Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal asked a question that the current leisure class of baby boomer pensioners is apparently fixated on: in the greenhouse, do women finally have an spouse-free space equivalent to the man cave? You're goddamn right they do.
Homeowner sales at International Greenhouse Co., a commercial and residential distributor of fine, transparent structures situated snugly in another Illinois town you'll never visit (sorry, Danville, I'm sure it's nice there), are up a whopping 30% from three years ago. Meanwhile, pouts business owner David George, commercial sales have been "in the dumps." Hartley Botanic Ltd., another greenhouse purveyor, estimates annual sales in the U.S. growing at a 15% clip each of the part three years, which is 15 more percentage points than we needed to confirm International Greenhouse Co.'s rosy tale of the boom in the private greenhouse market.
But who are these mysterious people snapping up greenhouses across America? Well, one of them is a mild-mannered 56-year-old woman from Greensboro, NC who says of her chlorophyll-rich retreat, "I love to go out there on a cold January day," and pretend her husband doesn't exist and that she's actually Empress Alexandra during Russia's more innocent years prior to World War I. "The sun is beating in, and it feels fabulous." Another is a 61-year-old man also from Greensboro who added a greenhouse to his property because he and his wife no longer love each other and he thought she'd be happier pressing flowers and throwing tea parties in a glass box where she's easily observable by neighborhood prowlers. 65-year-old Virginian Brenda Platz doesn't give a damn about the $80,000 expense of heating and irrigating a greenhouse in the dead of winter because she and her husband enjoy English cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. To her, the greenhouse is "a huge sunny spot" (except when it's cloudy) and an ideal place to go with a cup of tea in the wintertime. The Schwenkers (yes, really) of Iowa actually built and enjoy their greenhouse together, and they put a pool in it so they could have sexy times after work even when it's cold.
The idea — and assonance — of a man cave is, quite honestly, gross, and its intractable presence in our lexicon shouldn't encourage us to go out and seek its lady equivalent. Everyone should have a space in which they can be left alone to reflect on the day and drink, but these spaces don't need to be so elaborate and consumerist. Men don't need puerile basement pits where they can play Playstation and fart on hideous pleather sofas, and neither do women need giant flower boxes filled with sewing notions. These hyper-gendered spaces simply draw sharper distinctions between what is supposed to be man and what is supposed to be woman, and distinctions between the genders naturally give way to iniquities. Besides, movie villains always seem to appear in greenhouses in which they deliver veiled threats to a protagonist while pruning some super rare flower. Is that the way we want women to be characterized, as villainous botanists? Greenhouses may not be discrete spaces reserved for women after all — they may really just be spacious patriarchal prison boxes that offer women the illusion that they can come and go freely while surrounding them with supposedly gender-appropriate attributes, like flowers, tea kettles, scones, and fresh produce.
That said, having a place to get snugly day-drunk in the middle of January while watching the snow fall all around you sounds pretty awesome. You could probably grow some pot out there too.