I have never liked the trend of metrosexuality that exploded a few years ago, complete with male body washes, skin care, and lotions. It bugged me for so many reasons I can’t list them all here. I can fully appreciate that men today want to look their best and smell good while doing it. There’s nothing wrong with that. The more I think about it however, the more I realize that there is more to this than that. This is different. This is more blurring of the sexes.
My dad wore his Old Spice and dressed as if he took pride in how he looked, but without that metrosexual vibe. He wasn’t obsessive about it. His shoes had a purpose, and it was largely utilitarian: black and brown dress shoes, work boots, slippers, sneakers. That was it. He didn’t see a need for a man to have a closet full of shoes. Shoes were something that women went gaga over, not men. There are times and places where you can still find a preponderance of men who are at home in their masculine element.
I have come to enjoy the atmosphere in Home Depot early on Saturday mornings. It has to be early, because that’s when the men who wake up with a sense of purpose and a plan are in there in old t-shirts, work jeans, with slightly dirty hands because they hit the ground running at the crack of dawn. It’s not uncommon for my husband and I to get out of bed early before the kids wake up if we have a project we’re working on, and head to Home Depot before the rush of DIY amateurs crowd the aisles.
I have always appreciated a man in a hardware store, with residue on his hands, picking up a tool or a box of screws. That guy who doesn’t automatically think to call someone when something in his house breaks because he can fix it himself. I get that same feeling at an auto parts store, but amplified because in my experience there are few men today who will dare tackle a repair on a newer car like my husband does. It takes confidence to do that, and he likes the challenge of it even though he can afford to pay someone to do it, and does when he doesn’t have the time to do it.
Yes, I realize that the men up under the hoods of their cars in the auto parts parking lot are most likely to be working class men, the dreaded “proles” who are oh-so-maligned in the dominant culture. And yes, I recognize that I reveal my lack of social status by saying this, but I have no problem with hard working, blue-collar men. They’re often manly in a real and visceral way.
We’ve forgotten that the pampered lives we’ve grown accustomed to would be much less pleasant without garbage men, HVAC guys or plumbers. As much as I love my husband in his Dockers, tailored shirts and white collar get up, there’s something different about him when he’s working hard, building, fixing, creating. Besides, I can actually understand the language of his hands-on work much better than I can his technological jargon, though I’ve gotten better over the years at deciphering that also. A tape measure and level, I can handle. Servers and switches? Not so much.
I’ve encountered fewer and fewer men in recent years who know anything at all about how to tackle an involved project and see it through to completion, doing a quality job. I know a few, but they are increasingly rare. I am tempted to chalk it up to limited time, but I can remember when no man I knew, regardless of how many hours he worked, took his car in to have the oil or the brake pads changed. Now, I know more who don’t.
There is something off about heterosexual men with keen fashion sense but no clue how to properly hammer a nail, change a tire, or use a mitre box. I’ve considered the fact that things are different now, that we live in the digital age and men don’t need to know how to use their hands the way they did when my father was a young man. It sounds plausible until I consider that my own husband is 44, with a STEM career. Nevertheless, there is a drive in him to work with his hands. To fix. To create. To build. I don’t see that in many men today.
The problem with the modern metrosexual man is the lack of discernible depth. It’s not as if there haven’t always been men who dressed well and appreciated beauty. It was that it was one part of their overall personas, and it certainly wasn’t the main thing. When all was said and done, they were men first: fathers and protectors, builders of civilizations. They certainly weren’t inclined to compete with their woman for the title of who looked the best. it was a given who should put the most effort into that. This is a new thing, these men hogging the mirror.
I don’t blame young men for this, and I don’t blame their fathers either, at least not entirely. I think a culture and society that has made fathers expendable and branded traditional masculinity toxic helped to create a generation of young men who lack the confidence that working with one’s hands instills. Having been raised mostly by women, they gravitate toward the things that interest women: fashion, grooming, and aesthetics rather than accomplishments.
For the record, I appreciate a well groomed man, and my own man takes care of his appearance: goatee trimmed, nails clean. matching belt with shoes, etc. This is not a promotion of slovenly manhood. Heaven forbid I recommend that. It’s one thing to not be vainly pretentious, but that’s no excuse for failing to put your best foot forward. The point here, and I hope I making it well, is that there is a difference between being well groomed and preening in a feminine manner.
Unfortunately, as we have reduced male and female traits to nothing more than differences in plumbing, male and female psychology have been deemed social constructs. The result is metrosexuality on speed, indistinguishable in any meaningful way from the way women assert their femininity. Personally, I don’t care for it.
In the meantime, there’s always Saturday mornings at the Home Depot. Or better yet, Auto Zone.