Monday, May 3, 2010
Fostering Gentlemanly Pursuits
A lot of influences came together recently and sparked an epiphany for me: Young men need a place to gather to talk about and do manly things. It's not that I didn't know previously that men need a designated place, I just didn't see that space as for any men other than my own two.
With them in mind, over the last couple of years I have been working toward making our game room more manly. We've had the essential leather couches, pool table, and dart board since we moved in almost six years ago. The room was painted a wimpy pale yellow, though. I bought an oak game table and chairs from a thrift store, hung a longhorn skull for a hat rack and pictures of airplanes and dogs. Herb chose a rich terra cotta shade for the walls, and he and Nathaniel painted them. I am no decorator, but it seemed to fit the requirements of a "man cave". I thought: mission accomplished.
Then, Nathaniel got an X-box and started spending more and more time on it. It is connected to the internet so that he not only plays with other people, he talks to them on a headset. As I listened to his conversation over several months, I realized that he had team buddies that he played with regularly and that he talked to them as if they were right in the room with him, congratulating them when they did well, thanking them for helping him, warning them to "look out". It reminded me of a script from a war movie.
These "friendships" were very important to him. Though my husband is quite content to have no social life at all outside of work and church, Nathaniel is exactly the opposite. He has never enjoyed doing things by himself, and a project that he would not attempt on his own, he will throw himself into enthusiastically with friends. I tried to think of what I could do to help him get to spend more time with his flesh and blood friends, most of whom live far from us.
HINDSIGHT: IT'S SO ANNOYING
As I thought, I realized that I had spent much more time and effort catering to Emma's interests and helping her develop hobbies--not on purpose, but because as another female I understood her better. I wondered if it was too late for me to try to help Nathaniel.
I started thinking about Chesterton and the role traditional pubs used to play in a gentleman's life--not a place to get drunk but a place to have good discussions, play games, and enjoy a good beer. Chesterton and his writer friends (the Inklings) met regularly in the Rabbit Room at the Eagle and Child, a pub in Oxford.
The corner of the pub where the Inklings met. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
So I began thinking of creating something comparable at our house. I needed more than just a room, though. I needed enough activities for them to do so that it would make it worth their time and gas to drive out here. More, I wanted these activities to foster bonds between them and help them to become better men.
I sifted through and narrowed down until I came up with this short list of manly things that they could do at our house: fly radio control airplanes, shoot guns, practice archery, and play chess, poker, darts, and pool.
All of these things are doable at our house. I talked it over with Nathaniel, and he likes the idea. Now we just need to plan the grand opening.