Incels: A contemporary malaise.

Adrian de León
5 min readAug 15, 2021

There is a man in the mirror I don’t recognise. I see a familiarity in the face of the gentleman staring right back at me. I know the traits and the contours of his face as mine. When I speak, his lips move; when I move my limbs, so do his. Undoubtedly it is me, but he has aged, and no longer looks like the teenager that I picture in my head.

I know for a fact that I am approaching my 30s, and that I am close to four years older than my parents were when they had their first child. However, the image I cultivate in my head is one of a young teenager. I feel a million miles away from sharing the charactersitics of adults around me. At 29, I am very much an adult; yet I grasp on the notion of a younger self. This is why I don’t recognise the man in the mirror, nor do I totally understand the expectations, wheter my own or those of others, that come with the territory.

I don’t worry myself with life admin, I laugh (or recoil) at the idea of discussing pension plans, and I see the future life stages (notably marriage and/or children) as alien concepts. I cannot possibly be entrusted to plan for such events; those which combine high risks with high rewards.

I’ve spent a while trying to understand this chasm between what I see in my head and what others see in the mirror. Why am I seeing a teenager, my old-self, whilst others, rightly, see me for the adult that I am? Why do I snigger at the idea of being taken seriously? Why do I continue to avoid certain endeavours associated with planning your life as an adult? These are the conflicting questions I have been attempting to resolve in my head.

Have I been socialised into an infantilised society? One in which we are driven by materialistic and viceral desires? Perhaps I am a reflection of a generation of men (for I cannot speak about the experiences of other identities) who shy away from responsibilities which require selfless sacrifice? These are the societal questions I attempt to resolve in my head.

I also believe that I am not alone in wrestling with these questions. I am not alone in juggling between two contrasting realities; between the one constructed in my head and the one that exists outside of it. I doubt that there is a name that reflects the complex characteristics of this state of mind, but I do know the term for those who take these tensions to dangerous extremes.

“Incels” are the fanatical and radicalised manifestation of a deeper malaise. It is a…

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