Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fortress of Nerditude Part 2 - The difference between boys and girls and their toys...

One aspect of the M/F dynamic that I did not encounter until I was engaged, nor did I fully realize it's permeation into society until I was deep into my 3rd or 4th year of marriage, was the inherent proclivity of women to disregard the tastes of their men as puerile or socially unfit. Case in point: Take any show where example couple is buying/renting/remodeling their first condo/home. Invariably, regardless of the age of the relationship, most especially if the male has been any kind of committed bachelor, geek or sports fan, it is the primary goal of the female to subsume his decor tastes in favor of her own.

By this I mean gone is the leather couch, the plasma TV, the neon beer signs. Anything the male may regard as valued, sentimental, or personal is often relegated to a) a basement storage area, b) an as-yet-undefined man cave or garage or c) the worst, sell it on eBay or in a rummage sale so she can buy that bronze lion statue that will just perfectly tie the living room together--no the other living room just for show that you can't ever walk or eat or do anything in forever. It's like a perfectly designed dust collecting display. Regardless of how annoying chintz or pastels may be to pretty much, oh, everyone, the cardinal rule is Thou shalt not question the design tastes of thy mate. They don't build Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn stores because they have amazing Star Wars action figure inventories. Garden Ridge may sell prints with football themes on them, but it's gonna cost you $120 to get it matted and framed before it ever sees a perfectly aligned nail on a wall. This also assumes it goes with the color scheme of the room in question.

There are exceptions, however. A friend of a friend married a fellow lady geek, and she is as concerned about placing their lightsaber replicas in the main sitting area as he is. Their collection of mint-on-card action figures has as prominent a display in their home as baby pictures. Ditto for the younger gothy couples who might prefer Edward Gorey (or one of those insufferably trite Nightmare Before Christmas) prints over Ansel Adams in their foyer. I get away with it to a degree when decorating the rooms of my boys, since one of them shares my love of comic book superheroes, but 99.99999% of what makes my home livable for me goes straight to my basement nerd cave.

My dad did stake his claim back in the day. A mallard duck print here. A mounted largemouth bass there. Even his Carhart overalls hanging in the door frame was a statement that said a workin' man lives here. I don't see this as bitterness, or a yearning for having my say in the design and layout of the home. I KNOW my stuff is nerdy and off-the-wall and in some cases, possibly offensive to the few visitors we happen to get. I know that a photo of a scantily clad model belongs above dad's workbench in the garage rather than a place of prominence above the loveseat where my grandparents may be sitting. It's not even that I would want to complain too much, because the wife and I oddly share a sense of synergy with the decor. While I may be an OCD nut in my office--Green Lantern on one wall, Todd Lockwood dragon poster on another, both mixed in with a variety of comics, cute ladies and fantasy map art--we tend to be minimalists overall. Like any good scientist deciphering the societal and artistic mores of an alien culture, the little differences amaze me. To paraphrase George Carlin, what is the dividing line that makes my stuff "shit" and her shit, "stuff"?

I present another example. I have, via air-pull, approximately 400 DVDs. Many of these are in album booklets, but over 200 are store-bought, hardshell cased videos. They are segregated to a degree: Her movies in the living room, mine in the nerd cave on three bookshelves, one entertainment center and one closed-door cabinet. She has about 150-200 pairs of shoes. Some of these vary only in color and are otherwise structurally and functionally identical. These are disseminated in one main hallway shoe cabinet, one giant box in a main floor closet, and various pairs in her master bedroom closet. On any given day she has 10 pairs of shoes loose on the kitchen floor, usually kicked into a pile by me or the boys after a near tripping incident. Given that I have two LCD monitors on my desk and a TV in my office, I could potentially watch three DVDs at the same time; more often than not I am watching two anyway; one on the PC and another on the TV. She can only wear one pair of shoes at a time. A box of DVDs also doesn't smell like feet unless you've kept them in really weird places. Regardless, this is in some circles a perfectly acceptable situation; shoes, purses, hair and other accoutrements make the lady, whereas my indulgence is an entertainment affectation.

I know in the end this is picking nits, and I of all people should not ascribe the details of a few heavily edited TV shows to the overall relationship dynamics of men and women, but I have enough empirical data to demonstrate it's real. It's a value judgment at it's most basic, one that says "my sense of taste supersedes yours for some reason," or my toys are more practical/aesthetically pleasing. My take is that the men may take more of an interest if the communal household reflected an agreed upon sense of taste and decor and importance rather than implying all of the gentleman's items need to be sequestered away for the good of humanity and Emily Post. The overall purpose of a Mikasa crystal swan vs a Lego TIE Fighter remains the same: Bric-a-Brac. The only difference is I can pretend to shoot down Rebel X-Wing scum with one, and the other I can just flash in the sunlight to make rainbows.

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