It used to be that men had studies, libraries, dens, offices. Now there are “man caves”. As if the whole of the outside world isn’t already about patriarchal, testosterone-driven, sports metaphor-laden male dominance, for better or worse. Honestly, anyone who feels they’re being deprived of their manhood in today’s uber-macho, Art of War, Machiavellian study in pissing contest one-upmanship has no idea what being a man entails. Or maybe I don’t. That’s probably more the case, as I feel I’ve been disconnected from what society calls “masculinity” for almost my entire life. When I think of a private room, I envision a place to think, to read, to create – to work. I think of my father’s office, lined with books; and his workshop, filled with tools, various and sundry hardware, and projects in various states of construction or completion. I think of a garage or shed for doing your own auto repairs. Not a place where you can retreat from the female kingdom of your home – the kitchen, the bedrooms, the children’s rooms, the “parlor”, and gather with your so-called adult male friends to drink beer, eat junk food, and participate vicariously in simulated war games called sporting events, all the while avoiding either direct parenting, spousal interaction, or being forced into watching “chick” flicks or the Disney channel’s constant repetition of episodic inanity. That sounds like the modern equivalent of the Little Rascals, building a treehouse and then hanging a sign reading “No Gurls Aloud”.
What is this conception of manhood that always must include some minimum level of physical intimidation, hyper-competitiveness, vulgarity, and ultimately anti-social behavior – and often, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, an illusion of superiority, and a chance to unveil the worst of ourselves as humans: our resulting bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and innate mean spiritedness and poor sportsmanship? Even male nerds, geeks, and dorks participate in these rituals, at least privately, while publicly claiming abhorrence for them. By the way, for the purposes of this discussion, there is an easy way to discern between the intelligentsia’s nerd, geek, dork caste system. I call it the LOTR, or Lord of the Rings test: anyone who has read and can quote portions of the Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy can be assumed a nerd. Any nerd who can quote, read or write those portions in the Elvish language may be considered a geek. Any nerd who has on more than on occasion donned a pair of Elf ears, or otherwise actually imagined themselves an elf (or hobbit or dwarf, although there are limits) is probably best classified as a dork. Me? I am only a nerd. But then again, gaining eyeglasses, braces, and violin lessons at age eight probably predetermined that result.