Q: Our 19-year-old daughter is dating a 19-year-old boy, who, in general, we like. He’s not a partier, he doesn’t smoke or drink, he’s serious about his education and he has a rational career plan mapped out. Our daughter also is a responsible, level-headed girl. The problem is that the boyfriend’s response to almost anything my daughter says is a cut or put-down, a dismissal of her accomplishment or mocking. She says his father does the same thing to him, his brother and their mother; so to him, it’s “normal.” Our daughter is an upbeat, confident person by nature, but I know a constant stream of negativity eventually will wear down even the most self-assured person. I have tried calling him out on this in a humorous way, to no effect. My husband is restraining himself from giving this kid a poke in the nose! Any suggestions are welcome!
A: I suggest you obtain a copy of the Feb. 19-20 (weekend) edition of The Wall Street Journal and read “Where Have All the Good Men Gone?” by Kay Hymowitz. Or, go out and get her book “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys (Basic Books, out March 1), from which the WSJ article is excerpted. It surely will put this problem into a fresh perspective.
Hymowitz’s basic premise is that whereas adolescence for males and females was, not so long ago, between 13 and 18, inclusive, that’s no longer the case. Today’s girls are growing into women and accepting adult responsibilities much faster and more effectively than are today’s boys, for whom adolescence now extends through their 20s and even, for many, into their 30s.
Your daughter’s boyfriend is an exception to the rule, obviously. He’s not into partying, playing video and online games, proving that he can drink more beer than his friends and still remain conscious and dressing in oversized, ill-fitting clothes that make him look like a 6-foot toddler. From your description, he’s a find! Do everything you can to keep him!
So he has one annoying habit. OK. Can we all overlook this? Can you persuade your husband not to poke him in the nose? Please? For your daughter’s sake? I mean, the likelihood of her finding another boy her age who has a coherent plan for the future (as opposed to “I planning on winning ‘American Idol’ and then replacing Jon Bon Jovi as lead singer of Bon Jovi” — don’t laugh…I’ve heard pretty much the equivalent more than once) is slim.
This talent for sarcasm most likely is the influence of the “family” sitcoms his generation has consumed, in which the constant stream of put-downs is supposed to be funny (unfortunately, for many Americans, it is). His attempts at bad humor are probably symptomatic of a certain amount of social insecurity. I would forgive him for that. He’s simply got some growing up to do. That’s forgivable, isn’t it?
Lastly, I encourage you to let your daughter deal with this in her own way, in her own time. Growing up for this young man means letting go of this annoying habit. Growing up for your daughter means helping him learn the value of letting go of this annoying habit. In short, stay out of it. And definitely don’t poke him in the nose. That’s against the law.
A, psychologist, Rosemond answers questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.