A year ago, I sat on a playground with an acquaintance who was watching her two year old daughter. She was expecting again, and told me that she just found out that she would be having a boy.

I congratulated her with true enthusiasm. I had had two girls and was truly thrilled when I found out my third was going to be a boy. I know it’s a little politically incorrect to admit a preference, but I really wanted to have at least one of each. Needless to say (but somehow I feel I must), I would have been just as anxious to have a girl if my first two had been boys.

This woman-who had always struck me as a liberal, northeastern, women studies type-admitted that she wasn’t exactly excited by the news. When I asked her why, she explained “I know exactly what I want for my daughter. I want her to be an astronaut. To grow up to be the best and believe she can do anything. I want her to be a strong woman. I don’t know for my son. Do I really want him to be a strong man?”

I told this story tonight at a dinner hosted by the Heritage Foundation, featuring Kay Hymowitz, author of Manning Up. I thought it was emblematic of at least one of the causes of the current crisis facing men, which is the focus of Kay’s book. Do we as a society no longer know what we want for our sons?

I remember being appalled by hearing this expected mother’s clear hesitancy to want for her son what all parents should want for any child: for them to fully realize their potential. Yet this was a very nice woman and attentive mother. She knew it was a problem that she couldn’t envision what she was supposed to want for her son.

She was particularly conflicted, I feel sure, because she had been fully soaked in the culture that links the idea of a “strong” man with someone who is violent or expects women to be submissive. Yet while I certainly don’t hesitate to say that I want my son to grow up to be a strong man, want him to be the best he can be, and all of that, I do worry about the challenges that he will face in a society that seems increasingly unwelcoming to men.

I’ve already written a bit about some reactions to Kay’s book here, and will report back as I start reading. This may be one of the most overlooked topics of our time: the steady slide in men’s achievement and well-being. I know that many who are concerned about the welfare and continued progress of women are very threatened by admitting this fact, but there is no reason that men and women’s progress should be a zero sum game And, in fact, women have a clear interest in having men thrive so that they can have better partners in life.

If Kay’s talk tonight was any indication, it’s going to be a very interesting and thought-provoking read on a critical topic.