What marks manliness? Fatherhood, marriage, and a La-Z-Boy. According to John Kass of the Chicago Tribune, if any man wants to maintain a successful marriage, his independence, and his fortitude, he needs a man chair.
“There are but two kinds of men in the world,” Kass says. “Those who have man chairs and those who wished they did.”
Man chairs come in many shapes and sizes. There’s the flannel recliner in which your dad planted himself every Sunday to watch the games, the leather swivel chair in which you sip your coffee and check your email, and the pleather love seat perfect for afternoon naps. The form shifts, but each man chair abides by the same two principles: only the man of the house may sit in the man chair, and you sit in the man chair in revolt of, or to distinguish yourself from, feminine activities. As Kass puts it, you would sit in a man chair to avoid “being dragged to Bed Bath and Beyond against your will.”
To many men, these chairs are simply comfortable and familiar leisure-time furniture. But Kass goes further, asserting, “To build a strong foundation for a happy marriage, he must get a man chair pronto.”
If you anchor both your marriage and masculinity in a recliner, you’re probably just a few weeks away from a divorce. A man saying he needs a man chair to solidify his manliness is like a boy saying he needs a Madden 2011 chair to become a great athlete.
Despite Kass’ wildly macho commentary, he could be on to something.
Every man needs a place of his own. Not a clutch to reaffirm his machismo, but a place where he can collect his thoughts and make sense of the world. It might be a chair, it might be a study, or, in the case of Michael Pollan, it might be a writing hut.
Pollan has emerged as the poster child of the food movement. But before his fame, Pollan wrote a memoir, A Place of My Own, which promoted a more earnest, more rewarding, manlier version of a man chair. Amid the tumult of a new child, financial qualms, and shifting jobs, Pollan sought a place where he could restore order and solace. Pollan built a writing hut—a small wooden shack in the woods of his backyard. Such a place granted him a world of clarity and purpose. As he walked to his hut,
I gradually shed the cares of the household and slipped back into the current of whatever it was I was writing. I would push open the door and crank up the heater, before stepping down into what I came to think of as my cockpit. Because once I took my seat at the desk, there was no reason whatsoever to move.
Men and women alike need places to themselves. We’re social creatures, but without any isolation, we go insane. But do our places define us? If you’ve got an Ethan Allen catalogue and a surplus of plywood, weigh your options. It’s the man that makes the chair (literally), not vice versa.