By Jonathan Sohn - Men tend to fear very little. Even if they do secretly fear things, they’ll usually do their best not to show it. Although this is the case, there is one thing that men tend to fear (justifiably or not) no matter their ethnicity, employment or social status: becoming a minivan dad.
Let’s face it. It’s hard to look manly driving a minivan (or as has been the case as of the last decade, an SUV) leaving from a two story house with a perfectly manicured lawn, tulips in bloom, flowers on the mailbox and a seasonal flag hanging out front to pick up the kids from soccer practice at an equally well-maintained and state of the art soccer facility with a freshly paved parking lot filled with 70 other SUV’s that have never been used nor even know the definition of utility.
…everyone can see right through the shaky facade of a lone man driving a convertible Mustang driving through a monotonous cookie-cutter neighborhood
Some men try to avoid this by buying themselves an “I’m still a man, but living in the suburbs by choice” car, but everyone can see right through the shaky facade of a lone man driving a convertible Mustang driving through a monotonous cookie-cutter neighborhood. Sure, you may feel like you’re exuding a “just visiting” quality, but you’re not, and everyone knows it.
It is however, not all bad news for the men who have embarked on the sober journey to suburbia. There are freedoms that can be had in the comfort of a home with extra space and a yard that could never be accomplished living in a city. Although it may seem to be a fool’s errand to think so, there are actually a multitude of things that can be achieved even in, and sometimes only in the suburbs.
The first and most obvious luxury of living in an actual house is the garage: every man’s domain. This is a place where men can enter and expect not to be disturbed for the duration of his time there. Many things can be done in a garage ranging from fixing cars (or attempting to), rearranging tools, or for the enterprising dad, running a line of coax cable and catching the afternoon game in peace.
Of course, the garage is also the central gathering station for all things gardening. I’m not talking about rakes and trowels here, I’m talking gas powered two stroke grass trimmers, gas powered riding lawn mowers, and gas powered chain saws. See a pattern emerging here? It’s the trip to the hardware store that you couldn’t make living in a 400 square foot apartment in a 10 story building. There’s nothing quite as visceral and simultaneously fulfilling as purchasing a piece of machinery that requires more than one person to load and unload it.
Another common testosterone zone is the basement. Some men are fortunate enough to have a basement in their new suburban home. And of those, the really fortunate ones have an unfinished basement. This distinction is important because generally speaking, the feminine need to decorate is far reaching to any space that is encased with drywall. In an unfinished basement however, there is nothing to decorate, and thus, remains the domain of a man’s fancy.
…as a general rule, men can be more comfortable surrounded by bare concrete walls and wooden framing than most others
A basement can be a great refuge for a man because as a general rule, men can be more comfortable surrounded by bare concrete walls and wooden framing than most others. A simple addition of an old rug, and even older couch, and an older still television set can serve as the man’s suburban central command. Essentially revisiting the bachelor years, the basement can be a great haven from the pillow and fabric infested world up above.
The enterprising man however, can spruce up even the drabbest of basements with a great deal of various wares that are in fact, quite sophisticated and couture, while still retaining the quaint charm of being estrogen-free. The key is to keep the basement nicely fixed up but never quite “finished” in terms of actual drywall or installed carpeting. Simply put, creating a space with nowhere to hang anything or put any accent pillows or anything else that has the prefix of “accent.”
So, what kind of utopia could be had without walls and carpeting? The possibilities only reach so far as your imagination can take you, but a few ideas that jump out immediately include things that resonate with men everywhere.
One method would be the acquisition and implementation of a fantastic liquor collection. This can take the form of a custom built wine rack with a great selection of vintage and nouveau-chic wines, vintage liquors shelved above a wet bar, or even a refrigerated tap. All those things would be great next to a piece of furniture that would be a fit in any man’s personal space would be a pool table, which is only feasible should there be ample space available.
An unsurpassed entertainment set up is the next most obvious solution. A killer surround sound system making use of the multitude of speakers and amps collected over the years, electronic components ranging from old school record players to DVD players to LaserDisc players so you can finally watch that collection that had been collecting dust. Of course no entertainment space would be complete without a collection of gaming equipment with ample room for all of your rock band instruments.
For the adventurous and culinary men, a quasi-kitchen could be installed in the basement complete with a built-in indoor grilling area and/or smoke locker with an equally custom external venting system.
The potential is endless, and quite frankly, unachievable in an urban environment.
People are generally quick to dismiss the suburbs on the basis of monotony, stereotypical lifestyle, and overall lack of masculinity, but before you join the ranks of the jaded and disenfranchised masses of surburb-ites, consider the uncommon and creative methods of retaining your identity.
Make use of the sheer space that you’re afforded, and the ability to get yourself a little dirty and greasy that you might have passed on in your previous apartment-dwelling life. Realize that the situation is never as dire as it seems and that having more space means more places to put your gadgets for simultaneous use. Whether it be the ultimate entertainment set up, or the ultimate power tool set up, there absolutely can be a serenity achieved through knowing that the sanctuary is there.
The author, Jonathan Sohn, resides in Orange County, CA. The suburbs by which many suburbs are measured. Jonathan works in imports/exports (mysteriously), obsesses over college football, authors the college sports blog Fulmer’s Belly (with bias towards the University of Tennessee, his alma mater). His propensity to play lengthy games of Vegas poker and win is overshadowed only by his propensity to lose it all in a vicious round of craps. He loves Subway $5 footlongs in addition to his BMW 3 series coupe. (Jon can be reached at jon @ fulmersbelly for further suburban argument).
Read Jon’s other essay for Gear Patrol, “My Deal With Vegas”.