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The Death of the Retrosexual

To paraphrase the world’s most famously dissatisfied customer Mr Praline (played by an eloquently irate Python, John Cleese), I know a dead parrot when I see one and I’m looking at one now.  The retrosexual is dead. He has ceased to be. If marketers hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies.  He’s an ex-parrot.

When I first used the metrosexual antonym in 2003, I used it merely to refer to men who were not metrosexual – what most people still liked to call ‘real men’.

Remember those? 

Four years on, it seems the word ‘retrosexual’ is on everyone’s lips in the US – especially marketers keen to sell even more vanity products to men.  But ironically the US media’s love-affair with the retrosexual as a supposed antidote to the queerness and self-consciousness of the metrosexual just reveals what a sorry state ‘real’ masculinity is in.  It has shuffled off it’s mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. If I was an American, I’d ask for my bleedin’ money back.

Did real masculinity even exist in the first place, I wonder?  Or was it just some 1940s Hollywood daydream?  Or a 1980s Jeff Stryker video?

But whether ‘real men’ are called ‘John Wayne’ or ‘Marion Robert Morrison’ (Wayne’s given name) or ‘hung the size and shape of a baby dolphin’ is somewhat moot now as in the 21st Century the male has been thoroughly mediated, accessorised and monetised – and turned into another way of making men even more self-conscious and consumerist.  As this item from last week’s Newsweek makes clear, retrosexuals are now metrosexuals with implanted chest hair:

Measuring 6 feet 3, with chiseled pecs and a bushy beard, George seemed like a model of manliness. Yet two years ago the 47-year-old Virginia businessman (who declined to give his full name to protect his privacy) decided he didn’t look quite macho enough. So he went to see Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, a Miami hair-restoration surgeon, to have 3,000 hair follicles ripped from his scalp and transplanted into his face, chest and belly. He wasn’t satisfied. So a year later he returned to get an additional 2,400 grafts done. “I could still have another surgery and not be completely covered,” says George today. “I’m very pleased, but 2,400 grafts is not a very hairy chest.”

I’ll take your word for it.  But I wonder how many grafts a very hairy chest is.

George’s quest for maximum hirsuteness isn’t as unusual as it may sound. He’s part of a growing group of “retrosexuals”- men who shun metrosexuality, with its often feminine esthetic, in favor of old-school masculinity. 

Old-school masculinity that perceives itself as chronically lacking in masculinity, is obsessed with its appearance, and resorts to painful and costly cosmetic surgery of a questionable effect to make itself more attractive, more worthy of love, more ‘manly’ – and up-to-date with current furry fashion trends.  As Mr Praline would say: you’re ‘avin’ a larf, mate!

Cosmetic and hair-transplant surgeons on both coasts report increases in patients seeking a more rugged look: hairier chests and beards, squarer chins, more angular jaw lines. Dr. Paul Nassif, a well-known Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, has noticed the change in the photos patients bring in to show him their ideal image. A few years ago “they were bringing in a pretty-boy look,” he says. Now, though, the requests are different: ” ‘Give me a big, strong, manlier chin’,” he says.

No doubt they were bringing in clippings of ‘manly’ models and celebrities from the very same glossy magazines from which they previously clipped images of ‘pretty-boys’.  Some of them were probably the same models and celebs, now sporting those de rigeur manicured beards.  Like David Beckham, Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Justin Timberlake et al.

These cosmetic surgery fashion victims clearly aren’t retrosexuals.  They aren’t even metrosexuals with faux chest hair.  These are male-to-male transsexuals. 

And like many male-to-female trannys, they’ll probably never be really satisfied with the results.  After all, neither 2,400 nor 24,000 grafts are a ‘really’ hairy chest.  It’s in the nature of consumerism – no, desire itself – that we always want what we don’t have.  I happen to have a ‘really hairy’ chest – but I’m still shaving mine, despite the appalled intervention of my gay host in LA when I visited a couple of years ago, who snatched the razor out of my hands and told me in no uncertain terms that ‘No one gay shaves their chests any more!’.  Like metrosexuality itself, faux retrosexuality was pioneered by the gays.

Perhaps Newsweek’s retrosexuals should go about shopping for the manly traits they desire in truly retro fashion – by going cruising.  Even if it’s bad for business.  As the punchline of the Python’s Parrot Sketch has it, after the owner admits the parrot he sold is in fact deceased and that has no more in stock:

Owner: (quietly) D’you…. d’you want to come back to my place?

Mr. Praline: (looks around) Yeah, all right, sure.

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