What separates boys from men?

As a "young woman" I am frustrated by the lack of terminology for people like me. We don't have to think about the boy vs. man question often, because hey, they're all "guys." Natalie Angier likes the term "gals" for us not-girl-not-woman types, but that's a wee bit goofy. In order to be a "gal" I need pedal pushers, a bowling ball, something jauntily plaid (hat?), and a convertible. But I digress.

Given the obscuring nature of the guy designation, it's possible to go from being a 12-year-old boy to a 40-year-old man without any definitional confusion; you can just shrug by on "guy" for the interval. Female types have more trouble. I minorly cringe at being called both "girl" and "woman." The former is someone with pigtails and/or Chapstick. The latter is someone with children and/or pantyhose. Guys are just guys but the term is too casual for me: it always comes with a shrug attached.

Consider the following:
"I'm seeing a new guy." --> whatever. He's just this guy, eh.
"I'm seeing a new boy." --> mincing, yet inexplicably sexy, I've got to say.
"I'm seeing a new man." --> seems aggressive somehow.
Augh! What to do?

Lexicological squeamishness aside, I'm interested in the deciding features of boyhood and manhood. I used to have a simple test: male individual = 'boy' if he wears flipflops or those giant overpadded sneakers more than 50% of the time. However by this criterion, there are almost no men in Sri Lanka, and Ross is not a boy*. Indeed?

A better analysis is needed. I suspect that this is a morass quite similar to the problem of deciding when one is a Real Grown-Up. Let's hear suggestions. Males reading: what do you call yourselves?

*actually, this is not logically implied. It's funny, though, if you know Ross.


thimal said...

yep, guy, as in average guy works for me. My advancing years also lend themselves to the self deprecating "old fart" or geezer. Take yer pick.

And good grief, footwear isn't an adequate indication of maturity or what to call someone, surely ? By those standards ... when I'm in SL, I wear those leather open toed slippers. Everywhere. I even wore them to work occasionally. But my workplace was pretty relaxed about dress codes, so I suppose it doesn't count.

As for the others:
lady when referred to in third person, woman when exasperated (as in 'what the hell do you think you're doing dragging me along for shopping, woman?!). I personally think young woman and girl are rather patronizing to anyone older than a teenager :) but hey, that's just me.

Real grownup ? Who's that? Never met 'em.

Rebecca said...

the footwear litmus is a strictly north american gauge, indeed.

you can't possibly be telling me that you call early 20s women lady. that is just too precious and silly. i like it for slightly older women (again, 30ish is a good benchmark) but i disagree with its use for me--too much gravitas for my flaky self.

am starting to like gal better.

vram said...

How about "dudette"? Like "wow check out those rack on that dudette!" or "hi dudette" :)

thimal said...

Heh, no. I haven't stepped out of a Bogart movie. Calling all early 20s females "ladies" is just asking for trouble. Well, it's still the least offensive way to refer to them in the third person, however. If I know the name, I'd first name 'em and avoid all the labelling :)

Why is it that gal is always associated in my mind with stetson hats, lassos and john-wayne-had-a-gender-change scenarios ? Bleh. I hear the term chick is making a comeback.

Rebecca said...

john wayne gender-change scenarios? i haven't seen any of those, unless we're talking about the scene in "The Birdcage" where robin williams' character tries to teach nathan lane's drag queen diva character how to Be A Man, lesson 1 being 'walk like john wayne.' not gal specific.

i also hear chick making a comeback, which is nice, given the casualness of it as compared with the quintessential guy. it does have a faint air of pick-up-line about it.

Adam said...

I am a young man.

Rebecca said...

le biz, darling, of course you are a young man. a young master, even ("master adam, would you join the others in the salon? for port?") and you can pull it off because you have, what was it called? a european physique.

thimal said...

Ooh, I bow to your superior movie quoting skillz. Props. I didn't remember the movie or characters involved (I'm odd that way), but I think you got the "walk like John Wayne" reference right. Bah. it's already a tshirt slogan .

I suppose "hey you. Yez. You with der lipstick and floppy hat" doesn't float your boat? Oh well.