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When I Grow Up to Be A Man

By Alyssa Rosenberg

"When I Grow Up to Be A Man"

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I never got the appeal of Everybody Loves Raymond, and as a result, I harbored uncharitable feelings towards Ray Romano for years.  Having caught an episode of Men of a Certain Age last night, I feel a need to repent for that dislike.  Men has been on my list of things to check out for a while.  I like Andre Braugher.  And I thought the muted humor of the commercials tended to hit their mark effectively.

But I was surprised by how much I liked last night’s episode.  In one pivotal sequence, Braugher’s character discovers that Romano’s character’s ex-wife was cheating on him with the man she got together with once the marriage ended.  The conversation leading up to the reveal, at a somewhat awkward function, is almost precisely what you’d expect from adults who don’t all know each other well, and aren’t necessarily clicking on any particular level.  And when he convinces himself that the right thing to do is to tell Romano’s character, the reactions he gets from another friend and his wife are also surprisingly–and I think compellingly–awkward.  His friend says the marriage must have been damaged for her to cheat.  And his wife is more concerned with the fact that his reaction embarrassed his friend’s ex-wife (who is her friend) than in the fact that a manifest wrong’s been done.  And I can understand why those reactions might be enormously disorienting: they suggest that the moral universe Braugher’s operating in is mistaken, as is his estimation of his friendship and his obligations within it.

That’s really the thing that the Beach Boys, “When I Grow Up to Be a Man,” the theme song that plays over the opening credits, is about.  Digging the same things in a woman that you liked in a girl, or having your kids see you as cool, is really about whether not just your preferences, but your values, persevere.

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