Nothing Wrong With Dudes That Decorate

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Last week, the New York Times' House & Home section ran a story on John Bowe, author of the book Us: Americans Talk about Love. The story ran under the "At Home With" rubric, a series of articles the House & Home section does frequently -and well- that documenst everything from Pentagram designer Paula Scher's incredibly designed Manhattan apartment to hoaxster Margaret B. Jones, the supposed author of Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival whose true identity as well-to-do Californian Margaret Seltzer was discovered after the Home section ran a story on her Eugene, Oregon house.

The point of the Bowe story was not that here is this man who is lonely and perhaps has fears of intimacy and sometimes has a hard time finding a woman who isn't so implausibly unavailable -she lives in Saipan! The point is that we find it utterly bizarre when single men decorate their own homes.The women's gossip site jezebel.com ran a post on the Times article, pointing out author Julie Scelfo's verging-on-breathless descriptions of Bowe's domestic situation.
"On a recent afternoon, he was well groomed and neatly dressed in a pressed oxford and jeans, his bright studio equally tidy: an assortment of cookware carefully arrayed on a kitchen wall, records and files stacked neatly under his bed. In the cotton-candy-colored bathroom, there was none of the hair or dust one might expect to see in a bachelor pad. And nearly every wall of his apartment was decorated with paintings of flowers, a collection he has spent more than two decades amassing."
The problem, Jezebel writer Sadie Stein says, is that "I can hardly see a 42-year-old woman being regarded as a major catch because she's mastered the essentials of adult domestication."


The Bowe story pushes forward one idea about men, and one about decorating. The first is that men who fall in love with people who are far away, or who have a hard time falling in love, are constitutionally damaged in some way. The other is that men who spend time in their homes are somehow compensating for something. And Stein is right: this doesn't happen with women; and, in fact, women who fall in love with people who are far away and at the same time attempt to make their homes lovely and delightful for themselves are seen not as sort of sad and isolated people throwing themselves into their mint leaf growing (as is implied here), but as true romantics, and/or good self-carers.

So. Why is it so strange when a man decorates? Corbusier designed furniture. So did Gerhard Rietveld, and Mies van der Rohe, and George Nelson and a whole bunch of other men (and a whole bunch of women, but that's another post). But somehow, when a man transcends the seemingly artistically-focused threshold of Pure Design and approaches his space with an applied focus, something strikes us as a little bit off. But it's the implied correlation between the preciousness of his decorating and the solitude of his life that sends would-be designers down the wrong path. There's nothing wrong with traveling and collecting a few Japanese carvings and putting them above your bed. There is something wrong with thinking that it's somehow profoundly off.
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