Manscaping: Backyard Maintenance

When body hair comes between a man and his woman, something’s gotta go.



Illustration: Maria Bolton

Sunday morning. Coffee—black. I shared a moment with my new bride. She looked at me over her coffee and smiled, sympathetic, like the women in the Cialis commercials: “Feeling a little disco?”

I followed her gaze to a silver tuft of chest hair poking out of my safari shirt. A paunchy middle-aged Tony Manero, the dancing stud from Saturday Night Fever, kicked open my anxiety closet. Hard to say what Tony needed more—a membership to Hair Club for Men or a chest wax a la Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Fortunately my wife happens to like chest hair. But while we were on the subject, she mentioned she wouldn’t miss a patch of hair on my lower back.

De-hairing my back isn’t something I had considered until she brought it up. Since she didn’t offer to shave it for me (and I wasn’t going to ask), I assumed I was on my own when it came to figuring out how to remove the offending hair. It wasn’t as if I could just hack away with my disposable razor. Google, help!

Turns out men’s grooming, or “manscaping” as the kids are calling it these days, is big business. Big companies like Gillette and Nivea are marketing products like body-shavers and body-shaving lotions, respectively, to men. We don’t shave just our faces anymore; we shave EVERYWHERE if you believe the ads by these companies. 

We have Mark Wahlberg to blame (or thank) for the deforestation of men. The actor and former rapper known as “Marky Mark” may not have invented manscaping, but his turn as a buff Calvin Klein underwear model in the early 1990s is widely credited with popularizing the metrosexual look.

The typical manscaper, according to people who make it their business to know such things, is fit and in his 30s with a high disposable income.

Which is why, a year shy of getting my AARP card, I approached the front door of the Velvet Wax Spa in Baldwin Park like a macho man going to court-ordered sensitivity training. I’m not doing this because I want to; I’m doing this because somebody wants me to.

Sherry Michelle, the owner, tried to set me at ease: “Twenty percent of our customers are men. Mostly lawyers, downtown.”

I know one of those downtown lawyers. He threatened to sue if I used his name in this
article. Some men may desire bodies like “Mr. Bigglesworth,” the hairless cat in the Austin Powers series, but they won’t man up about taking measures to look like a little boy again.

Sherry says almost every male client mentions the waxing scene in The 40 Year Old Virgin, then she dips a tongue depressor into a small crockpot and slathers me with honey-colored wax. She presses on a 4-inch strip of cloth and rips it off. The feeling is similar to what one might feel standing on an ant hill in flip-flops. Ouch.

Smear, stick, rip. Smear, stick, rip. Tweezers—plink, plink, plink. Lotion. The whole process is over in less than 10 minutes.

Personally, I’d rather re-roof my house than get anything on my body waxed. But I think I speak for men all the way back to Samson when I say that we will do things we normally wouldn’t to get girls, or, as in my case, to make one happy. Just saying . . .

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