8 Things You Know If You’re Dating A Man Child
The Debrief: Has he got an Xbox? Does he hanker after an Oculus Rift? We feel for you.
Illustration By Sophie Jackson
I’m not one for sweeping generalisations, but research has consistently shown that our birth order has a thing or two to do with the way we handle life, and my current relationship is fairly substantiating evidence. I’m the eldest. I get shit done. I ponder ‘what ifs’ and worry about other people. My boyfriend is the youngest in his family by a considerable margin - which means he was either a ‘Oooops’ baby or one designed to fill the space left by his departing older siblings. He’s been shielded from the harsh realities of life by an army of older, wiser family members and as such he is kind-hearted and fun-loving and affectionate and I love him dearly, but my god, he is a man child of the highest order.
Of course, not all men-children are the youngest sons, and those dating them are not always the eldest daughters. This is just a convenient trope. But there are times, when I come home to socks on the floor or have to ask him to turn the TV down at 3am while I’m trying to sleep, that I wonder whether we’ve too easily fallen into the roles we’ve been playing throughout our separate lives: me, the caregiver and worrier; him, the care-free child and dependant. Is our relationship doomed? I don’t think so. I’m mostly happy. But I also get frustrated, and if you’re getting frustrated over the same things chances are you’re dating a man child, too.
1. You become a walking calendar
It’s 6am and his alarm goes off. He groggily falls out of bed and starts banging around the bedroom getting ready for the day. I ask him what he’s doing. ‘Getting ready for work,’ he replies, like I’m an idiot. ‘You’re not in until 3pm today,’ I sigh, as I drift back to sleep.
This scene – and variations thereof – is common in our relationship. I know his schedule better than he does. Not because I’ve taken the time to memorise it, but because information like this just falls out of his head like water through a sieve. For years he’s relied on someone else to remind him of dentist appointments, family birthdays and public holidays, and now it falls to me to make sure flowers are sent on Mother’s Day and that his car’s MOT is up to date. And if I forget, I feel guilty, like the parent who sent their kid to school in uniform on a Wear What You Like day.
2. You’ll have to dress them
…and/or instruct them on other aspects of social etiquette. No, you can’t wear trainers if we’re going to a swanky cocktail bar. No, you can’t play on your phone when we have friends over. No, the cheap suit you bought 12 years ago for your very first job interview won’t cut it for my cousin’s wedding, sorry.
3. You have to explain really basic shit
We all pay bills and do laundry and change our toothbrushes regularly; it’s just fundamental life knowledge we somehow pick up over the years. So when you’re discussing moving to a bigger place in a nicer area and they ask, with genuine astonishment, why the council tax will be higher, you’ll find yourself literally lost for words before explaining the reason in the same patient and probably condescending way parents tell their children not to touch a hot kettle.
4. You’ll learn a lot about the Xbox
…or whatever thing it is that they’re into. I now know so much about Forza Horizon (it’s a racing game, FYI) that I could probably tackle it on Mastermind. It’s hella endearing that he gets so excited about it and I love that he wants to share his thing with me, but when his success in a race determines his mood for the rest of the evening, or I have to listen to a lengthy explanation of a particular car’s suspension credentials, I can’t help but feel like a parent at a nativity play: I’m here to support you but fuck am I bored.
5. Meltdowns are more effective than nagging (sometimes)
You know how sometimes you see parents and children out in public, and the kid is really pushing their luck with something? Maybe they won’t stop running after pigeons or pouring salt on the table, and the down-trodden parent is repeatedly pleading ‘Please stop doing that’ until they snap and bellow at their stunned kid to fall in line? Same deal with the man child. You can ask them nicely to stop leaving their food wrappers on the sofa one thousand times, but it’s just background noise to them: they’re used to having someone eventually relent and clean up after them. But send them a shrieking Whatsapp voice message one day where you wail that you just can’t take it anymore and they’ll be so shocked and surprised that they might actually stop doing the thing that’s driving you to despair.
6. Money management goes out the window
I’m a freelance journalist so I’m clearly not about making big bucks, but I am at an age where I’d rather not order the cheapest wine on the menu or hang around waiting for the night bus home – I have a decent lifestyle because I’m careful with my money. Man child, however, takes an all-or-nothing approach, blowing his wages (oh yeah, man child earns wages, not a salary) on whatever takes his fancy when he gets paid and then lives on the breadline until his next payday. This means forfeiting activities and evenings out because he can’t afford it, or – as is often the case – footing the bill yourself.
7. It’s always 2003
…or whatever period it is that resonates with their rose-tinted teenage years. This means you’ll spend a lot of time listening to the music of their heyday (which isn’t the worst, because I’ve always got time for nu-metal) and re-watching the viral videos that dominated the early internet before memes became a thing (which actually is the worst, because I’ve just spent the last three days with Tom Green’s ‘Daddy would you like some sausage’ stuck in my head. Don’t look it up, seriously).
8. You have a lot of fun
I’m a 32-year-old woman and my lounge is strewn with skateboards, games consoles, various radio-controlled bits of crap, graphic novels and other miscellaneous stuff that belongs in the bedroom of a teenage boy. It really fucks with my interior design aesthetic, and I’m always tripping over something, but I don’t care anymore. Man Child and I have very different approaches to life and as such we complement each other well. I do a lot for him, but it’s not one-sided. His chilled-out, sunny demeanour has helped me let go of my control freak tendencies. I am relaxed. I laugh more. I don’t take life so seriously and, importantly, I have a hell of a lot of fun.
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