Boys will be boys, right? Even when they're far into their AARP years, apparently. But here's a wild thought: What if being an adult were to be considered a valuable qualification for the highest office in the land? To blue sky it even further — what if maturity were to be valued in our culture in general?
Speaking with Anderson Cooper on Monday night, aspiring first lady Melania Trump defended her husband's notorious "locker room talk," recorded in a 2005 conversation with "Access Hollywood's" Billy Bush. She told Cooper, "I heard many different stuff, boys' talk, the boys that the way they talk when they grow up and they wanna, sometimes show each other oh this and that and talking about the girls . . . . It's kind of two teenage boys; actually they should behave better, right?" She went on to explain, "Sometimes I said I have two boys at home; I have my young son and my husband."
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is 70 years old. He was 59 at the time of recording of the tape, in which he boasted, "You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful . . . I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p___y. You can do anything."
Former "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush has also deployed the youthful overeagerness defense as well, explaining earlier this month, "Obviously I'm embarrassed and ashamed. It's no excuse, but this happened 11 years ago — I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I'm very sorry." He was 31 at the time. But at least Bush's flexible understanding of time and aging does explain how he was able to wave off Ryan Lochte's Rio Olympics robbery deception this past summer as just the antics of "kids traveling abroad." Lochte is 32.
Of course, grown women are not immune to this kind of infantilizing, either. Female business leaders are routinely given the attagirl distinction of "Girl Boss," after 32-year-old Sophia Amoruso's best-selling memoir. The 33-year-old mother of two Emily Blunt currently stars in the title role of "The Girl on the Train."
I am a middle-aged woman who knows way too much about Taylor Swift's dating history and had frozen yogurt for lunch yesterday. I'm not one to claim I've got this whole being-a-stately-elder thing down. But I actually like not being a kid. And I couldn't have guessed 20 years ago, when Ping-Pong tables started turning up in the offices of startups because work should be AWESOME, that adulthood as we once knew it was in its last gasps.
How did this happen? We could blame it on the baby boomers, with their rebelliousness against their parents' stifling conformity and their diehard insistence they're still cool enough to attend outdoor music festivals. Maybe it's my fellow Gen Xers, eternally longing for a Ferris Bueller-style day off, unsure how to transition from riot grrrls to riot wmmmn. Or maybe it's the millennials, if only for the hoodies-as-appropriate-office-wear thing.
All I know is that when I see guys with gray hair skateboarding past in their ironic T-shirts, I am filled with a combination of "You do you, bro" and the feeling that I'm gazing at the embodiment of desperation.
Playfulness is good. Exuberance is healthy. May we all always retain a youthful openness to new ideas and willingness to try new things. But immaturity is just lame, and frankly, the older one gets, the worse it looks on a person. Accepting the realities of being a grown-up is not becoming the enemy of joy and fun; it's about embracing wisdom, character and experience.
That's why self-deprecatingly bragging about how hard "adulting" is isn't the mark of a free spirit; it's a pretty good indicator of incompetence at basic responsibilities. Yes, as lifespans lengthen, our concepts of what it means to be older change and push further out. But we do not remain eternally boys and girls. We certainly shouldn't be described as behaving like teenagers when we're nearly in our 60s. And if you're considering someone to lead a nation, why on earth would you want a person whose own wife regards him as an adolescent?