Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bryan Curtis - Man-Cave Masculinity

Slate is looking at the man-cave, the idea that men need a space apart from women to just be men and do what men do (I'm not quite sure that is, since I have lived most of my life with women, either as family, roommates, or partners).

This is a strange phenomenon to me - maybe I have been missing out. Sports seem to play a big role in this, and beer.

My perfect man-cave would be a library with comfortable chairs, thousands of books, and someone to discuss them with - male or female. I guess that makes me less than traditionally masculine, which is what I think the man-cave does - it allows men to be manly in the old ways, whatever that means to them.
Man-Cave Masculinity
A man’s quest for his soul starts with a walk downstairs.

By Bryan Curtis | Posted Monday, Oct. 3, 2011, at 6:44 AM ET

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Students of anthropology, by now you’ve heard of “man caves”: the basements and above-the-garage spaces where men gather to watch the Red Zone Channel. What requires further study is the culture that has arisen there. It is man-cave masculinity—a new male code. Study man-cave utterances (“This is everything and more of what I’ve ever wanted in a basement”) and you begin to see fear. You see confusion. You see men galloping into the adulthood like Leon Lett running toward the end zone in Super Bowl XXVII. That this unsteady manliness would be celebrated with big-screens and kegerators and Golden Tee machines is part of what makes it so touching.

To see how far men have come—or maybe how far they’ve retreated—we need to start at midcentury, at a proto-man cave: Toots Shor’s eponymous saloon in New York City. The d├ęcor at 51 West 51st Street was manly in extremis. “[I]t is as devoid of subtlety and fussy trimmings as a boxing ring,” John Bainbridge wrote in his three-part New Yorker profile. Fleshy and obscene, Shor pulled in manly types—Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason; sports stars like Joe DiMaggio; sportswriters like Jimmy Cannon; even Chief Justice Earl Warren—to join his nocturnal party. As Shor liked to say, “A bum who ain’t drunk by midnight ain’t tryin’.”
Read the whole article, and in the interest of getting your attention, here is one more paragraph that starts to get at the meaning of the man-cave = escape.
Staying home and declaring, “I’m totally OK with that!” produces its own peculiar macho code. At its simplest level, a man cave, like a saloon, represents an escape hatch. “I feel like when I shut the door, I’m isolated from all the frustrations of being a dad and a husband,” one man caver told the Nashville Tennessean. Another told the Calgary Herald, “It’s almost like you walk down the steep stairs and everything else is forgotten.” James B. Twitchell, author of the book Where Men Hide, compared this downstairs walk with ones that lead to other illicit male redoubts—strip clubs, opium dens—where there are no windows, where the outside world can't see in.

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