Sunday, November 16, 2014

SPLITTING HAIRS

Let’s continue on the subject of hair. When I wrote about my dislike of ear and nose hair, I feared I might offend someone. Shuddup, man. Ear hair is my best asset. But, no. The response on Twitter has been an expression of universal disgust regarding such growth (although one fellow alarmingly added that hairy feet are sexy).

The pressure is on, guys. Check your ears and nose as part of your daily grooming routine. (Dear god, you do have a grooming routine, don’t you?)

But let’s move on to body hair. (Easy, foot fetishists, I’m not going that low. Ever.) For this post, I’ll focus on the chest and abdominal area. Is a hairy chest sexy?

I don’t think most straight men give this any thought. Hairy. Smooth. Whatever. You are what you are. It’s one of those rare occasions when I’m envious of them. For gay men, there seem to be clear preferences. Not just preferences—I get the sense this is a polarizing, make-or-break subject.

My earliest memories of an other-world, one beyond my immediate family and friends, arise from the ‘70s. Based on my aunt’s People magazine subscription, it seemed clear that men with hairy chests had the clear sexy edge. The more hair, the more manly. Lee Majors. Robert Redford. Andy and Barry Gibb (but not Robin or Maurice). And somehow I knew about Burt Reynolds posing for Playgirl, lying there in all his hirsute glory. Hairy guys were hunky. Hairless men then were as appealing as hairless cats today—an acquired taste at best. Smoothies like Sean Cassidy and Leif Garrett were for Tiger Beat, for silly girls making the transition from hair- and genital-free Ken dolls.

Later, carrying the hairy banner into the ‘80s was Tom Selleck. But then something changed. It was probably long before Marky Mark, but I’m going to blame him anyway, posing in just his Calvins on glorious, accident-inducing billboards and dancing around in black and white videos that played in heavy rotation on MTV and in gay bars. Gay men lusted over Mr. Mark, all the while failing to notice my feeble cruising efforts. Even if there were predecessors, he made smooth chests—and redonkulously defined abs—the gay standard.

Suddenly, the Freddie Mercury look was très passé. (Miss you, man.) Smooth ruled. Greg Louganis. Antonio Sabato, Jr. Rob Lowe. Brad Pitt. Ricky Martin. Hairy men lost status. But they defiantly took on the name “bears” and, yes, they continue(d) to thrive as some sort of gay subculture.

I am naturally hairy. I get it from my father. Even pre-Marky Mark, I questioned whether all that hair was a good thing. My grandfather and my mother would coax me to eat whatever I ping-ponged around my dinner plate—peas, acorn squash, liver—with the curious incentive, “Eat it. It’ll put hair on your chest.” I remember thinking I could do without the liver…and the hair. And I distinctly remember a day at the beach when my friend Jean-Paul saw my father in a swimsuit and said, “Whoa. Is your dad part gorilla or what?” (Hairy gay men wisely chose not to compare themselves to other primates. Who hasn’t cuddled with a teddy bear? Orangutans? Not so much.)

For my personal tastes, I’d say I’m on the less hairy middling ground. I like men with smooth chests and midriffs. Their muscles are better defined without anything in the way. But some hair is sexy, too. And by “some”, it’s got to be more than a few strands around the nipple. That’s as appealing as a hairy mole.

There does come a point where a hairy front is too much. Maybe Jean-Paul’s comment still swirls in my head. For the hairier guys, if you’re not shaving, you may need to do some pruning. It becomes too much of a good thing.

Admittedly, I think too much about hair matters. As a gay man, I’m already part of a minority. I cringe at the “bear” label. I don’t want to be further marginalized, even if, based on my own Pride parade observations, the bear set seem to know how to have a good time. For me, to shave or not to shave is an ongoing question. I continue to shave. (I tried waxing once and I am convinced I went into shock. Seriously. I am a wuss to the core. Body hair in no way makes me a manly man.) Even though I shave, I no longer freak when whiskers surface. I don’t rush to the bathroom to go through the shaving ritual. I can let them grow out a tad before I plow ‘em down once more.

So where are you on this issue? Is it an issue at all or a figment of my imagination?

 

3 comments:

Rick Modien said...

So many things I want to write on this subject. Here goes.

Is a hairy chest sexy? In my opinion, it's among the sexiest things about a man. End of story.

Burt Reynolds didn't pose for Playgirl. He posed for Cosmopolitan. I remember the issue well, and the stir it made. I also cut the picture out and saved it–for years. Burt was one of many hairy men who did it for me.

I've read the change didn't happen with Marky Mark, it happened with Brad Pitt in "Fight Club." At least that's what many websites on the Internet claim. Yet another reason to hate Brad Pitt.

RG, you're naturally hairy? What a lucky, lucky guy. I wish I were you. I'm not ashamed to admit that. And, although it's none of my business what you do with your body hair, I think it's unfortunate that you get rid of it. In my opinion, there's nothing better than muscular pecs and abs with a layer of hair, in the right formation, on it. Nothing.

I agree about the few strands of hair around nipples. That's got to go, for sure.

Some manscaping is perfectly acceptable. But, in my opinion, men are hairy, and women are not. Enough said about that.

I'm curious to know what reaction you get on your question, So where are you on this issue? Can you let me know in some way?

Finally, here are some of the hairy gods of the past, the ones I couldn't get enough of: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Clint Walker, Hugh O'Brien, Robert Wagner, Pernell Roberts, Sam Groom–need I go on? Manly men, all of them. I wish I were as hairy-chested as them. In my next life, maybe.

Rural Gay said...

Thanks, Rick, for the Playgirl/Cosmo clarification. The Playgirl reference didn't feel quite right, but I didn't check it. (Come to think of it, that photo seems odd for Cosmo, too. Not sure it belonged anywhere...except, of course, in your own collection!)

Most (but not all) of the comments on Twitter have been about a preference for body hair, but I also think that there is a defensiveness there, too. When a person has the minority opinion, he is more inclined to want to make his point. From what I see in pop culture, smooth remains the "in" look. This is affirmed by the shaver selections I've seen in the drugstore. So many shavers for men specifically promote their use for removal of body hair.

Back when I was on swim team in high school, guys didn't shave their bodies. Frankly, that was just weird. I remember being the only guy on my team who refused to shave before the year-end regional tournament. (In truth, I knew shaving wouldn't give me the competitive edge to jump from last to second to last!) How funny that I choose to shave now. This decision was influenced by forces beyond me even though it is now my clear personal preference.

Maybe hairy guys should feel lucky they have a choice.

Rick Modien said...

RG, out of curiosity, is the first picture in your post you–the one with a half shaven torso? Just curious.

I understand a man's body is his body, and, if it's his preference to remove all of his body hair, then so be it. Nothing I can do.

But if it were me, I'd wear my hair proudly. I'd also feel like more of a man too, no doubt about it.

Thanks for a terrific and fun post.