I sort of hope you’re reading this before the big Super Bowl American football game on Sunday — an undeclared holiday in millions of U.S. households. But the points I’ll make hold, even after the game.
There’s a sports-talk host whose work I like and follow, both on local radio in Washington and on his national Yahoo Sports Network morning program. His name is Steve Czaban — pronounced ZABE-in. “Czabe,” (Zabe), his friends and listeners alike call him.
He’s a middle-aged guy, a little sensitive about his spreading bald spot, and an opinionated sports fan like millions of American men who don’t have his platform to express their strong points of view. Sometimes Czabe doesn’t let the facts get in the way of those opinions, but then, neither do other sports fanatics.
For the past week, he’s been telling his broadcast colleagues — and us — about the neighborhood Super Bowl party he’s about to host in his basement Man Cave, the prominent features of which, I gather, are comfy couches and reclining chairs and at least three giant TV screens, which normally are tuned simultaneously to different live sporting events. This saves Steve the hassle of having to click between games. Whereas women can do many things at once, it has been scientifically proved — I’m making this up — that men can watch many sports programs at the same time and not miss a single play. This can be, and often is, a football game on one set, a hockey game on another, and a show that runs sports scores and highlights on another. And all the while, male viewers have the uncanny ability to mute, zip through, or zap the annoying commercials that keep them from the action.
None of that will be necessary on Sunday night, however, since the whole world, it seems, will be watching the same game at the same time — and actually looking forward to the commercials, which are the freshest, most creative — and most expensive — of the year.
So I’m assuming all the screens in Czabe’s Man Cave will be displaying the Super Bowl. Other networks gave up trying to put sporting events up against this monolith long ago. They “counterprogram” on “Super Sunday” with “Puppy Bowls,” “Lingerie Bowls,” weepy dramatic movies, and other shows as far removed from sports as possible.
By coincidence, without knowing I was thinking enviously about Steve Czaban and his Man Cave, a female colleague shot me an email, calling my attention to an entire Web site on the subject. It’s full of testimonials to the karmic value of such in-house male retreats, plus pictures of some that make you drool, gasp, or — if you think such things are silly excess — toss your cookies (an expression I’ll explain in Wild Words).
The site was founded by Mike Yost, a retired U.S. soldier who works in information technology in Arizona. He tells me that he built the site in 2007 after a friend, Marty Peterson, created a Man Cave. (Note that we men hold the idea of Man Caves in such reverence that we capitalize the words.) Marty had put a lot of effort, and a lot of money, into his Man Cave, and Mike wanted to help him showcase the room somewhere on the Internet.
Since he could find no such centralized place, Mike created it. He planned to keep the Man Cave site up for two years as a test, but it has grown to the point that it now displays 368 Man Caves in a “Cave Gallery,” and, he says, it attracts an average 1,200 visitors a day. Mike and Marty even released a book about Man Caves that, Mike says, is doing well.
Man Caves are retreats, refuges, sanctuaries — spare bedrooms, lofts, converted basement “rec rooms,” even sheds and garages — where men carve out their own space, literally and figuratively. Obviously this is not always possible or practical in an apartment or small house.
In addition to the requisite big TVs, oversize speakers, and plush seating, I’ve seen (mostly online) Man Caves equipped with poker tables, golf putting greens, actual seats salvaged from sports stadiums that were torn down, full bars with lots of beer on tap, popcorn or hot-dog machines, dartboards, rows of footballs or baseballs or miniature stock cars, slot machines, jukeboxes, car parts or entire automobiles, pool tables and large games such as air hockey — even hot tubs or saunas.
Not all of those things at once, of course.
“Women are always invited,” Mike Yost told me. “They just don’t have decorating authority.”
I’ve never called my den a Man Cave, but, with its shelves displaying my 1,937 beer bottles collected from all over the country, it’s certainly a room that Carol doesn’t spend much time in.
I also hang out, alone, smoking an occasional cigar, in my toolshed, where I listen to sports on satellite radio and read the newspapers I’ve collected here at work. Carol doesn’t go there either, because of the cigar stench.
Consider this comment:
Men are not your “typical” decorators. They don’t care about the drapes, whether you use lemon, maize or tangerine paint for the kitchen, and they don’t care if you get a throw [thin blanket] for the sofa. But if you give them their own turf, they’ve got ideas galore, many of which involve the latest hi-tech gadgets, comfy leather seats and a beer fridge.
A “Man Cave” is a room . . . where a man can get away from the pressures of daily life. It is his personal refuge full of his favorite things. Man Caves come in all shapes, sizes, and themes, but one thing they all have in common is loads of testosterone.
