Diary of a Marriage: The Man Room. (Or Lack Thereof.)

This week, I face my worst fear: The Man Room

An editor (male, married 25 years) recently paused in the doorway of my office and thoughtfully looked around, taking it in  —  gold desk lamp, zebra-print rug, antique vases holding my pens, fuzzy white pillows, a huge wall-hanging featuring fabric with a swirly, ‘70s-esque black-and-white print, the whole space obsessively organized.

“So, is this what your house looks like?” he asked, with a hint of incredulity.

When I answered yes, more or less, he paused again, mulling over his words. “Does your husband have any of his stuff in your house, or is it just like — this?” I saw his eyes flick over a vintage pink, black and gold candy tin on my credenza.

I waved him away, assuring him — and myself — that while J. doesn’t exactly have a Man Room quite yet, he surely will when we have a house with more space.

Later that night, I surveyed our house: Gold starburst mirror. Shaggy flokati rug. Fur pillows. A grid of vintage plates hanging on our dining room wall. A wall of mismatched antique mirrors. A pair of Philippe Starck Ghost chairs. Monogrammed sheets. The editor had a point: It was quite obvious that J. didn’t have a hand in choosing anything in our house, save for maybe our TV.

It’s not that my husband has no say in our décor. He has veto power (he adamantly refused to let me hang an antique chandelier over our bathtub, for instance), and I almost always consult him before doing anything too drastic, though I will admit that a few of my design ideas have come to fruition while he’s either fast asleep (I once waited for him to fall asleep before sneaking out of bed to paint the vanity in our guest bath) or conveniently out of the house (I hired someone on the spot to help me lug an amazing 1950s perfect-condition couch —  that I scored for $15! —  from the Salvation Army to our house while he happened to be at work, then promptly rearranged our bedroom to make it fit).

I’m sure any guy reading this is balking at my utter disregard for my husband’s design preferences. But here’s the thing: When it comes to home décor ideas, J. simply doesn’t have any. Plus, after living with my finds for a while — even the ones he staunchly hated —  he usually ends up grudgingly admitting that he’s become quite fond of them. He’s even thanked me for creating a cozy, pretty living space for us, one that’s blessedly free of unframed Animal House posters, futons, and ugly hand-me-down velour sectionals. So, editor-in-my-doorway, take that!

Still, though, J. has complained several times about the lack of a Man Room in our house, a space dedicated to his passions, one that oozes masculinity and showcases his sports memorabilia and has enough wall space for his Holy Grail of Home Décor: The Fathead.

I have been fighting The Fathead for five years. When we were first dating, J.’s interest in the life-size vinyl wall decals of sports players and team logos was funny, endearing even. When he semi-jokingly requested one as a wedding gift, I brushed it off. I mean, he couldn’t really want a tacky, seven-foot-tall cut-out of Shaq on our wall, could he? Yes, I discovered. Yes, he could.

When, over the next year, J. continued to nonchalantly bring up The Fathead, I finally gave in and shelled out $89.99 for what is essentially an oversized sticker of his favorite college basketball team’s logo. When he opened the sticker, rolled up like a poster in a cardboard tube, his eyes lit up, not unlike the way the father in A Christmas Story gazed lustfully at that leg lamp. Oh my God, I realized. I now had my very own version of the freaking leg lamp in my house.

It’s been several months since J.’s had The Fathead and it’s still rolled up in its cardboard tubing underneath our bed. He desperately tried to find a place for it in our house one day while I looked on from the couch, heart in my mouth, praying he wouldn’t actually think it looked good in our dining room. Finally, he came and sat down next to me., admitting defeat.

“I don’t think I want to hang it yet,” he said. “It doesn’t really look good anywhere.”

Trying not to squeal with relief, trying to be a good, supportive wife, I challenged him. “Are you sure? What about on that wall over there?” We went on like this, walking through the house together, trying to find a place for The Fathead, and ended up deciding that as soon as we have a house with a basement, with an extra bedroom, with an extra space anywhere, he will get his Man Room in which his beloved Fathead can have a place of prominence on the wall, next to his collection of Sports Illustrated covers and his trophies and signed tennis balls, with not a fur pillow or gold nesting table in sight.

For now, though, we’re quite content to leave The Fathead under our bed — J. dreaming of a day when it will grace the wall of his Man Room, probably beneath a spotlight, me dreaming of a tasteful Man Room with vintage gold nesting tables and maybe even a few throw pillows.

What about you — does your guy have a Man Room? Want a Man Room? Plan on setting one up once you’re married? Are you afraid of this prospect, or do you like the idea of storing all of his ugly boy stuff in one room?

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