Like hell they’re not! Oh, Louise, if only you knew…
When reading Louise’s recent feature on her embracing of cosmetic enhancements the line I’ve quoted above sounded out like a giant claxon ringing out across the night sky as a rallying call to all the men who were at that very moment exfoliating, moisturising, applying hair dye and contemplating whether they can get away with a little bit of concealer to cover up that blemish on the end of their nose. If women only knew the extent of the effort the average heterosexual male goes to in order to appeal to the opposite sex.
But, shhh, nobody must know. Ever. Because, of course, men have to present themselves ‘as is’ – a ready made package replete with all the charm, wit, physical prowess and natural good looks that women have come to expect in the modern age. Oh, and nice arms.
However, in my early teenage years I was ‘as isn’t’. A bit gawky looking and a touch too tall. More cocky than confident. The very thought that any girl would even contemplate giving me so much as a peck on the cheek would have brought sniggers of derision. Damn. I really liked girls. I’d look in the mirror at my face and I’d think to myself ‘I know I’m not ugly. It’s there somewhere underneath but it needs to be brought out.’ I hadn’t a clue on how to do it.
‘But wait! I’m a guy. This doesn’t matter!’ I would tell myself. I kept hearing how women go for personalities over looks. Hurrah! Maybe there was hope. So I pushed my personality to the fore. I could hold court in a room and get all the girls to laugh. Which they did. And yet at the end of the night they would all pair off with the good looking guys who hadn’t uttered a single word let alone anything resembling wit or humour.
I realised back then that looks – often more than personality – do matter to women. More than they realise – or rather, more than they would care to admit…
But it’s a very unfair playing field. Women have the option to look amazing whenever they choose. The right dress, a new haircut from a VAST array of options, make up, hair colour, hair extensions, even wigs. All of these artificial enhancements are an accepted part of a woman’s arsenal in her daily presentation. They are accepted embellishments. And men have no problem with women using any of them. However, a guy’s options consist of: get a new haircut a bit shorter than the last one. Cheers then.
And why are the male options so narrow you may ask? Simple. Because in the eyes of a woman vanity is a distinctly UNattractive trait for a man to display. And yet, and yet…(as my girlfriend-free teenage experiences proved beyond doubt) women want us to look good JUST AS MUCH as we do them. But here’s the catch – we cannot be seen to use anything to help us achieve it for fear of looking vain. Bit unfair really. Unless you’re one of the VERY RARE guys who are insanely good looking through nature alone this has left the average modern man a bit stuffed for best part of 30 years; our vanity constrained by female expectation.
Except in one area…
Our hair. Girls you have NO idea.
Women think guys are walking around checking them out. Not so. We are obsessively checking every other guy’s hairline and state of baldness. Comparing, contrasting, wondering if we are looking at future versions of our own hairline. The sight of an older guy in his 60’s with thick, luxuriant locks that would make even Jeff Bridges reach for the Rogaine creates a groundswell of internal resentment and envy that is positively primeval. Hair envy is real and all consuming.
I’m sorry, but women of the world you cannot comprehend how many of an average man’s waking hours are spent obsessing about his hair. Until the early 80’s male pattern baldness was just accepted as a part of life. Bald on top? No matter, just comb it over! Thinning locks on your crown but want to grow your hair long anyways? Go for it! One only has to watch an old 1970’s Top of the Pops TV show in the UK to know this was not only true, but perfectly acceptable.
Not so today.
So to discover in my late twenties that I was slowly, but surely, losing my hair was a tough thing to take. A process that was not only irreversible but practically untreatable. Hair transplants were not only wildly expensive but hilariously unconvincing as well. My only option was to start rubbing minoxidil into my scalp. My only hurdle was having to physically walk into a chemist and ask for it from behind the counter – my vanity on full display to the entire world. The shame! The emasculation! Buying my first pack of Rogaine at a chemist at the age of 24 brought out the same level of fear and embarrassment as buying a pack of condoms did at the age of 19. Of course it had to be the young, attractive woman behind the counter that served me that day. Cheers then.
Because as much as we read that ‘bald men are sexy’ due to their ‘higher testosterone’ we simply don’t believe it. And we don’t believe it because we know you don’t either. Not really. Be honest. With the exception of Jason Statham and Vin Diesel women want a guy with hair. We know it. You know it. And we know you know it.
Fortunately medical science has come to my rescue thanks to the affordable hair transplant. What was once the preserve of the super-rich is now within the reach of the ‘not too badly off’. So for around £10,000 I went to top hair transplant surgeon Dr Bessam Farjo in Manchester. He knows his stuff. He told me that he could restore my hairline in a realistic way that would be imperceptible to those that didn’t know. He was right.
But what this restoration involved is having my head shaved before a needle was inserted into the scalp to anesthetise my head. A surgical knife then cut a strip of flesh from my scalp containing thousands of hairs. This was then diced into tiny follicles by lab technicians. The gap in the scalp left by the incision was then stapled up. Clunk! As this was being done thousands of tiny incisions were sliced into my head and the hair was inserted. The procedure lasted 9 hours. I then had to sleep for three or four nights sitting upright so the implants did not fall out. But eventually, after around 6 months, my new hair started to come through. And I couldn’t have been happier. It looked great!
It had cost a lot of money, pain and patience.
And why did I do it? To look good for women!
However, even after my hair transplant I realised that it STILL wasn’t enough!
Having seen an improvement in my hair my ex-girlfriend suggested that maybe I should now start dying it. So I did. Then she began dropping hints about how much she liked the shape of guys’ arms. Having started down the path of improving my looks it appeared she was keen for me to take care of the other little things that could be tweaked as well.
But hadn’t I done enough? I thought so.
And then I went to see a-ha in concert with my ex. And I soon realised that my hair envy had been replaced with the modern equivalent…bicep envy. Morten Harket is 57 years old and has the physique of a 28 year old. By looks of his adoring fans drooling over him in the front row I still had a bit of work to do to come even close.
And so I got to work. I started running. I bought a few dumbells and started working out a little. I felt great. I felt better in myself and I was thinking that maybe I looked better as well. The slightly pasty complexion of my late thirties had been replaced by the rosy glow of a well exercised 43 year old. My widow’s peak of a hairline was back to where it had been many years earlier. I was sure I was looking better! But was I really?
And then something happened. Women started to compliment me on how well I was looking. I’m a musician and play guitar and sing. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years but now – for the first time – I was getting compliments about my arms! Incredible! Yay! To be honest that was all I needed as affirmation. Nobody had ever complimented me on my physique before. It felt good.
And so a 20 year journey with my own vanity – and a begrudging acceptance that looks are just as important to women as they are to men – has led me to be the fitness, healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been.
But make no mistake. This was no political statement. I’m not flying the flag to help men get in touch with their inner sense of wellbeing. I’ve done it for one reason and one reason only – that women like a man to look good. I used to resent the supposed superficiality of that. But do you know what? It’s fine, absolutely fine. Women have been doing it for years. Us men maybe haven’t noticed quite how much. But by sharpening up my act I’ve now got perhaps just a little insight into the pressure women have felt forever. And I appreciate it. I really do. And so ladies – in tribute to your tireless devotion to maintaining your own appearance I pledge right here and now to maintain my biceps for as a long as I can lift a dumbbell. It’s the least I can do. Cheers then J.