I’ve reached that age, that in-between place I’ve heard about, where pop music is no longer central to my life. It snuck up on me, and now when I turn on our local Top-40 station, instead of belting out in song and pretending my minivan is a night club, I’m sort of bemused. I don’t really understand the majority of the lyrics. And what’s with all the screeching? And why does everyone keep saying they have swagger. Don’t they know swagger’s a verb? Kids these days.
I have a six year-old son, so when I noticed a Yahoo! promotional interview for a book called Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules of Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness and Thug Culture by Lisa Bloom, I clicked. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the new “swagger” (the noun) I Googled it and got this definition: “A very confident and typically arrogant or aggressive gait or manner.”
I listened to Ms. Bloom’s interview, which you can find here. In it, she asserts that a major problem with our boys today is that they have swagger (read: they’re overconfident and arrogant), and she seems to place blame on society for this shortcoming. The solutions she offers in her interview are that parents should:
– Replace swagger with humility (let them know “they’re not better than anyone else just because they woke up in the morning”);
– Make your home a reading mecca (because boys think reading is girly);
– Insist they go to college and get a degree.
Throughout the interview, Ms. Bloom cites research and data and statistics and societal woes and a lack of positive celebrity role models…and for the life of me I can’t figure out how any of this matters with regard to the problem she’s addressing.
Bloom asserts that overconfidence in boys is the problem. She seems to take this at face value, that these boys have somehow managed to develop such an overinflated opinion of themselves that they must be “taken down a few notches” to reestablish order.
I can’t help but think there’s something deeper going on.
When I was a kid, a first-grade classmate told me I was ugly, then he proceeded to enlist a few more classmates and they all got a big kick out of my ugliness. When I came home and cried, my mother said, “There’s nothing wrong with you, dear. The only reason they need to make you feel bad is because they need to feel better about themselves. They’re hurting, and they may not even know it yet. But they will.”
I didn’t believe her then, but I do now. I’m thinking that those children were in the infant stages of Swagger. If their paths did not change course, my guess is that nowadays they’ve got mad Swagger. Here’s the Being June definition:
Swagger: to overcompensate for excruciating emptiness, self-doubt and/or hopelessness
We overcompensate when we do not believe in ourselves, when we’re certain no one else believes in us either. If this is the case, then the anti-venom of Swagger is not forced humility, as Ms. Bloom argues. It is respect. It is training. It is grace. It is love. It is family. The young man with a severe case of Swagger does not need to be taken down a notch, to be told he’s less than he thinks he is. He’s already there – he’s just not telling you.
The world will always be full of problems, but we should not blame the world if our boys are floundering. A boy needs a father who’s brave enough spend time with him and to lead by example. He needs a mother who understands his heart and who will allow him to experiment with adventure and with his own budding leadership skills. He needs parents who will teach him to look inside himself and find his own innate strength and courage and abilities, to make sure he knows he’s loved. The rest will come. The reading, the humility, the academics (none of which, I believe, will solve anything of true value in and of themselves) will happen.
The problem is massive. Fortunately, the solution is about the size of a family.
I’m only responding to the promotion of this book, not the book itself. I plan to read the book, and I hope I will be pleasantly surprised with what I find.
I’d love to hear your take on this. Is Swagger the problem…or a symptom of the problem?