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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Escaping to the Barn

When the Farmer and I combined herds (so to speak) last August, we ended up with five teenaged daughters altogether. Granted, they are rarely all in the same place at one time, but when two or more of them get together, it can get very loud.
“It’s okay; it’s all happy noise,” the Farmer says, as he pushes his chair away from the table after another Sunday dinner turned raucous giggle fest.
At times like these, I wish I were deaf in at least one ear.
The girls are expected to do the clean up after our family get-togethers, but the shenanigans continue. The sisters and stepsisters tease and taunt each other and they shriek with laughter. The volume level rises another few decibels. My cries for them to “take it down a notch!” are drowned in the cacophony of pots and pans clanking. I look for a place to hide. Then I realize that the Farmer is missing.
I peek into the living room, but his favourite spot on the couch is unoccupied. The bathrooms are empty, and no one is in the bedroom or the den. Suddenly, I hear a screen door sliding open. Aha. He is escaping to the barn.
Now, if we have company, the Farmer will lead everyone to the living room for after-dinner drinks while the girls clean up. Other times, he will suggest that I take a glass of wine and join him on the porch to watch the sunset, or we’ll hop on the ATV for a ride through the back pasture. But when he wants to be alone, he heads to the barn.
If I want to be alone, I lock myself in the larger of our two bathrooms. The washer and dryer are in there too, so I can do laundry, take a bath, and spend quite a bit of time sorting out my thoughts until I am ready to be social again. However, my peace rarely goes uninterrupted. Within minutes of closing and locking the door behind me, the inevitable knock will come.
“Ma? Mommy. Mom.”
Someone always comes up with an emergency that requires my immediate attention while I am trying to find some quiet time. It never fails. But the Farmer, on the other hand, is rarely followed out to the barn by one of our offspring. That would require donning a pair of manure-covered rubber boots, passing by the crazy sheepdog and facing off with Donkey. There are just too many obstacles and challenges. He’s got it made.
I don’t have the same reservations about following my husband to the barn. I like to spend time there myself, checking on the animals and lending him a hand with whatever he is doing. But when he wants me to join him, he usually tells me where he is going and what he is doing. When he just sneaks out the door quietly, that means “don’t follow”.
Why does this work so well for him? I suppose most men exhibit similar behaviours when they need to claim some solitude. According to Dr. John Gray, bestselling author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, when the man heads off to the garage, the workshop, the basement or the barn, he is often retreating to his “cave”. This is where all of his best thinking is done. While he is in the cave, he will likely take part in various mindless or mechanical activities such as tinkering with equipment, polishing his tools or finishing up some light handiwork. Most men will maintain a portion of their habitat that is decidedly female-unfriendly so that they are assured this necessary solitude.
During the time that the man is in the cave, however, Dr. Gray advises the woman not to ask him what he is doing in there, why he is in there, or when he will be coming out. The man must be left alone, undisturbed, until he decides he is ready to join the rest of his clan again.
Hogwash, I say, I’m pulling on my pink rubber boots, grabbing a couple of beers and heading out to the barn to pitch hay alongside him. Every cave-dweller needs a mate.


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