True confessions: Whenever I see a man in a nail salon getting a mani/pedi- presumably a straight one whose nails aren't grime-filled from fiddling with car parts- I recoil. I also don't trust a man who exfoliates more than I do. Forgive me if that sounds politically incorrect, but indulge me for a moment.
I've noticed (and who hasn't?) increasingly aggressive anti-aging advertising targeting older men over the years. These days it's not unusual for them to get facelifts and implants, take hormones, color their hair, whiten their teeth, wax the hair off their bodies and, yes, get their nails buffed and polished. Studies suggest they're even getting eating disorders.
Vanity is universal, but still -- how concerned are older men with being "hot" or looking younger in today's youth-driven and problematic work force? Is some sort of equal opportunity anti-aging grief at play here (or have I simply lived in Los Angeles too long?) What do men really think about aging?
Sadly, the industry is dominated by women's voices and concerns. It's about time men spoke up. Judith Warner recently reported in her Time blog on the findings of last summer's research study "The New Male Mystique." One thing she points out is that men are starting to be more vocal about their feelings. Warner quotes one of the study's directors: '"My experience," said Galinsky, "is that, when they have permission to speak, they have a lot to say and it's very profound and real for them." '
I'm often surprised that we need lengthy research studies to underscore the obvious -- that men have a lot to say when they do speak up, or that they might be as emotionally insecure as women. This complex gender issue deserves far more space than one blog post can provide. That said, when it comes to the beauty/vanity department, let's hope certain differences between men and women do prevail. Because there are some things men don't do as much as women do, and that's okay. They don't excuse the state of their homes or their living rooms. They generally don't tell you look great when you've actually gained twenty pounds. They unapologetically walk around naked without hiding their bodies. And sorry Ladies, but they don't gossip as much as we do and, until recently, many of them didn't get mani/pedis. Plucking nose and ear hairs, yes (and thank you very much for that), but mani-pedis, no.
Is this politically incorrect? Maybe. But why bother mincing words? And speaking of words, a few cautionary ones specifically for men: Men, be advised. Once you start down that anti-aging beauty road, it's tough getting off. Plus, it very well might bust your wad. "Jesus H Christ," a friend of mine shouted leaving her facialist, "I can't believe how much I spend a year on beauty shit!" She did the calculations. It was enough to feed a small Third World Village.
For those who might misconstrue this as sexist, don't get me wrong. I am all for men doing things that were once the domain of women. They should change diapers, do dishes and basically carry their weight in the domestic duty department. I also think that women should know how to change a tire, fix a fence, possibly skin a rattlesnake and do other traditionally male tasks. This, of course, is already happening. Reams of studies document the convergence of traditional gender-based tasks and jobs - all good.
Despite this, I do believe that women still like men to be men: Hard on the outside, soft on the inside. (Pun intended if one comes to mind.) It's okay if men are tough and scruffy at times (isn't that the appeal of the beheady, out-camping-in-the-woods 5 0'clock shadow?) and there's nothing sexier than a man who still knows how to make things with his hands (and possibly break a fingernail) - a dying art, one would think, if you consider the success of the book "The Dangerous Book For Boys." The book teaches boys basic Boy Scout stuff like how to use a compass, build a tree house, or do First Aid. When did all that become "dangerous"? (Women, you can find the same thing for your daughters in "The Daring Book For Girls.")
When it comes to beauty and vanity, I guess it's a question of degree. Personally, I do all sorts of things. I color my hair, get occasional facials, and started hormone replacement awhile ago because I figured I'd rather have quality of life over a quantity of years possibly spent behind bars for committing a heinous crime in the midst of a bad peri-menopausal moment. That said, when men or women do so much cosmetic intervention that they no longer resemble their former selves, it's time to worry.
Everything in moderation...