Last night I watched part of an old film in which Mary Martin, playing Peter Pan, said, Are you ready for today's lesson? And then she launched into a long song about a boy refusing to become a man.
With apologies to the original lyrics, what follows are some excerpts run together to make a point:
As I point out in the Man-Making book, I'm of the opinion that until a man steps into the ancient role of mentor for a boy or boys, there is a hole in his mature masculinity. Something critical in him goes undeveloped. A man can pretend his life needs to be all about him, wearing a tie or serious expression, but until he accepts his responsibility to guide the next generation of boys into manhood, he's not fully "grown up." He's living in the land of "neverty."
I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me! I don't want to wear a tie. And a serious expression... And if it means I must prepare, to shoulder burdens with a worried air, I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me. So there!
Never gonna be a man, I won't! Like to see somebody try, and make me. Anyone who wants to try, and make me turn into a man, catch me if you can. I won't grow up... And Never Land will always be, the home of beauty and joy, and neverty. I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me!
The premise of the book, The Peter Pan Syndrome, by Dan Kiley is the same. Too many men are inhabiting a place where, consciously or not, they are refusing the obligations of manhood.
Showing up for boys is one of the ways men can begin to self-initiate themselves into a full and responsible manhood. Until they do, the men will remain stuck in "neverty," that place between boyhood and manhood. Both they and the boys who need them will remain lost on their mutual journey to manhood.