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
With the increasing (and some would say morbid) attention men are paying to their bodies, the bleed-over from the gay-liberation and feminist movements from the ‘60s and ’70s into the heterosexual world of the ‘90s is not so much a “feminization” of male culture as it is a blurring of gender lines. The cosmetics company Tigi features the slogan “One World” and doesn’t specify sexual orientation on its Web site, where images of Ben Affleck, the Backstreet Boys, Linkin Park and Aerosmith are interspersed with those of Britney Spears, Carmen Electra and the Gilmore Girls. The L.A.-based Dermologica makes unisex items like “Total Eye Care,” which technically is skin care (it reduces dark circles and perks up one‘s skin) but also veers into “makeup” because it contains a tint. Check out the Web site Underworks.com (“girdles for men and women”) to see how most of the clothing could apply to eitheror.
This gender chimera may be due to the advent of what Harvard fellow Katherine Stern calls the “feminine postmodern,” explaining in a 1996 talk “Men in Makeup” that feminine characteristics are now accepted as “universally human.” As if to underscore this point, the ACLU recently intervened on behalf of Peter Oiler, a 47-year-old heterosexual truck driver who was fired by grocery-store giant Winn Dixie for wearing women’s clothing during a his off-hours to, as he told the press, “express my feminine identity.” Concludes Stern rather pointedly, “The image of a man in drag is, in a way, an image of the future of masculinity.”
At present, however, modern advertising still dances around the semantics of “beauty” -- instead playing up words like “grooming” and “health.” “We don‘t mention ’makeup‘ or what we call ’The M Word,‘” says Hollywood makeup artist Michele Probst, who started a male-cosmetics line called Menaji in 1998. “We advertise ’skin care that looks good on you.‘ American men are vain, they just don’t want anyone to know about it. We occasionally get the paranoid person who calls up and says, ‘It doesn’t say ”makeup“ on the box, does it? I‘m having it shipped to my office and I’m nervous!‘” Probst says that most of her sales come after midnight from the anonymous environs of the Internet -- where many shopping sites soothe consumers with assurances like “We do not offer a catalog by mail!” In 2001, a significant 23 percent of visitors to retail cosmetic sites were male, the largest share not teens but men ages 35 to 54. “This is a global market,” marvels Probst, who ships products to everyone from pro athletes to sailors on the USS Kittyhawk. “The Internet has allowed us to ship out to countries I’ve never heard of. We ship products to Afghanistan, for God‘s sake!”
“I think it’ll be fine to just leave the patch up here.” Dana drops her fingers into my rat‘s nest of pubic hair as if showing off the contours of a new car.
I’m fighting hard to maintain eye contact. “Okay, fine, just leave that part.”
“Then pull your leg up towards me.” I move my leg slightly. She takes it like a lamb shank and yanks it so my right leg is spread-eagled. “Now I‘m gonna have you hold right here.” She places my hand on my scrotum. “Pull your skin up as tight as you can.” I gather my sac in my hand like folds of rubber and pull it to the left. She starts clipping with a tiny scissors. I begin to speak, but it comes out too fast and high, and she needs me to repeat myself.
“When did you start noticing more guys coming in for this?”
“That’s just become popular this year,” she replies, snip-snipping. “A lot of places won‘t do guys.”
Snip snip. “Just not comfortable with it, I guess. You could really hurt a person.” Snip snip. “That’s why we get a lot of referrals from other salons. Okay, it‘s gonna feel a little warm.” She spreads the hot paraffin over my thigh and crotch in little rectangular strips. The wax starts to cool, grabbing on to my flesh like a tightening hand. She lays down a soothing piece of gauze, presumably to help the wax cool and make me feel more comfor -- RRRIIIP!!
“Careful. Remember to breathe.”
“. . . . . .”
“Yeah, if you hold your breath, it intensifies the pain.” RIP! “This is about as bad as it gets.”
“Are you, you gonna do . . .” RIP! “. . . ah, my, my balls too?”
“A little bit, we don’t go all the way up . . .” RIP. “‘Cause there’s nothing really to hold on to.” RIP. “And nine times out of 10, skin comes off.” RIP RIP. “Okay, breathe a bit.” I suck in mouthfuls of tangerine-flavored air. “Okay, now put your hand here.” She indicates the bottom of my scrotum. “Now pull it all the way up because I‘m gonna do the part underneath now. No, all the way over.”
“Yeah, it’s not fun. This area, it‘s very thin and tender. I have guys who come in, they’re like, ‘Heyyyy, take off everything!’ but when I start they‘re like, ’Stop! Stop it now!‘” She laughs sunnily. RIP. She spreads talcum powder on my legs as I ask her what kind of guys come in for this kind of treatment. “I get a lot of actors,” she says. “I have a few clients who are firemen. Couple bodybuilders. Just regular guys. When women see this on a man they say, ’Are they gay?‘ and I have to say no. Ninety-five percent of them that come in are straight and usually come in because women send them in: ’Well, we‘re doing it, so you have to do it!’ Okay, switch legs.” My shorn hair tumbles to the floor like glitter. “Okay, hold this to the side . . .” RIP RIP RIP RIP. “My boyfriend, he shaves everything off, but he won‘t let me wax him. He’s too chicken; he thinks it‘ll hurt too bad.”
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