n a recent weekend afternoon, I awoke from a much-needed nap to find a curious new addition to our living room: a big, bulky, well-worn, dark blue leather recliner. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief like it was Christmas morning. Funny how you can never know how much you really needed something until it’s right there in front of you. My wife’s father had just dropped off the chair. It was a gift from his mother, my wife’s grandmother. I’m told that my wife’s grandfather had sat in this chair for many, many years before he died. I stared in awe at the thing. I finally had my first Dad Chair. And then a peculiar thing happened. Neither my wife, son nor I had laid claim to the chair, but in my mind it was immediately obvious that it was mine. This was for Dad. Me.
I felt territorial and possessive. My mind raced with thoughts of me sitting in the chair drinking scotch and saying wise things, of reading thick leather-bound literary tomes and, of course, watching football games every Sunday. But we don’t even have a TV. And I hate scotch. And I read trashy detective novels and rarely say wise things! What gives?
Turns out, there are a lot of factors involved with my brutish behavior. “Generally, the Dad Chair is a protected base for the dominant male in a home,” says environmental psychologist Sally Augustin. By “generally,” Augustin is referring to the obvious fact that there are many different households, some without any males at all. My emotional behavior concerning this chair is really a culmination of biological as well as cultural influences.
And I do have many memories of my father’s claimed territory throughout multiple houses we lived in when I was growing up. He never really had a Dad Chair, but he certainly had his spot, marked by an indention in the sofa, where he would sit every night, his knees bent and his feet tucked up under himself, with a slight lean against the left armrest so he could reach his glass of wine on the side table. He and my mother moved to a new place in San Diego about a year ago, and sure enough, the sofa arrangement is the same, and his spot was reclaimed.