I’ve been thinking a lot about the story about Peter Pan and Wendy lately and I’m not talking about the happy cutesy Disney version. It’s due to events in both my own and friend’s lives which made me think of this. It’s the rather dark book Peter Pan by James M. Barries, a story about the boy who refuses to grow up, who flees to Neverland, to a world where fairies live and children can fly. Peter Pan is a boy who fears the adult life and thinks that he can hold on to his freedom by remaining a child, but instead he ends up being lonely. Then there is Wendy, who flies to Neverland as a big sister and who quickly takes on the role as the mother for the island’s orphans. She is wonderfully responsible and sensible, but in contrast to Peter, she grows up too fast. So fast that she longs back to reality where she can be a child and then grow up more slowly. Wendy tries to change Peter Pan. She hopes that he can come home with her and that he might feel something for her. Something more. Peter tells her that she can’t have that. Because he does not want to be a man. He only wants to have fun. The need to remain a boy can be endearing, but it is also quite egocentric. Wendy cries when she realises that he will never be anything else than someone to play with.
In the 80’s, psychiatrist Dan Kiley published the book “The Peter Pan Syndrome. Men Who Have Never Grown Up“. It is about men who romanticizes not growing up. Men who choose to avoid responsibility. Men who stay boys inside. Men who do not know how to emotionally connect and commit to a woman. Kiley suggests that the reason for this lies in overprotecting parents or in missing contact with their father in combination with idolatry of their mother, which create uncertainty about the role as men and a fear of women of real flesh and blood. It can end up in male chauvinism and contempt for women. These men do not have adult feelings and they seem not to be in contact with their true feelings within. On the other hand there is “The Wendy Dilemma : When Women Stop Mothering Their Men” which is a book written by Kiley as a response to “The Peter Pan Syndrome” as an attempt to answer questions asked by women on how to improve their relationships with these kind of men. The book explores the role of mothering and explains how women, who seek approval in relationships by acting as mother rather than as a wife, produce an unhealthy relationship that contributes to the problem of men who refuse to grow up.
I feel I’m surrounded by men who are are like Peter Pan. There are also some women who acts as Peter Pans, but mostly it’s men. I live in a Peter Pan culture. I don’t want to end up like a Wendy. It’s quite hard to know how to deal with this.
I can understand the fear of getting old. I just don’t get the fear of growing up. To grow up is a good thing. It’s just that one must not grow up too soon…or too late.
About a hundred years ago, when the book Peter Pan was written, people had to grow up fast. In contrast to the following century where youth to a larger extent was and still is romanticized. In our culture today, personal freedom is really valued, but in my opinion this ideal can conceive us. Freedom alone will seldom make someone happy. Relationships and inclusion are far more important. It is for me, anyway.