… I found myself roaming the halls of our newly-built 3-bed, 2-bath suburban home fuming that we didn’t have enough storage space. During college I could carry everything I owned in the back of my Dodge pickup. Now 1,600 square feet was not adequate to house our growing collection of stuff. Something was wrong with this picture. How had I accumulated so many random things in such a short period?
I wondered, “Had men in the past confronted this suffocating malady?” Somehow I couldn’t imagine John Wayne wondering where to put his new artisan wine rack.
My father came to mind. His possessions never occupied a greater place in his life than seemed due. As a boy I used to sit on the bed watching him as he went through his end-of-day routine. Cuff links, handkerchief, pocket knife, wallet — each used on a daily basis, each set in their proper place on top of his dresser. Yes, my dad had “things,” but only what he needed and nothing more. Like a well-seasoned outdoorsman, he understood exactly what was necessary to survive, each tool having a specific purpose. Granted, my father was a lawyer so his days were spent surviving the jungles of the courtroom rather than those of some remote continent, but the manliness of his effortless utility left a great impression on me even then.
Thinking about men I admired, it dawned on me that most had a quiet contempt towards any excess of material possessions. Their expertise and confidence were displayed by the fact that they did not require much to live successfully. They could just as easily get along for a week in the woods with nothing but a knife as they could living in a posh suburban neighborhood with all its amenities. Possessions had no control over the trajectory of their lives. They were not gadget junkies, seeking their fix from the latest Best Buy sale. They were in control of the things they owned, not the other way around. Real manliness meant freedom from the bondage of material goods.