Friday, March 31, 2006

I Hate Birthdays...

Friday, March 24, 2006

That's Really a Stretch!

Remember that scene in the movie Brazil where the main character’s mother is having yet another facelift, and when it’s finished she looks like some sort of stretched out ghoul?  It was absolutely frightening.  I found myself thinking “Thank God this is only a movie!”.
Sometimes life is stranger than fiction.  The old clichĂ© leapt into my world today.  
This morning I had breakfast in a small cafĂ© on the edge of Cal State in Berkeley.  The table next to me consisted of a group of seniors.  Pretty standard senior fare – lots of grey hair, conversations about bodily functions not going according to plan (I couldn’t help but overhear, they were right next to me and spoke really, really loud), and all sorts of indecision when it came time to order.  That sort of thing.
Yet, sitting among them was an imposter, no, more a freak.  Ladies and gentlemen, I am here before you to proclaim that the character from Brazil is alive and well and was last seen eating breakfast in Berkeley – by me!
I’ll spare you the details about eyes that can’t close or skin stretched back so far that her ears actually touched each other behind her head.  No, the whole scenario was too disgusting to put into words.  Mind you, I did get the sense that the group of them saw her as some sort of 1920’s carnival freak.  She looked like an alien, and tried acting like a, like, you know, college coed.  She kissed each of them as they left, and the collective cringes were priceless.
So, nothing earth shattering here, just a plea.  If you’re getting old, and I’m not that far behind you, just accept it.  Stay healthy.  Have fun.  Enjoy life.  But please, and I mean please, don’t go the freak route.  It won’t look good on you, honest!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Hairless Perfection?

“I have some concerns about certain issues in the ‘pubic’ domain,” stated a recent email from a friend. She was referring to a spam strip-o-gram that has been making the rounds, showing an attractive Wal-Mart greeter “baring all”. I realize that there’s no such thing as a hot Wal-Mart employee of any kind, but hey, this is fantasy and she is indeed hot. I’ll send you a copy if you wish to do some research of your own.
But I digress. My friend’s point was with respect to the hairless nature of the woman’s body, below her head that is. This particular Wal-Martian had truly bared all, not just clothing. My friend wasn’t necessarily saying that she found it unattractive, but it just seemed weird. The following is my response to her question “What’s up with that?”

The "hairless" ideal has been creeping into our society for both men and women for some time. It wasn't that long ago (OK, the 70's) that a real man, and therefore a sexy man, was a hairy man. Just think of that poster of a nude Burt Reynolds wearing nothing but a cowboy hat covering his privates. He was a hairy monster, and apparently the ladies loved it. Or they were being told to love it. Either way, it was the male ideal.
How about women during the same period? Many were already expending more energy shaving their legs and armpits, so we have to look a little "deeper" to find the answer. And how deeper can you go than porn? The 70's were the classic days of porn, or so I've read. Back then the ladies differed from today's ideal in one striking way - bush. They didn't even trim their bushes, let alone shave them. That was the norm.
So in the 70's, we had men doing essentially no body hair grooming (except for maybe moustaches and beards), and women doing it away from their privates.

Jump ahead a couple of decades, and my how things have changed! Here's where I think a major shift in the psyche of Western society has occurred. In the 70's, the ideal was men who were men, and women who were women. Today, the ideal is men who are little boys, and women who are little boys. Hairless, and often featureless. The male ideal is waxed legs, arms and chests. The female ideal is Kate Moss. What happened?

My theory is that the cosmetic companies saw a huge market potential and they played it perfectly. Women were already spending billions of dollars on grooming products for almost every inch of their bodies. There was only limited potential for growth selling to women. Meanwhile, men were merrily cruising along "au natural", spending nothing on grooming other than the occasional bottle of "Hai Karate" after shave lotion. So, all the cosmetics industry had to do was continue to get women spending as much as possible on cosmetics and grooming products, while at the same time convincing men that they needed to spend almost as much. Brilliant in its simplicity, the market could potentially more than double!

But how to do it?
Step one would be to understand why women spend all that money. Then all they’d need to do would be find a way to get men to think and act the same way.
The first step wasn't so difficult. "Woman, thy name is vanity." It could be argued which came first, a woman's inclination to "beautify" herself, or society's telling her to do so. But either way, that was they key. Women were, and still are, obsessed with doing whatever it takes to help themselves look younger, shapelier, etc.
What had to be done to get men to think and act the same way?
It's no coincidence that it happened concurrently with the rise of acceptance of homosexuality in Western society. Homosexual men are well groomed and aware of all aspects of the fashion world. As these fit, handsome, style-conscious men became more prevalent in day-to-day life, straight men (and their women) started paying attention. And the sellers of products promising to make it all happen couldn’t have been happier.

Fast-forward to today, and it's been a larger success story than anyone could have ever expected. The male ideal is no longer the classic natural man, but the homosexual ideal of the hairless boy. And man does it cost a lot of money to keep up. At the same time, the female ideal has converged on the male, at least in as far as how it requires grooming and cosmetics to achieve that same hairless perfection.