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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Friday, September 09, 2011

The Man Cave**

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

*Chicago Tribune
September 23, 2011
as "The man cave"

*Somerset, PA Daily American
September 24, 2011
as "The man cave"

Women like to joke about men. No surprise there. One of the sources of those giggles is that space in the house that men can claim as their own that we call the “man cave." I suppose that's a sort of “funny ha ha” reference to our more primitive natures. Of course, everyone knows that women are a more advanced form of life.  

Well, more complex, anyway.

Every man needs to have a space over which he is the absolute monarch, especially those of us who married…shall we say…women of an assertive nature.

It can be a corner of the basement or the entire garage, but never anywhere in the main part of the house. It is where we are free to be our dirty, messy, sometimes smelly, unshaven selves, free of frilly bedspreads, fluffy pillows, and towels and weird-looking soap that must never be used. It is that place where we can explore, experiment, and create, and not clean up afterwards if we don’t feel like it.

There is a sense of freedom in the man cave, the exhilaration of being let off the leash for a time to explore and pursue our own interests. Wives need that as well, but in my lifetime, I’ve never heard of any room referred to as a “woman cave.” I guess because their cave is actually the whole house. You can go in any room of any house and see that she has been there. It’s in the style and colors, and the furnishings. 

And that it’s clean.

In our home there are two man caves, one in the basement, the other in the garage. Not the whole basement, mind you, just a section that includes a TV, DVD, my computer and a comfy chair. In that space I can write, think, and watch The Godfather to my heart's content.

It may surprise you to know that I love to write. The process of transferring thoughts from my head and feelings from my heart onto the blank canvas of an empty page is one that challenges and exhilarates me. Sometimes the words flow like a torrent, my fingers racing to keep up. Other times the sentences come in fits and starts and I spend many minutes staring at the screen, cursing my stubborn brain.

At some point though, I've followed my thoughts through to completion and I can sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labors. That kind of task requires time and focus, both of which are found in my man cave.

My other man cave is in the garage. I’m not much of a fix-it guy; most of my home improvement projects usually end up in disaster. But some of my best times have been spent out there polishing my motorcycle. Riding, even in dry weather, produces grime on a bike, especially one with a lot of chrome. When I ride in the rain, it really gets ugly. 

There’s something innately satisfying about taking a messy machine and making it shine. A motorcycle, as I have related before, is much more than a machine. It is my ticket to adventure, that gold-leafed invitation to escape the mundane. So cleaning and polishing is not really work; it’s a labor of love. When complete, I can stand back and admire the shine, walking around as the light glints off the paint and chrome. My wife, like most women, doesn’t understand how I can “commune” with a machine, and it’s so very hard to communicate that to her. But, she possesses that tolerance that is so much a product of her love for me. And while she may not understand, she understands that I understand. And that’s enough for her.

She does join me in the cave from time to time. She watches her shows while I labor at my writing, and prunes her roses while I polish the bike. We share our joys and accomplishments with mutual pride. 

And yes, I feel better when she’s in the room.

I have a very busy life, so the hours I spend in my man cave are meaningful. I know I can’t spend all my time there; my other responsibilities spring from activities that do bring me a lot of joy. But that time away recharges and refreshes me, giving me the energy to tackle the rest of my life.

It helps make life worth living.
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