Sometimes the universe is trying to tell you something. Just listen, and there it is: the wisdom you’ve been seeking. The inspiration you’d hoped would come. The guidance you needed to change course. In my dotage, I’ve found that being open to these kinds of messages can sometimes be its own reward. Then again, I might just be indisputably menopausal. But for now, I’m going on record with this: It’s clear to me that the following circumstances are somehow connected.
Not long ago, I started hearing and reading about coloring books for adults. In fact, Barnes & Noble has something like 318 listed on its website, bearing titles like Mindfulness Coloring Book: Stress-Relieving Art Therapy for Busy People, Adult Coloring Book: 40 Relaxing and Stress Relieving Patterns and Adult Coloring Book for Relaxation: Calming Mandalas and Patterns for Adults. (I’m sensing a theme here.)
They’re doing quite nicely. The top three spots on the New York Times August Games and Activities Bestseller list are coloring books, and they’ve been selling briskly for a while now. In just three years, Dover Publishing’s Creative Haven has sold 3 million copies of its coloring books, and according to the company’s vice-president, “[Coloring] gives people a chance to unplug, to unwind.” From Tampa to Tacoma, women gather for coloring parties, where they enjoy wine, dessert, and conversation.
Coupled with that, I keep reading about a remodeling trend that offers women a way to leave their everyday lives behind and take a break from their responsibilities at home and with their families, by creating a place where they can get away without going away. I give you: The “She Shed.”
Like a “Man Cave,” these spaces are dedicated to providing the solitude, comfort and atmosphere the owner craves, specifically suited to her individual needs. She Sheds are popping up all over Pinterest, and no doubt in your neighborhood as well, offering women a separate but accessible space to call their own. SheShedDecor.com tells women, “You get to design a space just for yourself. Away from the husband and kids. Away from the hustle and bustle of life. A place you can call your own, and where you can retreat to relax, do crafts, read books, watch TV, or whatever else you choose to do in your very own she shed!” [Small aside: I love the phrasing they use in this pitch: “You get to.” You get to? Please.]
Finally, it can’t be an accident that in 2015, Sam Elliott—yes, that Sam Elliott,* from Lifeguard (1976) and Mask (1985)—is making quite an impression in theaters this year with his performances in three independent films, I’ll See You in My Dreams, Digging for Fire, and Grandma. Let’s just say that for many women of a certain age, Sam is a fond and vivid memory from our younger days and leave it at that. Yet, here he is again, appearing at exactly the right time, and according to the Times, he “is definitely having a moment.”
So what do we make of this? Apparently, we women are poised and ready to claim our own share of serenity and enjoy a new era of independence, where we can be free to express our repressed girlhood/adolescence…in our own backyards. We’ve spent careers cracking glass ceilings and claiming chairs in boardrooms across the country. We’ve taught our sons to sew and our daughters how to change tires. We’ve married men who do the grocery shopping and the laundry. And it turns out that in 2015, all we really seem to want to do is become carefree girls again—complete with crayons, clubhouses, and crushes.
That sounds just about right to me. With our tethered lifestyles, where we’re accessible every day, all day, when a workday doesn’t ever quite seem to end and we seem to value being “connected,” who isn’t trying to escape the stress of responsibilities and everyday mayhem at least once in a while? I always loved coloring (I was a big fan of outlining—big surprise), and hanging out in a makeshift “clubhouse” under our porch with my girlhood friends. And as for Sam Elliott…well…that Katherine Ross is a lucky woman.
* And, no, I haven’t forgotten The Big Lebowski, but that’s a “man-movie” and no one can convince me otherwise.
Renee A. James works at Rodale Inc. and wrote an award-winning op-ed column for The Morning Call, the Allentown, Pennsylvania, newspaper, for almost 10 years. Her essays were included in the humor anthology, 101 Damnations: A Humorists’ Tour of Personal Hells (Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), and are also found online at Jewish World Review and The Daily Caller. She invites you to Like her Facebook page, where she celebrates—and broods about—life on a regular basis, mostly as a voice in the crowd that shouts, “Really? You’re kidding me, right?” (or wants to, anyway), and she welcomes your suggestions, comments, and feedback to the mix.