Shaker Heights, Ohio -- Ten-year-old Jared Wemyss is depressed. According to his father, Rory, school has become "torture," and gym class "an exercise in abject humiliation."
Jared's problem? "It's the girls," says Wemyss, 38, an insurance agent. "They're growing into a pack of valkyries before they hit double digits. Not only are they better than the boys at empathizing and forming relationships and digesting written intstructions, they can also hit a ball farther, run faster, and beat any of them in an arm wrestle.
"They're reducing Jared and his friends to complete insignificance."
Statistics would appear to bear out Wemyss's observation, at least in part. Recent studies show that American girls are reaching puberty younger than ever -- sometimes as early as seven or eight. Boys lag far behind. "My little guy stands four foot eight, which ought to be a perfectly respectable height," says Rory. "Not anymore -- the shortest girl in the class is five-foot-six, and that's without the go-go boots.
"Plus, they get mood swings and have all sorts of emotional needs that Jared finds completely incomprehensible. How is he supposed to develop socially under these circumstances? In my day, boys caught up to girls by the time everyone started high school. At this rate, all the girls will be divorced and wary of attachment by then."
Jared tells the story of how, last Valentine's Day, he offered a hand-drawn valentine to a girl he'd developed a crush on. "She took the valentine and stomped on it and screamed, 'My boyfriend just got maimed by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan'!" He says, a baffled look creeping across his cherub's face. "Then she picked me up over her head and threw me down a flight of stairs."
Experts are divided on what, exactly, is causing American girls to mature at such alarmingly young ages. One prominent sociologist blames the shadowy influence of the feminist movement. In his bestselling book, Those Damned Girls: How Feminism and Weird Hormone Stuff Are Creating a Generation of Stunted, Contemptible Milquetoasts, University of Illinois professor Rod Manley writes: "First these womb-inati infiltrated the classrooms, teaching our daughters to cherish their 'different voices', and feminizing our sons by banning tackle football and gang rape. Next, they seized control over the FDA, releasing special girl-only growth hormones into our milk."Their goal, according to Professor Manley, is a largely male-less society. "Expect a Guy-erdämmerung," he warns, in a phone interview. "Any day now, these women will rise up, and together with their amazon daughters, they'll wipe us off the planet and rule it alone. It'll be just like one of those pulp sci-fi novels, only no one will be left to find it sexy."
"I wouldn't put it past them," says Salon columnist Camille Paglia. "Our nation's boys need reparative therapy, and quickly. Mothers and fathers need to create a suburban Sparta, bidding their sons to come home with their shields or on them, but always in time for supper."
Apocalyptic predictions aside, the Wemyss family is willing, at least for the moment, to take the good with the bad. "Our two daughters were both ready to leave the nest by the time they were Jared's age," says Jared's mother, Christa Wemyss, 35. "Sabine, who's now twelve, models for Versace in Milan, and Jenna, who just turned eleven, became the youngest person ever to be accepted for flight training by the Israeli Air Force. Jared sometimes feels like an underachiever, but we go out of our way to make him feel welcome and appreciated."
She grins as she pokes her son. "Maybe we can't fly an F-16 or make the cover of Italian Vogue, but we sure can take out the garbage. Right, half-pint?"
Grinning back gamely, Jared swears he feels no envy toward his sisters. "I guess I'd like to shoot Walleye missiles at stuff like Jenna," he says. "But Sabine's Alfa Romeo is really gay."
Even school days yield Jared the occasional bright moment. "The other day, that girl I gave the Valentine to asked me to play 'footstool'. Basically, I got down on all fours and she dug her heels into my back.
"It was kind of weird at first, but after a while, I got into it."
Note: The preceding piece was my attempt at an Onion-style gag news article. The Wemyss family and Professor Manley don't really exist. Camille Paglia never made the statement I attribute to her.