The “Mammonis” are well-known figures throughout Italy. They are grown-ass, often-educated, gainfully employed men in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s who still live with their mothers as if they were little boys or adolescents, still physically and emotionally dependent upon dear Mama. It’s funny, but it’s not. These men essentially chose Mama over marriage; as a result, the Italian birth rate is in the red, which is why the country’s practically offering citizenship to anyone who’s ever eaten at an Olive Garden.
Italy’s issues aside, there’s a fledgling fear within me that America might be fostering some variation of a Mammoni of our own.
When I was growing up, a boy too dependent on his mother was called a mamma’s boy. It wasn’t a compliment; in fact, it was dangerous. More profoundly, though, this ethos was an indication of the hyper-masculinity boys of my generation (and every one, ever, before that) were expected to embrace in order to be boys and then men, and this is – in large part – why so many of my generation (and every one, ever, before that) have a screwy view of gender equality and, perhaps, even worse, a history of shitty behavior.
The shift away from male hegemony in the household, especially over the raising of boys, to a more co-equal paradigm of parenting was certainly welcome and overdue. The fact that boys now wear pink without shame is a symbol of generational progress fueled by an embrace of equality, tolerance, and empathy. It’s beautiful. And sure, there was some overreach (“everyone gets a trophy!”) but, by and large, we were (and still are) simply raising better boys (and kids in general).
But then came Donald Trump, the pussy-grabbing candidate who bested a far more qualified woman for the most important gig in the world. And while the shock of that mind-fuck was still fresh, Harvey Weinstein’s history crawled from the gutter, followed by legions of other revelations about other men that shattered the conventional wisdom of what “men behaving badly” really meant in breadth and depth.
I’m a believer in sunlight being the best antiseptic and all that, but it’s a slog – remedying a few thousand years of pathology – sure to inspire some misinterpretation of just how preternaturally, well, predatory and lacking in compassion males are. I sense an urgency, in mothers and fathers, to save our boys, but I hope we don’t overdo it. I hope we don’t smother and shame our boys into being passive creatures who are unsure of their place in the world; I hope we don’t strip them of the durability needed to become independent adults who no longer need their Mamas and Papas to take care of them.