Pop Theory 12: Have Lesbians Become the New "Peter Pan"?
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"It’s time to step up," is what a friend said to me the other day. My silent response in my mind was, “Yes, it is”—but there are many ways to “step up” in regard to one’s behavior. This call to maturity made me think about my own ethics which relishes youthfulness. I always told myself that I’d never become "old," never become stuck in my ways, never stop seeing the world with a child’s eyes or rose-colored glasses. I believe in “the new” and the possibility of the new, of love, of romance. I didn’t want to become one of those old, jaded lesbians who, because she is anchored to her past experiences, refuses to live life with inspired positivity, with optimism.
Later that night I began to think about the kind of youthfulness that I wanted to carry with me throughout my life. Does an ethic of youthfulness necessarily imply an immaturity—a refusal to "step up"?
And what does growing up mean for people who exist in a subculture that intentionally thwarts heteronormative ideals of maturity? Or, are homos, since we have become so "normalized" or "accepted" by dominant society (we don’t even need our own television programming anymore!), expected to participate in codified rituals of maturation, such as marriage and making babies and working "real" (non-humanities, arts or education related) jobs?
A desire to remain youthful can manifest variously in one’s ethics. Outside myself and my own penchant for dirty jokes and tendency to infuse sexual innuendo into discussion without discrimination, I began to think about how immaturity manifests within the lesbian community. Are there behaviors and/or stylized ways of being (via a self-fashioning) that bespeak or portray immaturity? Does the lesbian harbor a Peter Pan Complex?
The Peter Pan Complex, or “Syndrome” as it is sometimes regarded, is derived from the Latin term puer aeternus, meaning “eternal boy” and inspired by J.M. Barrie’s play about Peter Pan and his adventures in Neverland. Peter Pan, we all know, is the boy who escapes to Neverland because he refuses to “grow up.” Dan Kiley’s 1983 pop-psychology work, The Peter Pan Syndrome, analyzes the mind of the boy who refuses to become a man, whereby