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DIANNE KLEIN

How Men Tempt the Recline of Civilization as We Know It

July 25, 1993|DIANNE KLEIN

All his life, my husband has wanted a Barcalounger.

I can't blame him for this, of course. I know it is a longing over which he has no control, hormonally induced, a testosterone thing. Males throughout the centuries have gravitated toward the pure ugliness and unabashed celebration of sloth that only a Barcalounger can provide.

I understand this. Whereas a woman would no sooner voluntarily acquire a recliner for her home than she would, say, a Naugahyde coat for her wardrobe, men equate these things with the very essence of maleness.

(Other objets d'stud: pickup trucks with enough room to stretch one's right arm across the seat back while driving or, for the urban male, enough change in the pocket to make a fierce, clanging noise when jiggled with one's hands. In lieu of a sword, a full pocket is the perfect weapon to pack for impromptu hall office meetings.)

But the Barcalounger, or the La-Z-Boy, or the whatever, cuts through all preferences that might otherwise divide men.

They all want one, or two, even though some might not admit as much to themselves. These repressed types are the ones you want to watch out for.

Guy suddenly pulls his kid's Super Soaker on the clerk at the 7-Eleven instead of just paying for the bag of Doritos he's holding, and you've got to figure that this is someone who has never heard of letting go with Robert Bly.

Truth is the guy was probably so subliminally shook up by the thought of just another night of "Cops" propped up in that Queen Anne that he just lost it for a second there. (No doubt many a court-appointed shrink has testified to that effect.)

Not that being too in touch with one's male feelings is necessarily a good thing either.

For example, you go into a home with a Barcalounger in the family room, positioned for maximum television exposure, and you can tell that here resides a man who likes to tell his buddies that he is the king of his castle.

A big drawback for this king's subjects is that these types of castles tend to be paneled in dark, plastic, simulated wood.

If on the other hand, the Barcalounger is in the basement, only such is called a rec room or something equally non-threatening/non-judgmental, then you know that this is a family in the process of working out its problems. This is sort of an interium step.

Needless to say, full family harmony is achieved when the male or males in residence have come to realize that wanting a Barcalounger and actually acquiring a Barcalounger are two separate things and should remain that way. For the betterment of society.

(This is true. Gerald Ford actually moved his Barcalounger into the White House, which was right up there with his pardon of Richard Nixon as the boldest move of his presidency.)

This is where my husband is. He wants a Barcalounger but knows he shouldn't have one.

He has come to realize that recliners are, indeed, hideous, and incompatible with any decorating scheme that does not include suspending macrame plant holders from the ceiling, or gluing woodlike plastic paneling to the walls.

But, you know, he lusts. Men are like this, even good men. Think of Jimmy Carter, the luster of the heart who is now a professional do-gooder.

So what I'm saying here is that it's OK to lust, as long as you keep it at that. Take, for instance, my husband's thing with motorcycles. Testing, the man is always testing me. Probably not unlike Jimmy used to do with Rosalynn in his lighter moments. ("Margaret Thatcher. She wanted me.")

What my husband does is, he points out motorcycles and tells me about how that's just like the one that he's going to get. This, of course, is when he marries his next wife.

His next wife, presumably, would also allow Barcaloungers.

Then again, could my husband love a woman who would welcome a Barcalounger into their home? You would have to wonder about how in touch she was with her female essence. My feeling: The woman has got to be waaaay too eager to please. This would get old, might even land somebody in the Betty Ford clinic.

But, hey, compromises are what life is about. My husband and I have recently learned about something called a Morris chair. This was the precursor to the Barcalounger, only no naughas were called to sacrifice their hides.

The Morris chair, in other words, is something that you might let into the house. It's old, from the Arts & Crafts period, only supposedly knockoffs are to be had for less than the price of your car.

Not that we've managed to find any, of course. But it's nice to know there is hope.

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