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Silver Threads: Man caves and she sheds

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

About 30 years ago, when my husband and I made the first of many trips to the Southwest in his motor home, I first learned of a lifestyle that intrigued me.

We were visiting Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, a site inhabited by the Anasazi indians from about 900 to 1150 A.D. with high structures nestled against the canyon walls. Our guide told us that these “apartments” were the homes of women, who held the titles to the properties, and their children. When they were home from the hunting grounds, the men and older boys of the tribe ate, slept, drank and smoked dope in a “kiva” at ground level, a mostly underground chamber where tribal ceremonies were also held.

That’s exactly what he told us. And I thought it kind of sounded like a neat way to go on. Especially for the women.

While I doubt many of them are familiar with the history of the Anasazis, today’s males more than a millennium later have invented something called the “man cave,” where they watch TV, play video games, drink and hopefully don’t smoke dope since it’s illegal now and not a good habit to share with your teenaged boys.

Wikipedia gives this definition of the man cave:

“… a male sanctuary, such as a specially equipped garage, spare bedroom, media room, den, or basement. It is a metaphor describing a room inside the house where ‘guys can do as they please’ without fear of upsetting any female sensibility about house decor or design.

While a wife may have substantial authority over a whole house in terms of design and decoration, she generally has no say about what gets mounted on the walls of a man's personal space. Since it may be accepted that a woman has input on the decoration of the rest of the house, a man cave or man space is in some sense a reaction to feminine domestic power.”

There’s even a special website for man-cave dwellers: “Taking back the World one Man Cave at a time" — ManCaveSite.org. And for those who’d rather read hard copy, there’s Cave Dweller magazine.

The publicity and popularity surrounding man caves came about, if my figuring is right, sometime since the turn of the last millennium, and it took a while for women to try and catch up. (Doesn’t it always? They’re busy doing important things instead of making plans for what leisure they have.)

So it was only this year that the “she shed” made the news — and the Internet. “If men have man caves where they can escape, why shouldn't women have their own escapes?,” reads one of the many she shed sites on the web. “… here’s a new trend to help ladies everywhere shed the stresses of the everyday: meet the ‘She Shed.’

“Typically constructed in a backyard nook, these tiny cottages are perfect for women who want alone time for reading, creating, gardening, or even napping,” reads one website. “There are no rules to building a She Shed; they're anything you want them to be (and then some).”

The she shed will also be featured in a new FYI cable channel production that began filming early this month.

All of this was brought to my attention by a relative whose nerves are continually frazzled by sharing a relatively small living space with a TV sports addicted husband and two sons in their late teens. But seniors like me and my spouse don’t really need sheds or caves. We live in a small house, to be sure, but it’s one with extra bedrooms for our computers and chairs for reading, and when the games begin, he can watch them on the master bedroom television set.

And I can be down our long hall, catching the latest episode of Downton Abbey.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]