Robert Webb’s “How Not To Be a Boy” is an autobiographical memoir that delves into the author’s childhood and adolescence, exploring the complexities of growing up male in a world that often defines masculinity in narrow and limiting ways. Through his personal experiences, Webb offers insights into the challenges faced by boys and men, and how societal expectations can shape our identity.
Chapter 1: The Boy
The first chapter of “How Not To Be a Boy” introduces the reader to Robert Webb as a young boy growing up in West Yorkshire. Webb describes his childhood home as chaotic, with his parents often arguing and his mother struggling with depression. Despite this, Webb found solace in his imagination and in the world of make-believe, where he could be whoever he wanted to be.
Chapter 2: The Schoolboy
In chapter two, Webb reflects on his experiences at school, where he was often bullied for being “different” from his peers. He struggled to fit in and found solace in books and creative writing, which allowed him to escape from the harsh realities of his daily life. Webb also describes the pressure he felt to conform to traditional masculine norms, which often meant suppressing his emotions and avoiding any activity seen as “girly.”
Chapter 3: The Teenager
Chapter three sees Webb entering his teenage years, where he begins to explore his sexuality and navigate the complexities of relationships. He describes his first love, a boy named Neil, and the intense feelings of joy and pain that came with their relationship. Webb also discusses his struggles with body image and the pressure to conform to societal standards of beauty.
Chapter 4: The Student
In chapter four, Webb reflects on his time at university, where he discovered a passion for performance and began to pursue a career in comedy. He describes the challenges of balancing his studies with his personal life, including the death of his father and the end of his relationship with Neil. Despite these challenges, Webb found solace in his love of comedy and began to find his own voice as a performer.
Chapter 5: The Actor
Chapter five sees Webb transitioning into his career as an actor, where he found success in the hit BBC show “Peep Show.” He describes the challenges of navigating the entertainment industry and the pressure to conform to traditional masculine norms within the industry. Webb also reflects on his relationships with women and the impact of his own insecurities on his romantic life.
Overall, “How Not To Be a Boy” is a powerful and thought-provoking memoir that explores the complexities of growing up male in a world that often defines masculinity in narrow and limiting ways. Through his personal experiences, Robert Webb offers insights into the challenges faced by boys and men, and how societal expectations can shape our identity. By sharing his own story, Webb encourages readers to question the norms and expectations that govern our lives and to embrace our own unique sense of self.