When the metrosexual man made his appearance, half- mincing, half-strutting across the world’s stage, I curled a lip, but kept quiet. I told myself this creature won’t last long in Mardistan, a country that flies its macho flag at nauseating heights. Those were famous last words. Even as I was bidding a premature farewell to men in fawn-coloured trousers, the replacement model was being put in place. As in, worse was to come.
I’m all for breaking stereotypes, for men and women doing their own thing. But, this post-metrosexual man?Too much of a good thing. Of course, I know men who do the odd Botox on and off; I pretend not to notice. I know men who have longer and better behaved hair than mine; they ponytail it, leave it loose, make a low chignon. Mostly, it adds heft to their masculinity. Recently, I stumbled upon some of the things the post-metrosexual man does, and it has put me off my daily dose of flaxseed. He goes for a spot of tanning, as if our tropical sun doesn’t burn us brown enough. He waxes his underarms because the beauty column in his magazine (on page 35, juxtaposed between car and aftershave ads) told him that hairy underarms smell. From there it is but a short step to waxing his chest. This time it is not the magazine to blame. It is Salman Khan, that bare-chested wonder who apparently attracts a lot of women.
Now, I know men (the metrosexual kind, if you must attach a label) who can spout passages from The Godfather or even (wince) the Jump Street movies, who try the Clooney look in front of their bathroom mirrors, but imitating that Khan? Not on their lives. But, this is the post-metrosexual man we are talking about. He does things differently. A girl I know runs a unisex beauty parlour and she says some men come in all the time for manicures, pedicures and a spot of nail polish. “What?” I croaked. And, she said airily, “Yes, ya. Nude colour polish. It gives their nails a healthy glow.” She also made passing mention of heat-activated curlers. I pretended not to hear. Of course, we brought this on ourselves. We wanted our men to be sensitive, caring, in touch with their feminine side, right? Voila. Here they are, now suppress those shrieks.
When they cooked, we squealed in delight. When they found our G-spot, we squealed some more. They changed the baby’s diapers and we made as if to swoon. We asked them to talk to us; now they do (of course, it is mostly about them and their problems in life), and we are bored stiff. We taught them the rudimentary tenets of male grooming (a splash of cologne and trimmed toenails); now they’ve gone all high-maintenance on us with under-eye cream, shape-defining wax and pocket-sized sunscreen. No more ten-second encounters in bed, we whined; now they stop what they are doing to ask us a zillion questions, mostly at times that call for silent dedication to the task at hand. Don’t eat like a chimp, we told them again and again. Now, they wield artichoke spoons with finesse and we try not to let the word ‘effete’ creep into our heads. Show some interest in what we wear, we implored; now they tell us puce isn’t our shade, ecru is. Dress better, we nagged; now they wear jeggings, skinny pants and (this is a very Indian foible) white sandals. Some carry handbags. Not briefcases/attaché cases/messenger bags. Handbags.
Let me make it clear, I am not taking up the case for dyed-in-the-wool garam Dharams or Van Dammes, or even Christian Greys. No siree. But I am tired of all the precious Prataps and kohl-eyed Johnny Depps. They are so in touch with their sensitive side that they have become wusses. Thin-skinned, wide-eyed, under-confident types. Does no male walk the middle path anymore? That, I will remind those who need to be reminded, is the gravel path that has a rough side as well as a smooth side. That’s where men can stride along, sporting stubble, entirely bereft of handbags, ornate smartphones and reeking colognes. Enough already, guys. Get in touch with your masculine side again. Now. And, after that, please return our retinol creams.
Sheila Kumar is the author of a collection of short stories titled kith and kin (Rupa Publications).