In Praise of the Man Cave

23 Jun

I am a big believer that a good marriage is based on honesty, love, trust…and space. Lots and lots of space. I believe people deserve emotional space to be who they are and think what they think. But they also need physical space to retreat. I personally need a lot of alone time and subscribe to the Virginia Woolf notion that we all need a room of one’s own.

A room of my own seems like a distant dream because the never-ending call of ‘MOM!’ keeps me deep in the family fray.  I write these blogs at six in the morning because it’s the only time here that’s quiet. So the second best way for me to get my personal space is for Brett to have his in the recently popularized ‘man cave’.

Brett and I have both been married before. We both lived alone for a long period of time after our divorces. There are both benefits and challenges to a second-marriage. Marrying again has given us the opportunity to right some previous wrong moves in our first marriages .You live, you learn, you apply those learnings in hope of a better outcome. One of those learnings for me was that a man cave is a good thing indeed.

What is this man cave concept and why suddenly did it become part of the pop cultural dialogue? Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge ever plus the occasional error) defines is as ‘not a cave but rather a metaphor describing a room inside the house, such as the basement or garage or attic or office, or outside the house such as a wood shed or tool room, where “guys can do as they please” without fear of upsetting any female sensibility about house decor or design.’

I guess ‘go out to your cave’ sounds a whole lot better than ‘go out to your metaphor.’ I get it.  Men get the cave and women get the rest of the house. But I can’t help wonder when this phenomenon reached its tipping point. When did this retreat become something that was not only accepted but encouraged to a certain degree? According to’s 21st Century Lexicon, the term “man cave” started being used in 1992. contends that “man cave” is a play on the term “cave man.”

Then when I started to think about it, there are all kinds of cultural references to the male ‘room of one’s own’ that had just yet to be labeled ‘man cave’. Think about it. For the obvious mid-century reference, think about Mike Brady and his study. Think about Michael Corleone’s study in The Godfather. It’s always been there, just without the label.

But man cave is the brand of the 21st century and it has spawned all kinds of brand extensions. There are websites and books (and more books) dedicated to the topic. There are contractors dedicated solely to building out your man cave, even one here in Seattle called Man Cave Builders, if you aren’t of the DIY ilk or want something a little more classy and high-end. There is even a show on the DIY Network.

Needless to say, with all this man cave momentum, we have always agreed that a man cave for Brett was a necessity. While on my own, I had grown accustomed to living without empty beer bottles or posters of Star Trek or walls of bikes all around me. Nor am I necessarily fond of loud drums or Pearl Jam. I don’t want to take those things away from him. I just don’t want them in front of me. So a space for a man cave was close to the top of our list of ‘needs’ (not wants, mind you) when we were shopping for a house. 

Brett’s last man cave was an attached one-car garage that housed said bikes, stinky bike clothes and shoes, computers and multiple monitors, workbench, tools, big electric saw type things and, for a brief period, a kegerator.  Yes, really.

But the really big TV, the electric drum kit and the gaming consoles lived in the family room, which had really just become an oozing out of the man cave into the home space. We knew we needed a bigger man cave.  And we found one.

This house has a car-port which was enclosed to be a proper garage. At the back is a room, complete with windows, ancient curtain rods and heat! Yes, heat! There had once been a major beam and wall separating the room from the carport which had been removed, for reasons we cannot fathom. The roof was being held up by temporary metal wall jacks. Brett and his parents have rebuilt the wall (still needs dry-walling, but that will be post-electrical work) and he has his new and improved man cave.  It oozes into the garage and I have no problem with that at all. He is attempting organization and even built shelving to house the plethora of stuff we need to store. (Hint to family:  We are FULL up on Christmas decorations, thank you.) In essence, he has a two room man cave out there to keep him happy for hours at a time.

So the main reason I am in support of a man cave is that, while he may have a room (or two) of his own, I end up with a whole house of my own. I wonder what Virginia would say about that.


16 Responses to “In Praise of the Man Cave”

  1. Phil June 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    You should build one into the drum throne.

  2. Brett June 23, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    Good Call Andy!! That empty gallon milk jug gets old quick….. (those that don’t have a “man cave” probably think I’m making a joke) 🙂

    • Brandy June 23, 2011 at 9:43 am #

      Very funny, honey.

