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Green Acres Syndrome

Why men embrace their inner hoe

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When my husband recently slipped in a reference to us possibly "living out in the country someday," I instantly squeaked, "OH NO! Not you, too! One of the reasons I picked you was that you didn't have that typical guy fantasy of living in the sticks! In the times you've totally ticked me off, I've clung to the fact that at least you don't want to move to the country. You can't turn on me now!"

This rural-bliss scenario is a fantasy that seems to be especially rampant among men. Sure, lots of chicks like me dig the birds and the trees, but I don't think there's an almost uniform lust among women for their own few acres of God's green earth -- not like the one that lurks in the male animal.

Just about every man I dated would at some point rear back in a chair, prop up his feet, and declare while chewing on an imaginary piece of straw, "Yessir, I'd like to get me some land someday. . ." Even if they never talked that way at any other time, even if they were city-born-and-bred and their elevated feet were shod in tasseled loafers, they'd suddenly turn into Walter Brennan when they waxed rhapsodic about moving to the country.

All I can come up with as an explanation is that maybe it harkens back to some pre-historic urge man first had when he started cultivating the earth and staking out patches of it as his own. That, and the not-so-minor detail that men aren't the ones who are going to have to journey miles from their little piece of heaven in Bumfucksville to do the grocery shopping and the prescription filling.

Women might be just a bit quicker to picture the inconveniences since they would fall squarely on us, like having to cook dinner out in the country every goldurn night because you won't be "getting the door" for Domino's way out in the godforsaken sticks.

That's another thing that strikes me about the back-to-the-land fantasy, in addition to its popularity among males: as fantasies go, it seems particularly divorced from practical considerations. Most of the guys who spout it actually have very little concept of what rigors living in the country entails. In fact, the more urban their lifestyle, the more likely they are to get dewy-eyed at the image of growing their own vittles in a vegetable garden behind a white clapboard farmhouse.

Keep in mind these are people who consider a "home-cooked meal" one they pick up from Boston Market, and "yard work" to be the act of paying the lawn service. They have no earthly idea of how both brutal and boring the boot camp of rural existence can be. Hey, there must have been some reason people fled it in droves for decades, finding almost anything, including inhaling factory lint to the point of getting Brown Lung disease, preferable to farm labor.

Not only do these slickers have no better grasp of the grubby aspects of country living than NYC lawyer Oliver Douglas did when he moved to Hooterville on the TV show Green Acres -- most of them plan to embrace their inner hoe during the exact time of life that requires civilization's conveniences and services.

These guys want to retire to the sticks just when, realistically, they're most likely to experience waning strength and health problems. It's not such a lark in the glade to have to drive four hours roundtrip to the nearest hospital to get your chemo treatments.

I think this retirement angle of the bucolic dream is a generational thing, maybe brought about by too many guys watching Green Acres growing up in the 60s. You don't hear a lot of the World War II crowd saying all they ever dreamed of was ending up in the country, do you? More of them started out there in the first place so they know what a raw deal it can be.

No, it's the suburbs' first massive spawn that struggles against the river of reason's current by seeking to take on a lifestyle it has no working knowledge of. They're a whole generation that's been fantasizing about getting back to the Garden ever since their hippie college days, and that vision's taken on extra vividness as they've spent their working hours crammed together with their fellow annoying humans.

Nothing sounds better after a few decades of commuting and cubicle-dwelling than being as far away from other people as possible, and since this group thinks it's immortal anyway, it blows off health considerations.

As for me, when I picture my declining years my attitude is, Bring On The Conveniences! I'm one of those people who wouldn't mind experiencing some "assisted living" right now.

Actually, I think ending up living in a quasi-hotel could have its advantages. I stayed in a swank NYC hotel once where the staff called me "madame" and each morning I merely lifted the phone and stated, "I'm ready for my breakfast." Now, that's my idea of Eden -- screw grubbing in the dirt.

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