To be clear: Seasons aren’t gendered. Color isn’t masculine or feminine inherently, either, any more than long hair or makeup or motorcycles or dresses are. And even though women appear to have the monopoly on going nuts for pumpkin spice everything and knitting cozy sweaters, there’s a case to be made that dudes can give them a run for their money.
“I’m big into gourds,” says YA novelist and dude Jeff Zentner, whose Facebook page is littered with images celebrating himself as the King of Autumn. “I love cornstalks and hay bales. Big into wreaths. Love pumpkin imagery of all kinds.”
Zentner’s posts declare unequivocal allegiance and enthusiasm for the season. “FIRST DAY OF SWEATER WEATHER. THE LORD OF AUTUMN RISES FROM SLUMBER,” one Instagram caption reads.
Another post says Zenter’s “basically a 60 year old woman when it comes to decorating his house for autumn. Cornucopias? Sure! Scented candles? Why not! Wreaths? Two please. Right now, I’m shopping for one of those autumn flags to put on my house.”
At first I thought maybe he was kidding around with all this crazy fall talk, but his passion runs deep. “It started as purely a matter of physical sensation,” Zentner says of his fall euphoria. “It feels good when weather starts getting cooler after summer, and so I love everything I associate with that. But now it’s taken a sort of philosophical bent. The way autumn kind of represents a leaving of youth (spring and summer) and heading closer to death.”
And he’s not the only who’s horny for autumn. Men on the internet feel totally free to express their lust and appreciation for the season.
MEL Staff Writer John McDermott says he’s way into the season, too. “It’s my belief that the gender war over who owns the fall season is real and contentious,” he tells me. “For men, the season means FOOTBAW, drinking Oktoberfest, and going to your high school homecoming parade and possibly running into Becca, the mousey girl from your AP English class (the last may just be a personal fantasy, however).”
He said a friend sends him a link to an Onion article about fall every year, because he thinks he’s a “Douchey Fall Bro.” The article in question was first posted in 2012. The headline reads “Mr. Autumn Man Walking Down Street With Cup of Coffee, Wearing Sweater Over Plaid Collared Shirt.”
It describes one Dennis Clemons, a 32-year-old whose affection for the season is limitless:
“Nothing beats autumn in New England,” said His Excellency, the Duke of Fall, who began the day swaddled in a warm flannel blanket, gazing out the window at the golden-hued landscape, as is his custom this time of year. “Everywhere the leaves are changing and the temperature is starting to drop off. You can smell it in the air.”
But McSweeney’s logged the definitive take on excitement for fall in 2009 when dude Colin Nissan wrote “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers,” which McSweeney’s republishes every year. The posting of the article to Facebook annually by average citizens has become an autumn ritual in and of itself.
“I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table,” Nissan writes. “That shit is going to look so seasonal.”
Nissan wasn’t available for comment on what exactly it is about fall he loves so much, but in an interview with McSweeney’s about the origins of the post — it’s one of their most-read articles, they say — Nissan tells them he didn’t even realize how much he loved fall until he wrote the piece.
“Truthfully, I’ve always just really loved fall,” Nissan told McSweeney’s. “It wasn’t completely clear to me exactly how much I loved it until I started writing this piece. It turned out I had some serious deadly autumn build-up.”
Nissan said he wasn’t sure exactly why people connect with it so much, but “I think it tapped into some closeted fall mania that lots of people secretly felt but were never truly comfortable expressing,” he said. “It’s inspiring to see just how far the whole gourd pride movement has come since then.”
Then there’s the fall fashion aspect that’s friendlier to men, who are no longer exposed to the onslaught of criticism that comes with shorts and flip-flops. McDermott says he prefers fall fashion because he sweats a lot.
“As noted sweaty guy, I enjoy fall most for the fashion,” he says. “After four months of fighting a futile battle against ball and ass sweat, I’m finally able to comfortably wear jeans again. And all the other best male fashions are fall-related: V-neck sweaters, quarter zip pullovers, cardigans, hoodies, plaid shirts. If you’re a husky boy, you get to hide your heft more.”
Arguably, though everyone likes fall best, particularly the internet. A Washington Post writeup on the social media love for the season says it’s highly visual, shareable and debatable, as seasons go. Abby Ohlheiser writes:
Autumn on the Internet is the equivalent of a holy season for many, a celebration of a bunch of things beloved by a wide swath of online communities. Do you like beautiful nature pictures? Fall is there for you. How about recipes? Fall has some of the most popular. Arguing with near-strangers? Here come the online fights about candy corn and pumpkin spice lattes.
A tumblr post from 2013 declaring “pumpkin spice candles soon, pumpkin lattes soon, pumpkin everything” has been reblogged nearly a million times at this point. It features this dancing pumpkin man:
In 2014, MTV decided to get to the bottom of the obsession with fall. “We also have memories of seasons, and those impact how we feel,” psychologist Kathryn Ariel Roecklein told Emilee Lindner. “Think about how you’d feel if you really loved going back to school every fall. You’d look forward to that season due to fond memories in the past.”
PR manager Brynn Burton at coffee chain Tim Hortons, who debuted a line of pumpkin snacks that year, has another theory. “I think we are obsessed with fall because it’s a ton of American pastimes crammed into three months…football, picking apples, baking, sweaters, crafting/carving, harvest, Thanksgiving,” Burton told MTV. “Summer seems to be more laid back — vacation, music focused (with festivals), or movies… where fall is food-focused, family and friends centered — leading up to the holidays — it’s more sentimental, more romantic.”
This may be precisely why men can so easily key into their fall feelings. I have a theory that nostalgia is one of the few socially acceptable male emotions. There isn’t much research on my hunch, but I found a paper from the 1990s by Molly Diane Brown at the University of Pittsburgh that essentially argues that, at least in cinema, that directors frequently engage with narratives of nostalgia to explore masculinity.
A glut of nostalgic films that decade involving Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks — Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, That Thing You Do! and others—took on subjects of war, boyhood, the past, and childlike senses of adventure and innocence, proving nostalgia is deeply connected to manliness.
“The Spielberg and Hanks films of the 1990s (especially Saving Private Ryan) usually returned to what Freud saw as a human ‘need to restore an earlier state of things,’” Brown writes.
And autumn is nothing if not nostalgia porn for an earlier state of things, on Viagra. Speaking of porn, one study argues that men are hornier in the fall, and women are hornier in the spring. No word on exactly why.
Of course, women love fall, too. There are heavily female-skewed quizzes on determining just how obsessed with fall you are, and what it says about your personality if you love the season (You’re “cheerful”); other quizzes help women figure out which “season” they are depending on their complexion and hair color. As of the last few years, there are now such quizzes for men, too. But it’s unclear how many men are interested in identifying their best seasonal color wardrobe scheme.
But Zentner tells me that for all the things he loves about fall, he doesn’t think any of those things are innately masculine. “My approach to autumn is pretty feminine,” he says. “I’m all about scented candles and other stuff pretty traditionally considered feminine.” I ask him if that means perhaps the draw of fall is that it lets men tap into their more traditionally feminine side in a way that’s acceptable to society.
“I think so,” he said.
So perhaps autumn isn’t the dudeliest season, but rather the one guys are most likely to embrace with unbridled pumpkin-spice flavored enthusiasm.