The Mellowing of Men

Commenter Ljh makes the following remark under my post about passion attracting women:

Men compete with each other for ranking. I’ve observed it at meetings, dinner parties and other events where alpha males attempt to dominate the others and brag of their various achievements: pure anthropology.

This is undoubtedly true for young men between 16 and 25, who are constantly vying for the attention of any women in the vicinity. Men between these ages are forever fighting, squaring up to one another, mocking each other, and engaging in all manner of silly games intended to demonstrate dominance over their peers and establish a pecking order.

What surprises me a little about Ljh’s comment is that he still sees it going on, whereas in my experience this all starts to fade away after age 25 or so, and past 30 is almost gone completely. There was a time when meeting a bunch of men for the first time would put me on edge a little, knowing I was in direct competition with them. Nowadays I’m happy just to make friends, relax, and talk bullshit (I’m especially good at that last one).

It could be that Ljh moves in different circles from me. Perhaps in banking, law, and other industries where a big ego and alpha-male characteristics are advantageous you encounter men who still feel the need to establish dominance over their peers, even in middle-age. In engineering, or at least that branch which deals with oil and gas, there isn’t so much of that. I’ve found most of my colleagues to be very easy going and cooperative, more interested in getting along with people than outranking them. I put this down to them mostly being settled with wives and children. Why would you continue fighting for female attention when you already have a mate? There are better, less painful things to do with your time.

Something else I noticed was how little trouble you tend to get into when you pass a certain age. When you’re between 16 and 25 it seems remarkably easy to get into fights in bars, or attract the wrong sort of attention on the street. As you get older that stops happening (unless you encounter proper criminals), and I reckon it’s because most of the aggravation is posturing and establishing street cred among peers. A lary teenager doesn’t see a bloke of 35 as his peer, so won’t start kicking off with him to impress his mates, but if another teenager walks by he will. (There’s also the issue which young men are subconsciously aware of that older men can be fucking dangerous, as likely to kill them as fight them.)

In summary, as men settle down and the testosterone reduces they mellow out and become less competitive, generally speaking. Women, on the other hand? That’s a rather different matter.

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31 thoughts on “The Mellowing of Men

  1. Going by contributions elsewhere, I have the impression that LJH is:
    1) A woman
    2) A medic
    3) White South African

    Apologies if incorrect.

  2. Going by contributions elsewhere, I have the impression that LJH is

    Ah, interesting! That may well explain the different perspective.

  3. My son’s TKD instructor asked me what *my* personal protection plan was.

    “Avoidance” was my answer

    When she asked what my “plan B: was, I said: Glock.

    -XC

  4. “Avoidance” was my answer

    Yeah, I seem to remember being told the best form of defence is to get yourself the f*ck out of there as rapidly as possible. Alas, no Glocks to fall back on, though. 🙁

  5. If you are a single guy in your 30s/40s, getting all competitive over women is NOT a pulling strategy. Worldly wisdom, increased wealth and not being a dick like you were when you were 25 are your weapons.

  6. Worldly wisdom, increased wealth and not being a dick like you were when you were 25 are your weapons.

    Yes, particularly that third one. From what I’ve heard, if you can manage to go through a first date without being a complete cock, you’ve eliminated a good half of the competition.

  7. I don’t know whether they still do, but motor insurers used to regard young men under 25 as having an immortality complex.

  8. I don’t know whether they still do, but motor insurers used to regard young men under 25 as having an immortality complex.

    Ah yes, but the goalposts kept moving. The Oilfield Expat mentioned this once:

    When I was 18 years old and first got my driving license, all the talk among my peers was about insurance costs. When you’re a young male – and by definition a total idiot – car insurance is understandably very high, and you can end up being quoted premiums of $2,000 per year on a $700 car. The standard refrain from the insurance companies was “it’s high because you’re under 21”, and 21 was the magic age at which car insurance suddenly became cheaper.

    Only it didn’t. By the time I got to 21 I was still being quoted premiums several times the value of the car, only the line trotted out by the insurance companies had changed slightly: “it’s high because you’re under 25”. When I got to 25 I found I was still being treated as a “young” driver, and the premiums didn’t come down any (although the cars I was driving were considerably better, in that the brakes actually worked, the window didn’t keep falling out, and gaffer tape was not a component of the vehicle’s overall structural integrity). I became aware that the goalposts were being shifted every time I reached a previously-cited milestone, and that I’d be better off ignoring promises of future discounts and just shopping around for the best quote I can get today.

  9. Tim, you’re saying older men don’t compete for females? Are you forgetting about the approximately 50% divorce rate in the UK and US?

