I'm sure you guys have heard of Flylady. Anyway, a couple of months ago she sent out an essay that her husband wrote about Men's Stuff. I liked the essay. It doesn't really have a solution, but it was good to hear from a man's perspective. Its kind of long, but here it is:
When you're about to take a trip, you make preparations. You gas up the car, you pack your bag, maybe you check the map. Anyway, you do all this before you leave the driveway. Guys' possible future lives are like that; we acquire things that are either currently useful, or things that will surely be useful later, when we fulfill one or another of those life missions our parents unknowingly gave us. Up to now, the analogy to getting ready for a trip works fairly well, but right here it breaks down. If the trip gets cancelled, you don't leave the bag packed. When the kid (who, let's say, played football in high school) finds himself a finish carpenter, or pediatrician, or whatever, he will probably not throw away that high school letter jacket. He's not going to wear it, but he is going to keep it, at least for a while. And while he keeps it, to you it looks like clutter.
To him, it isn't clutter. It is the smudgy ink stamp on the wrist that says he can get back into the nightclub of youth. To understand this, you need to understand the difference between how you stay young, and how he does. Men, for the most part, don't use makeup. We may use hair dye, but we don't use it well. We may work out in the gym, but we don't use body shapers or girdles. In other words, our attempts at eternal youth are less successful than yours are. And yet, our culture sets a considerable premium on youth, or at least the illusion of youth. Let's just say it: you fool yourselves your way, we fool ourselves our way, and our way involves psychological props. As long as we don't discard that old camping equipment, we are still campers, still Boy Scouts, sort of. If we keep the letter jacket, we preserve the moment of triumph as if it were only yesterday. If we don't have that old GTO hauled off, we tell ourselves that we might still, someday, rebuild the motor and have a muscle car again. As long as we keep the stuff, we can still cling to the illusions.
I am a mediocre bridge player but a decent chess player. I can regap the tappets on an MG, but there are third graders who can draw better than I can. When people talk about me, they sometimes say that I'm a judge and that's fine, that's how the language works, but it isn't really true. I make my living as a judge, but that's just what I do, it isn't what I am. I don't know what I am; I like to think I'm a work in progress. But whatever it is that I presently am, I don't think it can be summed up in one word. I don't think your guy can be, either. I'm not a judge, she's not a blond, he isn't an activist, and you're not a ditz. But having said that, I think it is possible to say what someone is not. Your guy's life still has many roads it can take, but
some of the original possibilities are now firmly in the past. He could still write a play, or learn Spanish, but at some point, it has become a fact that he isn't going to be a professional athlete, or a rock star. And yet he may still have musty old letter jacket, or a dust-covered set of drums, or a box of obsolete radio parts, or a wooden tennis racket. They have in fact become clutter, from the moment that he came to a fork in the road and took the path that led some other way. You see it. He doesn't, at least not yet. Men do not
easily come to terms with what they are not, because the illusion that all of the possibilities are still intact is a comforting one. As long as all things are possible, we are still twenty. To look at our life and say that this or that thing is simply not going to happen, is to acknowledge that we aren't twenty any more.
I don't know that there is anything you can do about any of this; maybe just knowing is enough. But remember, you hooked up with your guy, and women aren't attracted by stupidity. He isn't a dimwit, but he is willing to fool himself if you let him. The wrong way to not-let him is to say, "Why are you keeping that old stuff? You're never going to do anything with that!" That is wrong, not because it is incorrect, but because it won't work. Just a thought: if you get rid of the prom dress, the letter jacket will probably disappear. Your home may not have either of those things, but you know what I mean.