A Room of My Own
Introducing ... The She Den
By Natasha Burton
Okay, we get it. Guys need their man caves, where they can go be men and exercise their evolutionary prerogative to make a mess and be one with their man-stuff. But, I must ask, what about us gals?
One could argue that we don't need caves — the entire house is a woman's domain. We do, after all make most of the indoor decor decisions, outfitting our homes to fit our personal brand of comfort. (And with good reason — as man-cave-defender Brett Smiley notes: “About 10 million American men are colorblind, and most of the rest of us just don't care.”)
But, just because we have better taste doesn't mean we shouldn't get our own little nooks to do our thing, too.
Ladies, I advocate that if a man can have his cave, every one of us should get her own “she den,” a term I have ever-so-cleverly made up to describe the place where we may retreat for a little me-time.
Defining The Den
Just as the man cave is suited for male-centric activities, the she den can have highly feminine uses. I picture a fully-outfitted kitchen, a craft room or maybe just a really sweet sewing chair. I picture eyelet-edged aprons, shiny copper baking tins and spools of soft yarn. Sure, these examples are certainly stereotypical womanly fare but, hey, why not? Many of us truly enjoy the process of creating. (Personally, I very much enjoy the kind involving the baking of chocolate cupcakes.) If this weren't the case, Martha Stewart would have been out of a job years ago.
Even a woman's bathroom could be considered her “den.” There is a sense of Zen in our beauty maintenance: those collective hours we spend — alone — exfoliating and moisturizing and trimming and tweezing and applying our array of potions and powders and lotions.
Still, all of these go-to potential she dens — the kitchen, the craft room, the bathroom — serve primarily to allow us to do things for other people. Come on now, I'm not meticulously sloughing my perpetually rough heels for my benefit, but more because I'd rather they not feel like sandpaper when my (very kind) boyfriend gives me a foot rub.
From We to Me
When a man retreats into his cave, he's just being a dude; if a woman were to tell her husband and kids she'd like to hang in her designated she den for a couple hours and just be alone — no distractions — choosing herself as her most important priority, well, that's simply not how this whole woman-as-eternal-nurturer thing works.
Women are highly regarded as communal creatures, and, actually, most of us kinda like it that way. There's a psychological explanation for this, according to Jean Baker Miller in her book Toward a New Psychology of Women, in which she says that most women place little value on life experiences we share only with ourselves. We're far less apt than men to truly relish our me-time.
Perhaps because of this, we give so much of time (and ourselves) to our men, our kids, our friends, even our communities. Meaning we have very little creative energy left over for just us.
And, really, this isn't so good for us. As Florence Falk, author of On My Own: The Art of Being a Woman Alone, says on her website: “Every woman needs time and space to be alone. Just as certainly, she needs to know how to best use that time so that she can discover the riches of creative self-expression that solitude offers ... [Solitude] is a dynamic place of self-expression where, like good wine, a woman's sense of self has a chance to grow and mature.”
Even if it might feel a little strange (or selfish, or lonely) at first, setting side real alone-time gives us the opportunity to develop inner-strength, Falk advocates, and allows our relationships to flourish as we become more sure of ourselves and less needy.
A Room of Our Own
Though, as adamant as Falk is about ladies taking some much-needed solitude, no one is a greater she-den-advocate than Virginia Woolf, who examined the importance of female me-time in her classic A Room of One's Own.
As a writer, I am particularly drawn to Woolf's anecdote describing the environment in which Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice. She depicts young Austen poised over a stack of loose paper in her family drawing room, presumably surrounded by her sisters, mother and various guests coming in for tea, penning one of the most beloved novels of all time amid constant distractions. No wonder it took her over a decade to finish the manuscript.
Not to get too post-modern here, but I am in my very own she den as I write this article. My modest studio apartment is where, whenever I choose, I can be alone. (Given that I am neither a wife nor a mother, I have a great deal of alone-time flexibility.) After living with roommates, then my parents, then another roommate for the first part of my adult life, I've finally been able to afford what I consider to be the greatest luxury: a room of my own.
I think of Jane Austen now as I write — and especially when I'm trying to come up with an excuse not to – how lucky I am to sit here, wearing sweats, usually eating cookies, sitting up in bed under my slate blue comforter, a warm laptop balanced on my thighs. My she den represents contemporary womanhood, financial stability and social independence — it's truly an indulgence that many women before me (Austen in particular) didn't get a chance to enjoy.
Wherever our she dens may be, and whatever we do there — even if we only get a few stolen minutes to curl up with a journal at the end of a long day — experiencing this truly valuable me-time allows us to explore our passions and grow into our best selves.
Take full advantage ... for Jane.
A she den is the perfect place for a little much-needed me-time.Melanie Acevedo