Sunday, May 3, 2009

Showcase house of the male/female divide

Interior decoration has never been one of my interests, probably due to a genetic deficiency I have, called "gender." Chicks dig it, though.

For proof, just sit and watch the droves of well-groomed ladies pouring off the shuttle buses at the Pasadena Showcase House.

This celebration of state-of-the-art interior design, held at a different spectacular mansion each spring, boasts a women-to-men visitor ratio, based on my unscientific observations, of about 100 to 1, and the one is inevitably a septuagenarian in a salmon-colored golf shirt.

Or me.

Women invariably tour the house in pairs, because dishing the dirt over a designer's choices with a man is basically a monologue. That is because women and men see interior design differently; women see infinite possibilities, while men see a very long summer kissing drywall. But I agreed to attend with my wife out of a morbid curiosity over what the new "black" is.

Plus, Brownie Points never hurt when you are thinking about buying a new car.

You enter the mansion through something called a "port cochere" ("costly porch"). Before entering, however, since nature was calling, I was glad the event planners had also placed a row of "port au potties" off to the side of the house.

Each room in the manse has been completely re-imagined and decorated by different designers, some of whom stand amidst their creation to answer questions, and are very proud of their work.

Therefore, based on my personal experience, I do not recommend phrasing your question like this: "So what's up with the big ball of moss?" It might be taken as mockery, when intended as good-natured ribbing, which some artistes apparently just don't "get."

"Concept" is the main idea of interior design, I know, but please do not tell me that it is necessary to stifle a heartfelt giggle when I see, in a tiny bathroom, a chandelier hanging over a toilet. I'm sorry. That is just funny.

I am clearly a bad audience for "concept," and I blame my parents for not endowing me with ovaries.

The breakfast room had lovely china plates mounted to the walls just below the ceiling, to give a clue to anyone with any doubt about what a dining room is for. This made me curious, though, just what I would find hot-glued to the bedroom walls.

Outside I came across a little bonsai tree inside a bird cage, but there was no one to explain, so I was left to assume it symbolized man's enslavement of nature. Or a love of quiet pets.

The sun room ceiling appeared to be paneled with tan fur of some kind, which was striking, but made me feel a bit like I was inside a pony. The library's most intriguing feature was the stack of books in its fireplace. I have to admit I do this too, when I run out of shelf space, except I doubt if the designers ever light theirs.

In the laundry room, sitting atop the giant, gleaming dryer were four petite vases, each with a tiny orchid, a nice touch, but I have to say that has so been done to death on my dryer at home.

As I left the mansion, the only other man at the place, Mr. Salmon Shirt, caught my eye pleadingly, as his wife led him into the big-decorative-arts-shop-under-a-tent in the garden. I looked away. There are some things a man should never watch another man endure.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Real men don't

There has been a lot of debate lately, mostly in my head, about what constitutes a "real man." I have decided it is unrelated to what a man says, for a real man never says much, except maybe "Ow" if a falling anvil is involved, and even then it is under his breath. It is what a man does, or, even more importantly, what he does not do, which decides the matter. So I have spent minutes, literally, making up this list of "don'ts" for your enlightenment, if you are a man, and for your pre-nuptial checklist, if you are a woman:

Real men don't wear Crocs. Crocs are those colorful plastic shoes with the big holes in them, which are supposed to allow your feet to "breathe" and to look like they stepped in Technicolor Munchkin poo. If God had wanted a clog on a man's foot, he would have created a man's foot in a drain.

Real men don't read "Twilight." This is that teen vampire romance novel with which your teen daughter is obsessed, and it has been documented that the reading of even one paragraph by a man can produce an estrogen shock so powerful it can take at least 20 viewings of "The Longest Yard" (Burt Reynolds edition) to return to acceptable manly baselines.

Real men don't watch "Grey's Anatomy." (See above).

Real men don't drink anything with the words "Mocha," "Frappu," "Chai," "Caramel," "Tazo," "Cinnamon," "Truffle," "Drizzled," "Creme" or "Passion" in the name. Unless they have a coupon.

Real men don't wear jewelry above the shoulders. This includes lip rings, nose rings, earrings and anything ending in "–stud." If God had wanted a man's head to be adorned with metal chunks, he would have splashed cold water in his face and thought better of it.

Real men don't cry. With these exceptions:

1) While watching "Brian's Song," a movie about a football player suffering from terminal cancer, which is the saddest thing a man can imagine, unless it is a football player suffering from terminal cancer who totals his truck.

2) If he comes upon an accident in which Scarlett Johansson is lying unconscious on the ground, obviously requiring mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and then he wakes up.

3) While golfing.

Real men don't dodge weddings. True, there aren't many occasions more painful for a man to endure than weddings, because weddings involve a veritable trifecta of woe (relatives, dancing, and being required to wear long pants), but a real man appreciates a test of his fortitude, especially when there is a chance to video, for YouTube, his mother-in-law doing the Chicken Dance.

Real men don't eat quiche. (Some cliches are in the bylaws, plain and simple).

Real men don't color their hair. Unless a man has Johnny Depp's colorist, it is going to look fake, too dark, like his head was inexplicably attacked by a squid. The mark of a real man is his willingness to let nature take its natural course, and don't let his 23 year old third wife tell you any different.

Some say there are no real men any more, and they note as evidence the extent to which men's facial moisturizers now compete for supermarket shelf space with women's. Don't believe it. The popularity of NASCAR is proof alone that for every well-moisturized, vegetarian, carbon-footprint-conscious man out there, there are two lugs who have never even heard the word "solar." (Or "dentist"). I think the best definition of a real man is one who is comfortable in his own skin, slightly balding, and who writes jokes for a newspaper.

But that's just me.