In the coming weeks, the Mercury will present a series of experiments in the arena of "metrosexualism." The growing tendency for young, urban men of all sexual persuasions to indulge/submit themselves to beautification procedures is beginning to rival the regimens of women! What's up with that? Our theory is that in pre-industrial society, the male physical ideal was a brutish brawn. Meanwhile, women attracted mates with beauty and fertility. However, in a post-industrial society, brutes are decreasingly in demand. Instead, there is a growing population of young professionals who live their lives in crisp clothing, in and out of "now" clubs and restaurants, who might work out for aesthetic reasons but have nary a callous on their manicured hands. That's because, in a world of commerce and computers, being gruff and beefy doesn't carry the capital it once did. So, the boys are becoming beautiful instead. To test the boundaries of this evolutionary trend, we sent a few of our most macho bros out on virgin missions into the metrosexual void. This week, correspondent MANU BERELLI gets waxed.
W hen my editor asked me to do an article experimenting with the boundaries of metrosexualism, I was into the idea at first. What should I do? Get pectoral implants? Have my navel hair removed by lasers? Get my nipple hairs chemically burned off? Maybe have my balls shaved? She was thinking more along the lines of having my eyebrows waxed and getting a facial. Without realizing I was about to seal my own fate, I protested my way into it, "No. Absolutely not. No way. That's too gay."
I had two concessions that had to be met: 1) I wasn't going in alone, AND 2) I wasn't going in sober. So, I brought along the most fancy-lad, metrosexual dude I know, Nathaniel. He, in turn, brought a case of beer.
Welcome to the Terrordome
Nathaniel and I pulled out a couple of the beers from my bag as our beautician finished setting up. Margi is laid back, but professional. The studio is clean and white, with a Zen simplicity--basically the kind of place that reminds me of Martha Stewart and creeps me out. She hands us both forms to fill out while she preps and we drink. The questionnaires look like tiny medical forms about skincare.
How much water do you drink? Do you use stimulants? Do you drink alcohol?
None. Yes. Obviously.
The only real fear I have is the brow waxing. My girlfriend had hers done just before I came in and ended up with a large red welt on her brow that made me suspect she had gotten into another bar fight. It took a full week to heal. It isn't the legendary pain or even the potential scarring that scares me, though. My real fear is ending up with Kabuki-style transvestite arches that never grow back. So, I make Nathaniel go first.
"Have you ever had this done before?" Margi asks him.
"Oh yeah. I've had it done," he snorts. "I just want it cleaned up, you know?" Margi starts in while the song "Sexy Boy" by Air plays in the background.
Applying an oil lightly over his eyebrow area, she then uses a pointed wooden tool to apply the wax. It's a hard wax that's melted in a small pot. It hardens quickly, and doesn't need a paper strip to remove. She applies a small amount under his brow and waits a few seconds. Gingerly, she finds a small tail on the end of the wax with one finger and pulls up just enough to get a grip on the patch of hardened wax. Then, in one quick yank, the strip comes off. Nathaniel hardly flinches.
"How does it feel?" I ask.
"It's nothing. You hardly feel it," Nathaniel calmly replies, eyes closed. A few more strips are yanked, leaving little red patches of clean skin. "Have you ever gotten a tattoo? It's a little like that."
"Yeah, I have. And it hurt like hell."
"Oh, quit being a pussy, Manu." Tears start streaming down the side of Nathaniel's face. Well, that's promising. "Oh yeah, and it makes your eyes water a ton."
Margi gives Nathaniel a mirror to check his progress. She then does some tweezing, another few waxes, and he's done. The whole thing went rather quickly.
My turn. "Do you know what you'd like me to do? Any special areas?" She asks.
"No, I trust your judgement," I reply.
"Good. That's what I like to hear."
Now that I've seen it done, the mystery is pretty much taken out of the whole process. The wax is warm and soothing, and the yanking goes so quickly, it doesn't take long to get over. My eyes well up with tears, but it's less like getting punched in the face and more like cutting onions. It's done quickly and I'm surprised to see how un-drastic it looks. I can hardly tell.
Let's Get Gay!
"Okay, so now we're going to leave the room while you get undressed and under the sheets on the table." That soothing feeling is gone.
"Wait. What?" I ask with my horror written on my face. "You're getting the facial, right?" Margi replies defensively.
"Yeah, FACIAL! As in FACE!"
"The idea," Margi says, "is to get you to a point of relaxation." I'm not that relaxed when it comes to getting naked around photographers. Okay, that's not exactly true, but this isn't exactly a coke party, either. What does bug me is the strange contraption standing next to the table. It has all sorts of tubes, vials, lights, and instruments protruding from it. It looks more like something at a dentist's office than something I want to be around naked.
Since I didn't wear any underwear that day, I opt for the "woman's gown" which I use as a skirt. Margi explains the procedure to me. It's a series of aromatherapy, cleansers, hot wraps, extractions, and masks. It all sounds like voodoo medicine and bullshit science to me, but as long as I don't burn my face off, what do I care?
After the first series of cleansers, Margi announces she's applying a "gommage." It's French for "to erase."
"As you can see," she says in a very professional tone, "it looks sort of jizz-ish." She holds her hand up to my face. Sure enough, it looks like a big ol' wad. Thank you! As if I didn't feel gay enough, PLEASE SMEAR MY FACE WITH SOMETHING THAT LOOKS LIKE A BIG MESS OF WARM JIZZ! I knew a "facial" joke would happen sooner or later.
Oh! But the humiliation doesn't stop there! Then it was time for the "extraction," which is the polite way of saying "zit popping." As Margi is steaming my face, I think back to a couple days before when I was drinking with friends at the bar. They were complimenting me on the fact that, despite my drinking habit, I have really clear skin. I don't remember what prompted this conversation on skincare, but it was a well-placed curse. The next day, I woke up with four or five pimples dotting my face. Thanks a lot, dickheads! Well, at least it gave my "extractor" something to work with. Donning latex gloves, she dug into my acne with medical precision.
She Blinded Me With Science
Then came my favorite part. Margi showed me the "ozone tool." Apparently, the idea is that this glass knob with a flat bottom ionizes the oxygen on the surface of the face. She cranks up the power momentarily to show a purplish spark snapping from the tool head onto her finger. Isn't science fascinating? She applies a sheet of gauze over my face and runs the tool over it. I feel a snapping tickle.
The custom prepared mask comes next. She painted the clay mixture onto my face, and then applied a layer of gauze to keep in the moisture. "This is where I leave you alone for awhile to relax." After about a minute, I'm not relaxed. I'm staring at the ceiling fan and getting anxious for her to come back. I finally realize I'm not at the doctor's office, so I can do whatever I want. I get up from the table, mask intact, and walk out onto the balcony to view the muggy sky over NW Portland. She catches me just before I try to smoke a cigarette through the gauze.
She cleans off the mask, sprays my face with a cold water mixture, and then applies a moisturizer. I take a look in the mirror.
I don't really look any different, but I know that's not the point. Some people like to be babied and relax every once in awhile. And isn't that what metrosexuality is all about? I'm glad I did it, but as far as babying goes, I'd honestly rather be spoon-fed my dinner.