To All the Boys who are Emotionally Sixteen

By: Shifra Lindenberg  |  November 14, 2018

By Shifra Lindenberg, Web and Social Media Editor

Dear boys,

Yes, boys. Not men, not guys, boys. Because you didn’t really become a man when you turned thirteen, you didn’t completely find yourself during your gap year – if you did take one – and you aren’t grown up now.

Because you’re still growing up. You’re either just turning twenty or you’re in your early twenties. That’s not to say that I’m excluding myself, because I’m also twenty and still growing.

You’re probably not living at home anymore, but your parents are paying for your dorm or your apartment in Washington Heights. You probably don’t have a job because you’re a student, and if you do have a job, it’s probably a part-time job or paid internship that expires at the end of the school year.

And while you might be trying to find yourself internally, at the end of the day, you don’t actually plan on making big changes to yourself that would make you more of a man than a boy. Because you’re not ready to grow up.

You haven’t grown up yet because not only do you not need to, but you don’t want to.

Your life has been the same since high school. You have the same routine, the same work ethic, the same clothing that your mother bought for you, the same political views, and the same cycle of how you maintain relationships.

And it’s not to say that girls aren’t the same. They’re not perfect either. However, this article isn’t about girls – it’s about the boys.

So back to boys. Specifically, the ones who I think are emotionally sixteen.

I get it – you aren’t ready to commit to a long-term relationship because you’ve told yourself and others how you’re young, not mature enough, and not ready to commit to one person. I agree with you on that. However, the real reason you aren’t ready is that you don’t want to be ready.

You’re comfortable in your fleeting relationships with girls that hold little to no real commitment. It’s so much easier to have a pseudo-serious relationship with a girl for six to eight months than to actually commit and want to be with her because you might love her. Instead of a possibly longer period of time, for six to eight months you get a companion who makes you her number one. You always have someone to talk to, vent to, and to listen to your problems. And if she isn’t shomer negiah, you’ll have a “friends with benefits” relationship with her, so you won’t feel deprived of human contact and closeness. And what do you have to pay? The small price of an illusion that this “relationship” will actually go anywhere. The relationship isn’t maturing, like you. It’s just something to pass the time.

It’s so much easier when you don’t have to change and actually put in the hard work that is “wanting to be with someone.”

But there is collateral damage to these relationships that you keep forming, boys. If the girl feels the same as you, in just wanting to have companionship so she isn’t lonely, and not because she loves you, there may not be damage because she wasn’t emotionally invested in you. You used her, and she used you. But if the girl cared about and invested in you, she’ll be left heartbroken. She’ll question herself, trying to figure out what she did wrong, trying to find out what it is she wasn’t giving to you, because she actually cared about you and was willing to put in the work to love you. She can’t accept the fact that she didn’t do anything wrong because she doesn’t understand that you don’t want to change, to commit, to grow up and respect her, and not use her to fill your own void of loneliness.

But, like most girls, this girl is strong, and she puts in the work to grow from this situation and eventually see that you used her. She goes into her next relationship looking for someone who sees her as an equal, not an object. Someone who wants to give and make her happy, and will accept the fact that she too wants to give and make them happy. She’ll find someone who sees her for the incredible individual that she is and puts in the work to love her because he loves her.

But you? You’ll keep searching for someone who’ll temporarily fill your void of loneliness, like you’ve been doing since high school.

That’s why you’re emotionally sixteen.

Change is scary because it requires us to face the unknown. It pushes us to discomfort and vulnerability, but the reward is growth toward stronger, smarter versions of our former selves. We didn’t become men and women at twelve and thirteen, and we didn’t become adults during our gap year in Israel. Everyone is still growing up in their early twenties, regardless of religious affiliation.

But to all the boys I’ve loved, embrace change. Reevaluate your priorities and let yourself grow up. Let yourself be vulnerable because vulnerability is one of the key ingredients to falling in love. Listen before you speak, and don’t speak just to hear yourself talk. Know that there is work to love but with an amazing reward, and the truthfulness that is “love’s a game of give and take.” You have to give in order to get when you’re in a relationship, and if you give a lot to the right, amazing person, you too will get a lot.

Oh, and remember, it’s boys, because you aren’t men yet, and well, this isn’t intended for one specific person.

With love,

Your Emotionally Eighteen Stern Girl