10 minutes before leaving to pick her up for our first date, I took a good look at the Spiderman poster hanging in my bedroom and seriously considered taking it down. I then looked at the Eric Cartman toy sitting next to my television and asked myself if I should hide it until after she left.
What worried me most about leaving these childhood mementos exposed is that she, or any visitor, would mistake them for childishness or immaturity. While I see them as a part of my character, others might see them as a flaw in my disposition. This was the first time I seriously began to question whether I had missed that crucial point in life where I was supposed to go from a boy to man.
Our coming-of-age is a very trying time for all men. It is supposed to be the point at which we should begin to see ourselves as grownups. But how does one know when he has effectively become a man? How do we measure maturity and decide whether our demeanor has ripened to a socially acceptable level?
For men, the simplest answer to the question of maturity is balance. Growing up inherently means having to develop your abilities to be decisive, courteous, well-mannered, humble, and disciplined. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up and completely remove yourself from the things that have always brought you happiness. Maturity means that you have learned to handle situations like an adult; not that you have forgotten to laugh and enjoy life from the perspective of an adolescent.
Balance between childish humor and stern maturity is the most important thing. Know when to laugh and laugh as often as you like; but also know when to buckle down and get things done. Watch Saturday morning cartoons (even though they all suck now), but don’t spend the entire day on the couch when you should be out looking for a job. Do things that remind you of your childhood but don’t let things from the past consume you and keep you from growing into the man you need to be.
A real man should be in touch with his inner child. He should have a sense of humor and know when to act like a kid and when to be an adult. Maturity is not throwing out your old video games and comic books; it is knowing that those comic books will still be there for you to enjoy after you’ve taken care of the day’s errands and duties. Maturity is also being able to chuckle at the word “duty” without losing your mind.
Remember, every mature man should know how to have a good time. Being a kid is fun and we should never stop having fun. If being mature means spending the rest of your days being bored then we should avoid it at all costs. So have fun! Play with your action figures but don’t let them replace actual human interaction. Eat a Lunchables or Chef Boyardee but also learn how to cook something for yourself other than Frosted Flakes.
Being mature doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time watching your fiber intake and discussing your 401K. If retirement plans, the economy, and politics are your only accessible conversation topics, you are not mature – you are boring.
Lastly, a mature man should be able to laugh at himself for tripping over a rock and then move the rock so no one else trips over it.