Peter Panic (or, Ventricular Manslaughter)


You know things are getting out of hand when you can utter the sentence, “I was hit by two different cars within the span of thirty minutes this morning, and that wasn’t even the worst part of my day.”

While my car’s run in with a distracted Los Angeles driver and my body’s run in with an oblivious Los Angeles parker were both jarring (literally), their impact was nothing compared to the metaphorical whiplash I experienced later that day. I came out of both accidents unscathed, but Lost Boys are far denser than cars.

Vehicular negligence is a menace, to be sure, but there is a far greater scourge plaguing our society, denting hearts and totaling relationships with abandon. There are many to blame for the blight, yet no one directly responsible, so I choose to channel my anger at Judd Apatow.

In 2003, Chuck Klosterman began his book, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (it is great – read it), with a hilarious rant against the perpetuation of impossible romantic standards in film. He blamed John Cusack for a generation of women who will never be satisfied by the lesser reality of any actual man in their life. Well, Chuck, it is time for a harsh look at the other side of the story; you men have some ‘splainin’ to do, too.

It may be true that every woman born in or around the 1970’s will forever compare any potential suitor to the ideal that is Lloyd Dobler, but there is a new epidemic threatening the happiness of Generations X, Y, and beyond: perpetual male adolescence. If Cameron Crowe has to answer for romantic idealism, then Judd Apatow needs to burn in hell for this.

For the record, I enjoy most Judd Apatow movies. He gives good funny. But the central conceit of every one is that it is totally cool to live like a frat boy forever, because the awesome K/Catherine Keener Heigl girl will love you anyway. Just bathe regularly, and it’s all good.

Some men are born mature, some men achieve maturity, and Judd’s “men” succumb only when maturity is thrust upon them via accidental pregnancy, public humiliation, or near-death experience.

Unfortunately, there is no such Deus Ex Matura in real life, so the men who subscribe to this Judd Apatow School of Adolescence stay there, indefinitely, stunting human progress. Last decade, when Cancer #2 described his ideal relationship as one where I was around whenever he wanted company but required no thought about me or us otherwise, it was stupid but understandable, because he was twenty-three. Everyone is stupid in their twenties. It’s a given. But when a thirty-three year old (and a thirty-eight year old, and a forty-one year old) still sees that as ideal, then “John Hughes-ton, we have a problem.”

The world is too full of men in their 30’s, 40’s, and even 50’s who believe that maturity is something that happens to you, like mono, rather than something you actively choose (like mono, if you’re doing high school right). It would be one thing if these Lost Boys were content to stay at home or only date twenty-somethings who share an equal desire for “just fun”, but they aren’t. They chase the grown-ass women; they love the grown-ass women; they want to have their cake and suck at it, too.

Lost Boys want their pursuits to be successful, but without us getting “too attached”. They want to be found attractive and funny and interesting, but not have to take too much interest in return. They love to be allowed to see us naked, regularly, for months, but don’t want us to think it means anything “serious”. They want us on their arm and in their pictures, but don’t want to have to call or plan ahead to make it happen.

In short, Lost Boys want the ego boost of an adult relationship, without having to invest in it themselves. Investing takes effort, which is another word for work, and work is not “fun”.

I would love to think that lines like, “I’m just not looking for something serious yet”, and “I’ll be ready for commitment when I meet the right person” (inevitably uttered months into a relationship) are signs of insightful self-awareness. But really, they are just excuses to make the work of growing up somebody else’s job.

Why is it my job to keep my affections in check while he is free to fawn or forget with every whim? Why am I supposed to understand and respect his busy life without any effort in return to accommodate mine? Why is it my job to be “good enough” to inspire commitment, instead of him choosing to be open to it in the first place? There is no woman out there who can inspire a Lost Boy to maturity – and if there is, she’s not ending up with Seth Rogan.

So the next time you hear someone commenting about how there are so many single woman in their 30’s and 40’s, or see the press obsessing over the naked ring fingers of Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston, know this:

It’s not that we are all sitting around waiting for Lloyd Dobler. It’s that Lloyd Dobler is in his 40’s now, and still living with his sister.