetic and lame really quick.
I think it’s fair to want a relationship with someone who brings the same qualities to the table that you bring. No one is saying date yourself, but women indulge the Peter Pan boyfriend too much. Don’t we all want to meet someone with their shit together? Of course, this implies both parties have their shit together. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just together.
And ladies, remember what J.M. Barrie wrote about Wendy, “She was one of the kind that likes to grow up.”