The Man Cave Trend
By Candice Russell / July, 2011
Have you noticed the stunning increase in a phenomenon little-known just a few years ago? The man cave is a masculine domain within a female-dominated home. It's a place where the husband, his male friends and grown-up sons gather to watch football, baseball, basketball and soccer on large-screen plasma TVs. It is also a safe space to play billiards, watch video games, smoke cigars, and discuss women in bawdy terms.
If they can get away with it on big game days, men will hunker down in front of the tube for many hours, sustained by cold beer, chips, salsa, peanuts and hoagie sandwiches. They know that they are free to yell, swear, guffaw and carry on without disturbance or complaint from other family members, especially if the room is in the basement or a faraway wing of the house.
All participants in man cave activities fervently hope for no interruption from significant others of the opposite sex. That means no knocks on the door, friendly shout-outs from the kitchen, or, heaven forbid, cell phone calls. The very existence of the man cave implies that it is off-limits to all except humans who shave their faces daily.
And if there's a whole lot of sweating, burping, and other bodily functions emanating from man cave owners and guests, so be it. When men are among their own kind, who is there to take offense?
I get the concept of the man cave. It's a sacred realm where men can be themselves without having to tone down their language or laughter for their sensitive female partners, mothers and daughters. In homes decorated with frilly curtains and littered with children's toys, men crave de´cor befitting their gender, from neon-lit beer signs to velvet paintings of poker-playing dogs. If the women in their lives are smart, they won't say a word.
It was the vehemence with which men on episodes of HGTV's real estate reality show "House Hunters" voice their insistence on a new home with room for a man cave that caught my attention to the phenomenon. In all parts of the country, married men on the hunt for fresh digs feel the same way about this need for separation from the rest of the household. Preservation of masculine rituals, along with enhancement of the self apart from others, seem to be at stake.
Television's most popular sitcom "Two and a Half Men," a glorification of bachelorhood, recently held a contest, advertised in the Sun Sentinel, about winning a man cave. There's even a web site devoted to the subject, www.mancavesite.org, where luxurious versions with pool tables, plasma TVs and bars are featured and no less than Hugh Hefner might feel at home. The site's stated mission is "to give cave dwellers a centralized location to display their personal caves, share ideas and find essential cave resources all in one place."
Recently featured were photos of the man cave of Gregory Holder from North Carolina. It has the Barca-lounger variants that women detest because they inevitably clash with the rest of the room's furniture. The cave also features a foosball table, dart board and mini-refrigerator with libations for complete self-sufficiency. The site raves about the Holder creation, "His cave comes complete with plenty of comfortable seating, a big screen projection system, an awesome collection of guitars, a beautiful bar which is fully stocked, and a band stage with stage lights!"
Yet I cannot help wondering if there isn't something more behind this universal desire for a man cave. Why are so many men from different walks of life and regions mindful of a space of their own? Are women doing a bad job of including men in the painting, furnishing and decoration of the homes they share?
What ever the reason, whether we want to celebrate or bemoan gender differences, there is now a sort of female revenge in the rise of the mom cave. It, too, is a retreat off-limits to children and husbands. It is the place to display stuffed plush animals from childhood, old photo albums, collections of treasured sea shells, and other items of intense personal interest to their occupants and perhaps no one else in the family. As a
place of indulgence, the mom cave with a chenille-covered armchair and room for a craft project serves deeply held desires for women to relax into themselves.
If it takes the existence of man caves and mom caves for men and women to live peaceably, consider the possibilities for relaxation and self-actualization. Maybe the trend is not about the genders separating to private corners out of hostility but the value of coming together again as happier, more fully realized individuals.
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