Making the man-cave

A triumphant entry into the field of interior decorating

A beacon of renewal and rededication for many, New Year’s will always hold a special place in my heart as my least favorite pseudo-holiday. When I was in the public school system, it at least gave me a full week to play with my Christmas presents, but now, spoiled by college’s month-long break, it is really just an excuse to go out to dinner. New Year’s lacks religious significance, presents or candy, and is instead marked by people making life-changing commitments they will forget about in two weeks. And every year, I write the date incorrectly for the next six months.

While I’m a New Year’s Scrooge, like the confetti-throwers, I find that the start of a semester always gives me a newfound sense of purpose and productivity. I make my bed, start cooking dinner again and develop a brilliant organizational system for my school papers. For now, my bed is made and my room is clean, but I generally end up in the same position as the resolute New Years celebrators. This year, however, I have managed to buck the trend with a more permanent change to my lifestyle: the establishment of my first man cave.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a man cave, probably inspired by Bruce Wayne’s famous eye for interior decorating, is a secluded sanctuary for a man to retreat to at the end of the day. While my personal area is not ideal for fighting crime, it is a comfortable upgrade in both furniture and aesthetics from the folding chair in front of a TV surrounded by Sunkist bottles and crushed dreams from last semester.

In retrospect, while the redecorating officially started when I put up a single, symbolic Virginia basketball poster on an empty white wall right before break, events since first-year move-in-day have been building up to this point. Sentenced to a year in the tiny single rooms of Dillard, I found that college’s greatest challenge was trying to find a way to fit myself and my possessions into my room at the same time. While Dillard certainly left me with deep emotional scars, I eventually learned how to use space as efficiently as possible.

Another factor that cannot be understated is the huge amount of the Home and Garden Channel my dad and younger brother started subjecting the rest of the family to about a year ago. I definitely resisted this, but it is certainly possible I unconsciously gained some level of decorative expertise from this ordeal. It would also be wrong not to credit my dad’s own man-cave as a starting point for mine, although I made the significant addition of seating for other people, whereas both of my dad’s chairs are for himself.

Whatever the ultimate cause, as soon as I ran out of episodes of “Justified” to marathon this winter break, I devoted the bulk of my time to silent contemplation about how to turn my under-utilized loft — because my apartment is on the top floor of the building, the rooms all have small lofts — into my own personal paradise.

For me, the man cave represents more than a place to watch TV and play video games. It is the fulfillment of a rite of passage. While I have my own room at home, my mom moving all my furniture while I was at school served as a stark reminder I was not really in control — although I immediately moved everything back when I saw what she had done.

Freed from the spacial issues inherent to dorms and given complete directorial control, I have finally created a place that is truly my own, and for the first time in my 20 years, I feel like an adult. January is a month characterized by abandoned hopes, and I have no doubt that my room will again grow messy and Canes will again consume my life, but from the comfort of my new man cave, I am optimistic for the next semester.

Christian’s column runs biweekly Fridays. He can be reached at

Published January 16, 2014 in Life

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