By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Sex in the ‘90s, agrees Susan Faludi in her 1999 book Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, “became a weapon in a new kind of power play . . . in which men were trying to reclaim ground they feared they were losing to women in an ornamental age.” A 1998 Harris Poll in USA Today revealed that a central reason behind men’s increased “vanity” was not “romantic interest” but their jobs. A similar poll conducted by the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery also indicated that employment was the number-one motivator for men seeking cosmetic surgery.
I began to wonder if I could “borrow” some of the qualities I admired in some women -- the power of beauty, the self-satisfaction of being seen -- for myself. For the first time in my 34 years, I didn‘t just want to be with women -- I wanted to be them. Well, not the first time. Like Adam Sandler’s painfully awkward Barry Egan in Punch-Drunk Love, I grew up among a platoon of older sisters. After they infested the house for the holidays, they‘d return to college, leaving me with a bureau full of their leave-behind clothes -- namely, piles of neatly folded, sleek and cool silk panties adorned with crocuses and orchids. Why did I have these shapeless, off-white Jockey shorts that my sisters dubbed “Baby Hueys” while they had underwear that looked like individual works of art, tributes to the nether regions of the wearer? So yes, for a brief but important period, I wore my sisters’ underwear. I was proud of it. I wore them to school and sat in class, smiling secretly at the girls, Now I know what you know.
And now, standing next-to-naked in Pink Cheeks, I‘m about to know more. Dana knocks once, opens the door, and looks disappointed when she sees me in my underwear. “Take those off, too.”
I meekly pull off my boxer briefs and feel everything below my waist come into full contact with the cool public air. “Do you get a lotta guys doing this?” I ask, eyeing her as she stirs the wax.
“Yeah, it’s become very popular with men.” She seems slightly hurried and impatient. “Just get on the table and lay flat, butt down. Do you want everything off or do you want the landing strip?”
This is a day of firsts; I revert to years of experience in restaurants. “What do you recommend?”
She looks down at the relief map of my belly, groin and legs. “Most guys take all of it off.”
“All of it?”
How did we get to this point? Our idealused to be encompassed in celebrities like Burt Lancaster, Clark Gable, Steve McQueen and Burt Reynolds; now we have the “skinny go-go boy look” with endomorphs like Brad Pitt, Jude Law and Leo DiCaprio. In the mid-‘90s, even Playgirl began noticing that women wanted to see more men without body hair. Today, modern men have begun seeing it as the monkey on their backs. A recent magazine ad says it all: “Guys, when a girl says she wants to rub her fingers through your hair she doesn’t mean the stuff on your back.” Another one says it even better: “Saddam Hussein has a hairy back . . . but you don‘t have to!”
Before I took the plunge, I wanted some hard info on hairlessness. “Michael,” a prop and set designer from the Valley, traces his anti-love affair with his own Neanderthal fur to age 15, when he sneaked into a movie theater showing Little Darlings. “There was young, hairless Matt Dillon and older, hairier Armand Assante,” he recalls. “I saw how Matt Dillon was treated [by girls] in the film, and it stuck in my head.” Eventually he graduated to waxing every single follicle on his body. “I feel better knowing it’s not there -- it‘s kind of feminine. I feel more sexualized, energized, younger, sensitive. Even sex is better -- my nerve endings seem more aware because nothing comes between you and your partner.” Mike claims he never met a woman who didn’t like it. “Some girls I‘ve been with don’t shave under their armpits, and I found it kind of exhilarating. I actually find myself turned on by women who have more hair than me.”
Vanessa and Pete are young married professionals also living in the Valley -- she designs electronic graphics for CBS and he works as a business-systems analyst. “We‘re a bit opposite: I’m a couch potato and he works out four times a week,” says Vanessa. “There‘s definitely a female quality in his love of shopping, smelling good, showering twice a day, shaving his chest and pubic hair. I have this backwards notion that that stuff is for girls. In a weird way it makes me feel like I’m not doing enough -- like I‘m being out-beautied!” Pete says that his obsessive grooming is an inherited trait. “My dad was the CFO type: He had manicures and expensive haircuts. I remember seeing him shave his underarms, and that’s when I started doing it.” Then there was the first time Pete shaved his balls -- and found that he wasn‘t alone. “It is so common now; I’ll talk to my friends and we‘ll all joke, ’Yeah, man, you should try it!‘ We’re really open about it.”
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