Slate Magazine takes a look inside what it calls man-caves. As we know, the correct term for one of these man-based spaces is growlery, but we’ll let Slate away with this one because, of course, the term is in a tragic state of decline. Anyway, while being a bit America-specific (constant references to NFL shows on TV), it’s a pretty good survey of the culture and characteristics of the growlery:
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.
Yet man caves full of framed sports jerseys aren’t illicit escapes. They’re the male equivalent of slipping into a bubble bath… Many man caves are stripped of sex altogether. “It couldn’t be anything cheesecake,” one man told the Tennessean of his décor. “No Maxim magazine.” Likewise, when a man constructs an elaborate bar in his basement, what he is really constructing is a pretend bar: one without pool table brawls, chance encounters, and drunken flirting. A Pittsburgh Steelers fan and man caver told the Sacramento Bee, “It’s my space. … My wife knows where to find me.” In the yawning void between those two sentences, you see the fantasy a man caver is creating for himself.
Reading this, I naturally started creating my own growlery in my head. I think the ideal would be not for it to be a basement or loft, but a separate building altogether: a souped-up garden shed, maybe. The TV and deep leather sofa would be present, but rather than having a bar I think I’d just want a fridge well stocked with Czech pilsner, German weissbier and something wacky from Belgium, plus a drinks cabinet with some decent scotch, bourbon and rum. Bookshelves would be important: we’re talking man-classics from Conrad and Hemingway, good collections of short stories (because in reality you’re only gonna get to use this room for limited periods) – obvious ones are Salinger and Nabokov; my Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, JRR Tolkien and GRR Martin collections for the epic nostalgia. Plus some deep stacks of quality periodicals: LRB, Economist, New Yorker. There is an awesomeness about deciding it’s time to catch up on your magazine reading from 2004.
Of course, when I got around to describing all this to Mette, she a) started improving on it – e.g. her: “there’d a be a computer there, right?” me: “right, yeah, one with a really big screen.” and b) asked why all this awesome stuff would be reserved for my growlery when it’s what she’d want in the regular living room already. Which I guess works, apart from the computer – so my still-theoretical growlery now becomes, essentially, an office, but we get cool stuff in the living room. We’ll get around to making it happen some day.