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Friday, September 30, 2011

In Defense of the Domestic Male... And a fun cupboard...

Manly men!
As you know from reading this, not all men are particularly interested in sports, or hunting, or business, or all those other stereotypically "manly" things.  In fact, many of us are pretty domestic at heart.  You'd think that would be well-accepted in our egalitarian society, but I don't think it really is.  Before I married my wife, her mother commented that I would, "make a great wife!"  I don't think she meant this as a compliment at the time (don't worry, we like each other and get along beautifully...  I think she accepts and appreciates my "uniqueness" now!), and I think many women can't imagine men who actually LIKE to be a part of the running of the home, beyond the perfectly acceptable masculine tasks of caring for the yard and gutters.  Men who know how to decorate, or entertain, or sew, or cook or craft are still viewed somewhat suspiciously.  A real man goes a'huntin' and a'fishin' and leaves all that woman's work to the woman.  Or, do they?

I can tell you of at least one pretty burly "manly man" who doesn't mind spending the evening tying off a quilt with his wife (an old family acquaintance), and yet another who got through a long bout of unemployment by crocheting countless, very nice potholders (my late grandfather...  a great Army cook who made some darn fine Lemon Meringue Pies in the middle of the Sahara during World War II!) .  Some of the best needleworkers have been men - King George VI (the present Queen's father) created finely crafted seat covers for a whole suite of antique chairs at his Royal Lodge.  The White House has just hired the first ever male Social Secretary.  And knitting made quite a comeback a few years back, in no small part because of men who were discovering their creative side.

Years ago, I wouldn't have minded if people complimented the curtains in our house, but I wouldn't necessarily have advertised the fact that I was the one who made them.  Cooking seemed fairly safe, but sewing might have been pushing it.  Now?  I couldn't care less.  In fact, I take some joy in the look of surprise when the truth comes out.

Crafting is looked at in much the same way.  A real man works with wood.  The sharper the saw, the manlier the man.  Most "crafty dads" are depicted making clever toys for their kids or other less than attractive, but reliably "manly", items out of metal, wood, brick and, maybe, rope.  If it's useful, it's fine.  If it is "pretty", it's questionable.

Well friends, I am here to tell you that you can glitter, sew and cook and still be a man.  And a pretty happy one at that.  Men's contributions to the decorative arts can't be overlooked and, believe it or not, there are many of us who like the domestic arts as well.  Cooking, cleaning and ironing isn't just for Harriet Nelson anymore.  I'll bet, maybe off camera, Ozzie had some opinions about the living room drapes too.  He might have even enjoyed ironing, like I do.  Improving your surroundings is fun, and helping to keep house is a joy.

What led me to this little defense?  It came to me as I stood at the ironing board tonight, pressing a stack of our favorite tablecloths.  I started to think about how long I've enjoyed ironing the "flat things" - ever since my mom put me to work as a kid.  And, who couldn't find some serenity in it...  soft, clean, fresh smelling linens, instantly improved by sweeping a hot iron over the smooth surface.  It's downright therapeutic. 


This little stack of ironing got me thinking...

Successful homekeeping is an art, and it's also a pleasure.  If you're a man and your reading this, you are probably related to me somehow...  But I digress...  If you are a man and are reading this, and if you haven't experienced the enjoyment that comes from being "domesticated", give it a try!  You might find a whole new and interesting world awaits.

This little cupboard wasn't fun a few hours ago...
It was filled with the strangest assortment of things.
Bits of cat food, six or seven scout books, several
phone books, papers, candy wrappers and who knows
what else.  The joy of kids!  Now...

It's packed with fun stuff!  Perfectly ironed linens, a vintage
Park and Shop game, a little photo album filled with
Polaroids, a pack of "Vintage Slang Flash Cards" (these
are truly hilarious) and a stack of magazines from
the early 1950's.  Enough stuff to keep you occupied for
a whole, rainy afternoon!

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