This was written on a site called MyBadPad by “Gwen,” whom I can only assume is a woman. One who appreciates a man’s need for such a hangout. Sure, it smacks of the 1950s attitudes about which I wrote recently, when “hubby” would come home from a “hard day at the office” and need pampering by “the little woman.” But since “the little woman” has put her foot down on such nonsense, or is off working somewhere herself, we men have taken matters into our own hands and created comfort zones under our own roofs.
When I got to writing about this, I wondered why there aren’t Woman Caves as well. I mean, both sexes once lived together in them, rubbing sticks together, cooking saber-tooth tiger stew, and drawing pictographs.
So I asked some of my female colleagues and friends what they thought, both about Man Caves and the dearth of Woman ones. At least they were friends until I got them going about Man Caves.
None was quite as charitable as “Gwen.” They all treated the subject dismissively, haughtily, as if men had never grown up and were still kids, up in their rooms, playing with toys.
And the problem with that is???
The most charitable of these women replied, “Men seem to need quiet, solitary, ‘down time’ to re-energize before they venture back into society. Women, on the other hand, and this has been scientifically proven, get re-energized by being in the company of other women. In fact, science shows that when women talk with one another, they release a hormone called Oxytocin, which is a feel-good hormone much like endorphin.”
Now she seems to have actual science on her side.
Another woman told me, “Women don’t have them because the whole rest of the house is the woman’s cave. We pretty much decorate the house to our tastes and relegate his bachelor furniture and other décor to distant parts where we won’t have to see them. I think the woman’s equivalent of a ‘man cave’ is ‘Me time.’ That’s the kind of space we crave.”
Psychic space. Or pampering time, another woman told me, at the hairdresser, spa, or maybe a cruise ship or ski chalet. Those aren’t permanent places they can go to get away from it all, of course.
The Man Cave idea is hogwash, another female colleague told me. I should point out that she’s not married and thus doesn’t know firsthand the desperate need that we men have for a nook of our own. [I’m just yanking her chain.] It’s “sexism,” this friend scoffs. “Have you ever watched ‘House Hunters’ on TV? [No.] Real-estate agents pitch the kitchen to the woman and the spare room — especially the basement — to the man as a ‘man cave.’ Invariably, a man goes gaga over spots where he can hang ‘his’ oversized TV. Note the ‘his’ TV. Conversely, the woman gets ‘her’ stainless-steel appliances and granite counter tops. I kid you not. It’s pitched as ‘her space,’ So the kitchen is purportedly the ‘woman cave.’
Another woman friend said of Man Caves, tersely, “Women are too busy cleaning Man Caves to have ones of their own.” Still another gal pal [sorry, how many times can I type “woman friend”?] here at VOA told me that her husband has turned their one-car garage into a grungy, cluttered workout space, complete with a boxing bag. But he has to back the car into the driveway when he uses it. He moved his boxing outside the house because he was literally shaking the walls with all his punching and grunting.
His wife, in turn, is the primary user of a computer room, in part because she telecommutes from it one workday a week. Other rooms in the house are pretty much spoken for. If and when she ever has a personal room, my friend told me, it would include her own computer, shelves full of her books and her movies, and a comfy couch. Maybe a TV, but not some gargantuan, theater-size thing. Just big enough to watch her flicks.
Since Man Caves are sort of macho — remember that “testosterone” comment? — I asked her if her dream room would be sort of frilly. You could have cut the look she shot at me with a knife.
I interpreted that as a No, You Stereotyping Sexist Pig.
Surely it has to be a human thing — not a male or female one — to crave quiet times in quiet places. I define the very word “relaxation” as escaping from the hectic world around us, into not exactly a fantasy world, but a pleasurable place that we can call our own.
I do admit that if this place included a fully stocked bar, a regulation-sized putting green, and a sauna, that might stray over the line into an overindulgent fantasy world.
But I ask the question again:
The problem with that is…???
Ted's Wild Words
These are a few words from this posting that you may not know. Each time, I'll tell you a little about them and also place them into a cumulative archive of "Ted's Wild Words" in the right-hand column of the home page. Just click on it there, and if there's another word that you'd like me to explain, just ask!
Hogwash. Nonsense. Written or verbal swill.
Pictograph. An ancient cave or rock drawing.
Toss Your Cookies. Throw up. Vomit.
Uncanny. Strange or weird, almost supernatural, as in an uncanny ability to anticipate what someone else will do next.
Yanking Your Chain. Deliberately provoking someone, often just to see the reaction.