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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Today In The Bathroom ...

It was a whim ... a strange, bewildering action that I can't really explain. This morning I shaved my junk.

I was reading an old newspaper clipping last night about Nicolas Rapp, this art director who quit his job, bought a 1996 Toyota Land Rover, equipped it with a camper unit and toilet, and just finished the New York City-to-Argentina leg (in four months) of his "drive around the world." I was thinking that it really took guts to do something so crazy and bold. Next thing I know I was in the shower with razor in hand.

Who knows why I did it. But after exhaustive research ... I mean, I've been to so many Web sites I'm sure I'm now one a "watch list" or two ... I do know that I did it all wrong.

It's casually referred to as "manscaping," the grooming of male body hair by trimming and/or removal. It's much more than shaving or trimming your eyebrows to keep them "separate but equal." Manscaping broadly encompasses the face ... meaning beard, sideburns, brows, ears, etc., back and shoulders, chest, and everything south. Manscaping has become a normal part of millions of men's body care regimen, but the term and the actions are often linked to the term "metrosexuality," which is some psychobabble claiming that heterosexual men are now adopting styles stereotypically associated with gay guys ... everything from better haircuts and clothes to the way we paint our walls and choose our furniture and home accessories. Well, that just seems silly ... I know plenty of neat and sloppy people, and I've never considered their sexual orientation as a factor in why they're neat or sloppy. If I want to dress better, I'm naturally going to ape someone who dresses like I think I'd like to look ... end of story.

Anyway, like my little adventure, most gossip and scuttlebutt about manscaping tends to involve the "down south" portions of the anatomy ... namely the penis, scrotum, and anus. There ... I wrote it, you decide what to do with it.

According to one study conducted by Philips Norelco, a manufacturer of men's grooming products and equipment (some I wish I would have had) since the early 1940s, about half of all men between the ages of 29 and 40 groom their overall bodies. For this reason, the company actually provides manscaping tips via product literature on its body groomers and its Web site. And they're not alone ... Nair, a product often associated with women and their "short shorts," has a Nair for Men product. A recent popular Gillette TV ad features a man shaving his face with a precision trimmer and then continuing on to his chest. And the company's Web site features some pretty humorous how-to manscaping videos using PG-rated animated video clips with slogans like "if the grass is patchy, mow the lawn" and "less shag, less drag." And dozens of companies are offering hydrating shave gels and balms to meet the expanding manscaping market.

A separate 2008 study suggests that 60 percent of men groom their pubic areas specifically, regardless of gender orientation or sexual preference. That means gay AND straight, people. Manscaping is simply becoming a cultural norm.

Survey data also supports a list of practical reasons why a "modern" man may choose to do some pruning about his body:

Stat One: Some dudes just don't like excessive body hair ... it can be itchy, scratchy, and just plain uncomfortable. And let's face it ... we guys don't give it a second thought when a woman does the same thing for the same reason.

Stat Two: Anecdotal evidence supports that women appreciate a man who keeps "the downstairs" tidied up, and both men and women have reported more enjoyable episodes of oral sex when manscaping is involved.

Stat Three: A man's shape and muscular are generally enhanced with the trimming or removal of excessive body hair. Ever heard that "trimming the hedges makes the house look bigger?" You get the idea.

Stat Four: Hair traps sweat, which increases the production of odor-causing bacteria.

Stat Five: Some athletic trainers and athletes (swimmers, wrestlers, divers, bodybuilders, etc.) feel that body hair maintenance or removal improves both appearance and performance.

Stat Six: Less pubic hair decreases chances of contracting pubic license, one of today's most prevalent STDs.

I'd like to say I attempted proper manscaping for these reasons, but to honest I was just bored, getting ready to take a shower anyway, and, since I'm not in a relationship, it just seemed like a naughty little "experiment."

Manscaping is typically accomplished in one of two ways: shaving or waxing. Like I mentioned, I chose shaving and did it all wrong. According to the "experts," you should trim the hair down to a shorter length to avoid pulling and breakage (skipped that step). Next, pull or stretch the skin as flat as possible (duh ... I was planning on keeping the cob and niblets intact) and then use short strokes with a new razor blade or specialized trimmer (again, skipped). Hot water and traditional shaving cream products may produce too close a shave which can lead to itchy patches and in-grown hairs (yes, yes, and can't wait). There are hydrating cremes that better prepare the skin and actually lift the hairs to produce better results.

Waxing methods vary and are quite a bit more difficult to do at home. There are establishments popping up all over, however, with trained clinicians catering to men's body grooming needs (waxing, facials, nail care, etc.). A typical waxing appointment starts off with a consultation so the technician knows about any allergies or skin conditions, and better understands what results the client is looking for. It also gives the client a chance to ask any questions and become more at ease. Then the client is asked to remove his clothes and enter a treatment room where the area to be worked on will be inspected for moles, sensitive areas, and hair length ... a minimum of 1/4 inch of hair is needed for waxing to be effective. The area will then be cleansed to remove any dangerous bacteria, and probably treated with a prep lotion. Next the actual waxing takes place.

Creme waxes are a common staple of the body hair waxing salon. A thin layer of the wax is applied with a spatula or roller and then a fabric or paper strip is applied to the waxed area. The strip is rubbed and then quickly pulled away against the direction of hair growth, thus removing the hair clear to the follicle. This procedure is repeated until the desired "look" is achieved.

Some establishments use Brazilian wax which is applied more thickly and solidifies much faster than creme waxes ... no paper or fabric is required for hair removal. And still other shops use high-tech hard waxes which are more pliable and actually contract around the hair shaft helping achieve cleaner and often less painful hair removal ... these waxes are often specifically used on men because male public hair is deep rooted and very strong.

Regardless of the type of wax, a clinician will need to pull a client's skin taut and sometimes reposition them to avoid bruising.

Finally, when Big Jim and the Twins are freshly coiffed, the technician will provide some basic post-care instructions and often times some soothing balm or lotion.

My research also "schooled" me in some of the terminology of a manscaping emporium. Some clients request a "Hollywood," which is a clean slate ... all pubic hair is removed. Like butter.

There is also the "Brazilian," which removes all the hair from the sides and top of the underwear area, penis (shaft and base), scrotum, and anus but leaves some hair directly above the penis ... and this choice offers some sporty options like The Wedge (which trims down the sides for a narrower look) or The Hitler (which just leaves a small strip of hair behind). For more reticent clients, there's the "Bikini" which removes hair from the top and sides of the underwear area while leaving most of the more "intimate" pubic regions intact. And if you want to walk into a shop and get they party started, just order a BSC ... the "Back, Sac, and Crack" procedure ... which utilizes a variety of waxes and techniques.

POINT OF RANT: I'm starting to itch.

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