Twenty years ago, on November 15, 1994, writer Mark Simpson invented the term metrosexual. Writing for Britain’s Independent newspaper, he was the first to classify this new urban class of well-to-do men:
Metrosexual man, the single young man with a high disposable income, living or working in the city (because that’s where all the best shops are), is perhaps the most promising consumer market of the decade. In the 1980s he was only to be found inside fashion magazines such as GQ, in television advertisements for Levis jeans or in gay bars. In the 1990s, he’s everywhere, and he’s going shopping.
When he wasn’t shopping, the 1990s metrosexual man was crouched awkwardly over his tub, shaving his balls, taint and ass with the same razor he used on his face.
We’ve come along way since those dark days of male pubic-hair grooming, when a hookup might question your masculinity upon discovering a neatly trimmed pleasure trail. Now, razor manufacturers proudly push “shave anywhere”; in the shaving aisle at CVS, you’ll find any number of battery-powered hair trimmers sensitive enough for your wrinkly parts.
If your father was in his twenties or thirties in the 1990s, he’s into middle age by now. Considering the divorce rate forever hovers around 50 percent, that puts an entire generation of early groomers back on the dating market. So now we’re compelled to ask: Have the earliest adopters of metrosexual pube-styling continued to stay trim and tidy? Or, like gym memberships and Japanese cooking classes, did their grooming habits fade away as a natural part of matrimonial malaise? And what happens when these elder Romeos start dating again?
“You’re definitely more apt to get lazy in a relationship and let everything get a bit shaggy,” admits Rich, a fiftysomething demolitions expert working and dating in Hollywood. “There’s a point when you know things are going south in the relationship, and the lack of lawn maintenance can be a subtle f-you. Like, ‘What are you going to do about it?’”
For Rich, dating again after leaving a long relationship involves self-improvement in many areas. “Just like getting in shape, trying to learn a new hobby or skill,” he says, “you want to make yourself more appealing to the potential new girlfriend. Being in the dating pool, I’m usually more conscious of keeping it high and tight down below.”
Rich’s sentiment is common among the men we interviewed. Morey, an L.A.-based businessman in his late forties who’s recently divorced and now dating actively, says, “I always clean my house before people visit, and I always clean downtown if I’m expecting company. It’s even more important to be courteous to first-time visitors.”
It might surprise some women to learn that men aren’t expecting them to return the favor—at least not among this age group.
Aaron is a 55-year-old software engineer widowed several years ago after his wife’s long-term illness. As a casual dater, he prefers her pubic hair to be kept reasonably groomed, but not “weightlifter clean.” The same goes for Rich, the demolitions expert. “There’s something kind of creepy and barren about it. I like the hair to be a bit shorter, but not be perfectly edged. The suburban jungle, as I like to think of it. For me, as long as the grass is clear around the tree, I’m good.”
Both agree that, ultimately, it’s not their place to ask. Says Aaron, “It’s much better if the woman makes the decision to shave than for the man to request it.”
For men already too old to have been initiated into the 1990s pube-trimming craze, getting started at their later age can be intimidating. Newcomers are urged to turn to the professionals. With locations in Singapore, New York, London, Hong Kong, Manila and several other capital cities, The Ministry of Waxing may be the closest we get to an international bush-whacking consortium. According to their website:
Our lovely, friendly Waxperts are entirely at your disposal. No pruning is too complicated. No crevice is too difficult to reach. Wherever there’s a stray hair—from brow to toe—we’ll track it down faster than you can say, “Moses before the burning bush.” … [O]ur team of super nimble Waxperts can scythe through any errant bush, in a record-breaking 15 minutes.”
Personal grooming is more than just balls and cracks, of course. At her Manhattan salon, Mortal Man, Anna Augustsson has specialized in body-wide depilatory treatments for men since 2006. Her clientele is more than two-thirds straight men, she estimates, and many are older. (Her oldest client is in his late sixties.) “These are men who are getting back on the market,” she says. “When they got married, they tell me, they didn’t even have hair on their back.”
Back and shoulder waxes are the salon’s most popular treatment, followed by hairy necks. “I also do a lot of facials,” Anna says. “I do ears and, of course, brows—because they get crazy.”
When it comes to offering boyzilians, Anna draws the line. “No snatch waxing,” she says, quickly and emphatically. “No way. I feel like that’s sacrilege. The road needs a little foliage. Though I will say a bit of self-grooming is good manners—for both men and women.”
Intimate male grooming isn’t new. In Notes of a Dirty Old Man, published in 1969, Charles Bukowski writes about watching one straight guy shaving another’s junk in a bathroom somewhere in North Hollywood. More recently, in 1997’s Orgazmo, Trey Parker’s character, Joe, is urged to shave his nethers, just like “all male actors” do, because it “makes the ol’ Johnson look bigger.”
Of course, keeping things neat and clean is a waste of time if you’re not attending to the greater package. For author, radio host and former dating advice columnist Judy McGuire, crevasses are the least of her issues with older men. “The most neglected man-part in the older gent are the toenails,” she says. “Something disgusting happens to men’s toenails when they get to be about forty—and it only gets worse as they age.”
Try as you might to suppress images of your dad having sex with his new girlfriend (or, worse, your mom), there’s no denying the truth: It’s happening. Blame Viagra, among the country’s most popular pharmaceutical. Blame 50 Shades of Grey, which supposedly inspired your mom to buy a buttplug. Blame increased life expectancies and high divorce rates among empty-nesters.
But it’s not really their fault: More than any generation before them, Boomers (and, next, Gen-X’ers) believe their golden years must include four-hour hard-ons. They admire silver foxes who haven’t slowed down either—Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas and, of course, Hugh Hefner.
Most of us won’t die in bed, at 90, with two Playmates and a gloriously overworked erection. But, at the very least, we can plan to die proudly with tidy toenails—and yes, a neatly trimmed bush.