This week's Newsweek magazine brings us the news that "men are primping, preening and spending millions to look good," behaving, in other words, much like women. Featured on the cover is Pierce Brosnan, television's Remington Steele, who looks just a little too perfectly groomed but he certainly does a nice job of illustrating the trend.
Newsweek discovered a 225-pound, weight-lifting policeman (and father of two) who started worrying about "big pores" around his nose and cheeks and soon progressed to worrying about wrinkles. Before long, he was in a department store plunking down hard-earned money for an entire line of skin care products designed for men. Other men are having their hair permed and streaked, faces lifted, wardrobes revamped, and developing their own "dress for success" programs. The article attributes at least part of this phenomenon to, you guessed it, working women: "The vast shift in the dynamics of male-female relations over the last 20 years has had its effects here, too: men are finding that to attract women they need to be, of all things, attractive," it notes.
Perhaps, but this trend could cause a lot of trouble.
For one thing, as each generation of women has discovered, skin care products cost a great deal of money and raise a lot of false expectations. Years ago, a little night cream was supposed to slow the inevitable aging process. Today, companies are producing entire cosmetic systems to do this, with special soaps, creams, cleansers, scrubbers, oils and astringents that you are suppose to use in complex (and differing) sequences in the morning and evening. Each one of these magic potions cost at least $15 so you end up dropping $75 or $100 on these items, which you then have to find housing for.
The most handy place, of course, is the bathroom. Men venturing into this new trend will soon discover an unpleasant truth. One of the things that happens with cosmetic systems is that they take time to follow, which means that busy people cheat. The memory of one's initial investment is an incentive that may last a week or two but soon enough you're too tired when you go to bed to scrub or too rushed in the morning to follow the whole routine. Before long, jars of half-used cosmetics are retired to the bathroom window sill. Then you go to a new salon and get suckered into a new beauty routine. Another investment follows and you bring home a half-dozen new bottles and jars, but you don't want to throw out your initial system (which did cost $100). What happens is you run out of space in your bathroom and you start harboring really expensive thoughts like moving to a larger house.
One shudders to think of the implications of this trend for couples who have only one bathroom. Enough marriages founder on such volcanic issues as putting the top on the toothpaste or which way to put in the roll of toilet paper. Whole new vistas of marital discord are looming here. What happens if he accidentally uses her astringent? Or moves her deep-cleansing milk into the bedroom in order to make room for his in the bathroom? Or, heaven forbid, accidentally douses himself with her perfume and emerges for work smelling like a rose?
Then, too, there is the matter of time. Men are expected to be in and out of the bathroom, showered, shaved and ready to go in 10 minutes flat. Women can take up to a full hour because they are, by tradition, allotted an additional 50 minutes for makeup and hair. If men are going to start taking an additional 50 minutes at the top of each day to preen in the mirror, this will put a major crunch on time available in the nation's bathrooms (particularly one-bathroom homes) and take away from the time that they are supposed to spend on manly tasks such as taking out the rubbish. (There are serious environmental implications, here, as well.)
The Newsweek article also reports that men are spending more money on clothes, which may be fine for single men but could create a strain for married couples when the wife discovers that the fashion dollars have to be split. She also might start wondering who her husband is dressing to impress.
The last few years have produced a spate of articles about men trying to find themselves (this, in the wake of women trying to find themselves and causing all manner of confusion). Perhaps this is just another phase that they will abandon when they discover how much time, money and effort go into being "attractive." Somehow, men going around saying, "I can't do a thing with my hair," doesn't quite seem like the essence of manhood.