It’s that time of year again: The time when columnists wax poetic about a new year’s resolutions, but since it’s the second week of the new year who really cares now? Raise your hand if you still have a resolution you haven’t broken. You there at the back, yes, put your hand down; we all know you’re lying.
I’ve decided to do something different and start the year by undertaking an in-depth examination of a major issue confronting our society today. In the manner of the great writers such as George Plimpton and Hunter S. Thompson I decided to live what I’m writing about so I can really experience the moment. At great personal risk to my self-esteem I decided to explore the dangerous world of “men’s grooming,” or “men’s grooming technology,” as some of the companies like to call it. In the beginning I experienced dread and apprehension. I felt emotions similar to what I imagine Stanley must have felt as he began his dangerous journey into the unknown in search of Dr. Livingstone. (Oh, just Google him.)
I’m from the latter end of the baby boomer generation, so when I became a “man”, grooming (for the dapper) consisted of a daily shower, soap, razor and a comb. Job done. If a man wanted aftershave it was “English Leather”,” Old Spice” or, for the truly adventurous, “Brut.” If you couldn’t pick it up it at the grocery store it wasn’t worth buying. No man wanted to risk smelling like a he’d been in a French bordello. (For the record, I have no idea what a French Bordello smells like, but if you have personal experience please drop me a line.)
Back to the present-day grooming world, during my in-the-trenches research I found societal expectations of men’s grooming in the 21st century was even more extreme than I had envisioned. There is now actually a “men’s grooming” industry. Who knew? The industry brings in big money. In Germany, in 2010, Germans (and reportedly some very strange looking French men) spent 503.91 million euros on male grooming. If that was converted into actual real money that would probably be equivalent to lots and lots. Did you know that there are ‘Men’s Spas”? They to “Male-specific treatments”. I shudder at the thought. I’m sorry Mr. Plimpton, but I will not go to a men’s spa. I have standards. They are admittedly very low, but nevertheless – I have them.
I discovered, upon visiting the men’s magazine section of a store where my generation originally found “girlie” magazines, that men can now purchase such titles as Men’s Health, Details, Esquire, GQ, Debonair Magazine and Men’s Vogue. Esquire of course has been around for years, but this isn’t the magazine of Ernest Hemingway (who was the quintessential real man of my generation with his articles on killing things) any longer. No. This is the magazine of articles such as “Wanna Be a Levi’s Model? Get on Instagram” and “How to Dress for Parties”. Have you looked at the ads in the modern men’s magazine? Why are the men all hairless? Is this the expected norm? Did someone just forget to send me the memo?
After some soul-searching I decided this was something I could experience for the good of the column. After all, in theory my hair would grow back. Do you now how many products exist for removing a man’s body hair? There’s a whole bunch. After careful research (which was the cheapest?) I purchased a tube of the stuff and took it home to try it out. I’m not the hairiest of men and, being of the wider body type persuasion, what body hair I do have tends to be spread over a larger surface area than most men’s. Once home, and keeping to the warnings to keep the cream away from many sensitive manly bits, I applied the cream to my chest. While my chest hair may be sparse, what it lacks in volume it more than makes up for in length. As directed I applied the cream with the included sponge and waited for five minutes (no less than two and no more than 10) before entering the shower for the next step. Now using the rough side of the supplied foam pad I wiped down the area that had the cream and to my surprise hair started to wipe away. Whether it was the product or me, the hair didn’t come off uniformly. I’m guessing that “thick layer of cream” must mean something different to the manufacturer than it does to me. I was left with naked patches of skin surrounded by seemingly random areas of hair tufts. I’m sure this was not the look I saw in the men’s magazines. I repeated the process over the course of three days but never managed to remove all the chest hair.
Of course, there are loads of other new men’s grooming products on the store shelves, “eyelid rejuvenation roll on” for example. I didn’t know my eyelids needed to be rejuvenated. Researching this column provides information I didn’t know I needed to know. Just so the rest of the man doesn’t get jealous of the eyelids, companies have created solutions for sensitive skin, rough skin, tired skin, and skin that isn’t tired yet, but might be in a few minutes. I chose not to try those products out. There is only so much I am willing to do for a column. My skin was still red from the chest hair removal. I purchased pre-shave balm, post-shave, body wash and man shampoo. Let me say again there are limits to my explorations so I took the safe route and whenever possible chose “Old Spice”, because to paraphrase the commercial we are all familiar with, I may not look like a fit, muscular man, but I can smell like one.
So, what did I learn? It’s time consuming to be a modern man. My own morning ablutions went from 20 minutes to 50. My wife didn’t notice anything different about me, although apparently I smell better now. I’m sure that was meant as a compliment. I never mentioned the chest hair removal attempt, but I’m thinking she might have noticed, as I’m sure I heard one or two stifled chuckles coming from the bed as I undressed, although I can’t be sure it was my newly mostly nude chest that caused them. I guess that research will have to wait for another column. Back to the 20th century for me.
Originally publisheed in The Cascade newspaper http://ufvcascade.ca