    I’d bet most of those men divorcing are over 25 and probably many over 40. I’d also wager a large percentage of the divorces are for infidelity. These older men may not be literally fighting for women the way the under 25 males sometimes do but they are competing for women just the same.

  10. Yeah, I seem to remember being told the best form of defence is to get yourself the f*ck out of there as rapidly as possible.

    My old sensei was a cop who taught close combat to other cops. A good third of any lesson was “how to eject from a dangerous situation before any punches get thrown”.

    Also , “as men settle down and the testosterone reduces they mellow out and become less competitive” is still anthropology. 16-25 year old men are at their sexual peak and evolution is driving them to reproduce as fast and as hard as possible in an environment where they have lots of competition from other 16-25 year olds. As men get older, a cooler head and confidence are both more successful reproductive strategies and more conducive to keeping your existing offspring alive.

  11. Tim, you’re saying older men don’t compete for females? Are you forgetting about the approximately 50% divorce rate in the UK and US?

    At that age? Hardly. Past a certain age there seem to be a lot of single women and precious few men about.

  12. Also , “as men settle down and the testosterone reduces they mellow out and become less competitive” is still anthropology.

    Of course.

  13. I’d also wager a large percentage of the divorces are for infidelity.

    The available evidence is that it’s mostly women who initiate divorce, and husbandly infidelity is rarely if ever cited as the reason. Estimates of adultery rates vary wildly, so it’s hard to say anything conclusive other than that the rates for male and female infidelity are always close, whatever the specific study says the rates are.

  14. I think a lot of this depends on how you spend your days.

    I used to be involved in “mass tort” litigation. (Breast implants, bad drugs, asbestos, etc.) These cases would sometimes have a hundred or more lawyers involved – lots of plaintiff teams, and several large defendant teams.

    Imagine the stereotypical gorilla troop. Dominance is signaled through roaring around, beating on your chest, tearing up grass and throwing it in the air, and peeing in all of the corners.

    That’s essentially what you get when you put a hundred 40-70 year old trial attorneys in the same courtroom.

  15. That’s essentially what you get when you put a hundred 40-70 year old trial attorneys in the same courtroom.

    Heh! Yeah, it appears law is one of the areas these guys flock to!

  16. The Meissen Bison: I am correctly identified. From my observations the worst offenders are men aged 40-late 50s especially if there are younger men around over whom the older man/men wish to demonstrate “silverback” dominance. I have been particularly fascinated in business meetings where I, the client, have been completely ignored while my lawyer, a male trustee and a bunch of financial boys, pitching for business, have indulged in dominance wars. Had I been a male client would I have had to participate?

  17. From my observations the worst offenders are men aged 40-late 50s especially if there are younger men around over whom the older man/men wish to demonstrate “silverback” dominance. I have been particularly fascinated in business meetings where I, the client, have been completely ignored while my lawyer, a male trustee and a bunch of financial boys, pitching for business, have indulged in dominance wars.

    That’s interesting! Either my industry is really different or I don’t notice this stuff. or maybe I’m doing it myself? *checks back for silver hair*

    Anyway, thanks for your contributions!

  18. Tim Newman: I am not saying all men do it but I am presently in a position to observe Previously Very Important Men on a very unimportant committee, who are now in their 60s, early 70s who still breast beat and tear up the grass to delineate their turf.

  19. ” Had I been a male client would I have had to participate?”

    It’s been my courtroom experience that women can fight for silverback status just as well as men. They might use different tools, but they can leave the losers bleeding on the floor just as effectively.

  20. When I left home as a 16yo kid my father’s parting shot was “Watch the lad closest to you: he’ll be your biggest threat.” And experience has born this out. The guy at the next desk may also turn out to be your best (lifelong) friend. The best man at your wedding; you are godfather to his son. The both of you enjoy each other’s company and provide mutual support. However because you are so close, each is more able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the another – and like as not, you will compete… for the girls, for promotion, for seniority amongst your peer group. It never stops … even in your 60s.

  21. And don’t get me started on the Oil Industry.

    I confess, I’ve seen some right egotistical pricks in it, but it’s more a race to see who can make their boss’ arse cleaner rather than to impress women.

  22. However because you are so close, each is more able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the another – and like as not, you will compete… for the girls, for promotion, for seniority amongst your peer group. It never stops … even in your 60s.

    It’s why it’s a good idea not to have your closest friends working in the same office, or even industry, as you. And one of the reasons why my best friends are the people they are because they were the first that *didn’t* try to put me down every time a half-decent looking woman walked past. We never felt in direct competition with each other.

  23. There’s always some bastard – young, old or middle-aged – trying to boost his status at your expense, so you have to stand your ground and fight back. Other people may find the show ridiculous. At any rate, it’s not directly about women.

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