  3. Andy Pierce June 23, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    All he needs is a urinal. That would make it perfect!

  4. Kate June 23, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    Don’t sell yourself short, Brandy. I still don’t think this is an equal deal. Brett gets a room that nobody gets to mess with, you get the rest of the house to keep clean.
    A sanctuary is just that, a room of safety, set apart from the ordinary world. He gets to step into his sanctuary and be apart from kids, mess, and stress. You just get the absence of his mess.
    You also need a sanctuary; a place to write, and leave your projects without fear that someone will come along and help themselves to your things; a place quiet enough that you might think a thought to completion; a place with a door that children (and husbands) must knock upon before entering.

    Like you, my sanctuary the quiet time before the kids awake. My laundry room occasionally acts as my sanctuary, sometimes the car, and increasingly, my bathroom. But the bathroom isn’t a very comfortable place for writing! I have to guard my corner of the kitchen counter where my laptop “lives,” and stash my files, books and projects in various closets and corners, even in our barn of a house. So why is is socially acceptable for men to get a man cave? It is okay for women to have an office, if they work from home, but not a room of one’s own. Why is that again?

    • Brandy June 23, 2011 at 9:45 am #

      I agree, Kate. We all deserve a space of our own. However, in defense of the cave concept, I would not settle for a room in the garage and prefer the situation as it is to having that as my option. Women have slightly higher standards. Thank god! Some day I will have that studio on the landing in the back yard. Some day!

      • Christine June 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

        Yes! Make a studio for yourself a priority. If you’ve got the location, that’s half the battle. Just get something built, now! Four walls, a roof, and a space heater, then go from there.

  5. 900hp June 23, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    what I like about this story is that it’s founded on larger agreements that many (most?) couples lack the maturity to make: that each of you is allowed to need things; that some of these may not, even must not, involve the partner; that each encourages the other’s needs and even compromises some of one’s own wants (distinct from needs) to see them met; that all this is an investment in the happiness of both. rock on (in a separate room while I promise not to complain unless it impacts my needs)!

    • Brandy June 23, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      I love the conversation this post sparked. And thank you, Matt. Like I said, there is a lot to learn in first marriages that can benefit you the second time around. I agree that there is danger in the notion that together all the time and caring about all the same things can be a danger zone in a marriage. It also changes the contract. When you meet someone and fall in love, you love them as they are then. For some reason, after marriage, the expectation sometimes shifts and that person needs to change somehow. I think we are all guilty of this to some degree in various relationships in our lives. For me personally, the more I need someone to change to fit an ideal in my head, the more I have to admit that comes from a place of insecurity in myself. And I need to address that, not change them.

      • Trish June 24, 2011 at 9:42 am #

        I couldn’t agree more about Brandy’s comment about trying to change someone – often a spouse – to meet one’s expectations. Giving someone their own “space” is a major part of allowing a person to be their own person plus accepting them as they are.
        Steve (and son David) have the whole basement and garage. I am totally cool with that as long as I don’t smell anything dead coming from there. I utilize the space on the next floor for all my craft projects. Everybody is happy. Isn’t that the whole point to it?

      • Christine June 24, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

        Has anyone read Against Love by Laura Kipnis? For we who think about relationships like this, it’s a must-read.

        At this point in my life, I think persisting in my own identity (as a writer, as a loner, as a maker) has become one of my biggest and most important and most difficult tasks. Possibly my life’s work. That’s how lame I am… now that I am married (um, 2 years now), I have to work hard to believe in my previous, many-years-alone self. Why is it so hard?

      • Brandy June 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

        I have not read that book. And you are so NOT a loser! i will pick it up and add it to the stack next to my bed. Thanks for the reco!

      • 900hp June 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

        Good call, I actually intended but forgot to include “accepting the whole person without expectations of change” as part of that larger agreement. People aren’t like ordering a Mini, where you can pick the perfect stripes and wheels and radio. With people you buy what’s on the lot.


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