November 11, 2009

The metrosexual meter

So, I’ve been working on my personal style. For most of my 20s and 30s, my signature look consisted of a ponytail, ripped jeans and flannel shirts. When I felt like dressing up, I wore my “work” tennis shoes instead of my “play” tennis shoes.

But as I began that long, inexorable march toward understanding Sudoku and yelling at neighborhood kids to get off the lawn, I began to notice that not all men are comfortable going out to dinner wearing a “Question Authority” T-shirt along with whichever jeans in the laundry basket appear to have the fewest wrinkles. So I started wearing shirts with actual collars. I bought some conditioner. I tidied up my eyebrows. But I drew the line at dress shoes, which, like neckties, were clearly invented as torture devices.

Then one day my sister (who is sole owner of the family legacy fashion trust) took me outside that safety perimeter known as the Watterson Expressway to a cavernous indoor collection of textile merchants called Oxmoor. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s a remarkable place that would make a good episode of “Man vs. Wild” on the Discovery Channel. They peddle a huge assortment of consumer goods at Oxmoor, most of them shoes.

Inside a store called Von Maur, we walked a gauntlet of sexy automatons, which were apparently spritzing some sort of complimentary de-lousing chemicals on all who enter. Once all my bugs and organic molecules were neutralized, we proceeded to the shoe department, where I learned, among other things, that A) shoes from Europe come in completely different sizes than our freedom shoes here in America; and B) it is possible to buy a pair of shoes that costs more than $70. A lot more.

With the help of a thin, grumpy gentleman (apparently you can tell a good salesmen at Oxmoor by how grumpy he is), I learned that I am a size 43 in European. Trapped like a wild animal between the sister I desperately wanted to impress and the petulant salesman, I capitulated and allowed a Danish loafer to be placed on my foot. Whoa! It felt like a second skin. A douchey, corporate, hedge-fund trader’s second skin, but a second skin nonetheless. All the comfort of sneakers and none of the Seth Rogen arrested development. I bought them immediately.

But could I pull off this new lifestyle? Being hip to this sort of thing doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve never really understood the importance of the belt matching the shoes. And I’ve always lived in awe of women who can lather up with coconut lavender body wash, wash their hair in lemon verbena shampoo, apply rosemary avocado conditioner, follow up with cucumber-grapefruit styling mousse, apply cherry-peach deodorant, slather on bergamot-honey cosmetics, moisturize with jasmine-vanilla lotion, put on clothes that have been washed in “mountain spring” detergent then dried using a “fresh rain” fabric sheet, spray on some freesia-magnolia perfume, and then complain that French people and hobos smell funny. And the male equivalent: that guy who tries to disguise his vodka-and-Luckies addiction by spritzing on enough AXE to make a turkey vulture’s eyes water.

And then there’s the whole hair-grooming regimen. If I want to, I can spend so much time trimming hair that more hair has grown, a problem Einstein tackled in his paper, “Time and Whiskers.” Charles Darwin also wrote about this dilemma in his seminal 1855 book, “Natural Selection and the Follicle.” Darwin theorized that evolution’s way of retaliating against men for leaving such a mess in the bathroom is to make us lose hair where it’s wanted and grow hair where it isn’t.

During my long-beard days, I went weeks without going near razor or scissors. But now that I’m an enlightened emo-groomer, I spend what seems like hours just keeping hair from reclaiming my ears. Suddenly I need a beard trimmer, a razor, tiny scissors and a battery-operated nose-hair trimmer that looks like a leprechaun’s vibrator, just to avoid looking like a refugee from the Manson Family. Where will this all lead? I guess about all that’s left is to pick out my signature font.

But I’m OK with my new metrosexuality. When I’m an old man rocking on the porch, I can reflect wistfully on this time, twirl my nosehairs and think, “Thank god I got over that stage — this velour track suit is SO comfortable!”