Embracing my inner Rylan
How much male grooming is too much?
AS WITH so many addictions, there was the gateway drug. For me, it was moisturiser. It seemed so harmless, just an ordinary pot of Nivea, out of which I’d do a couple of lines every morning. It felt so good, and made me feel ready for the day. Besides, I could always justify using it, because it calmed down any shaving rash. It wasn’t vanity – it was necessary.
But then came the aftershave, or rather, aftershaves. My chosen substance to abuse was Czech & Speake No. 88, which I have used for years, and yet I still remain fully functioning. This was augmented by Cuba, and occasionally I would just go very trad and splash on some 4711. It’s good to have variety, even if my habit was proving somewhat expensive.
I kept the aftershave abuse quiet, and would only let on to a few people that I used it. Of course, I was in denial, because they could smell it a mile off – I confess to being a heavy user – but I knew there were many who regard aftershave as shameful and unmanly.
It should have stopped there, but then came the next level – the nasal and ear hair trimmer. Again, this seemed justified, as I’ve reached that age in which I am losing hair where I want to keep it, and gaining hair where I don’t want it. There is nothing so ageing as having hairy ears and a nose, and so the investment was made. Handily, the device also features an attachment that trims eyebrows, so it’s the kind of Swiss Army knife of male grooming.
At this point, things were under control, but then came the teeth whitening.
Luckily, I have a very generous orthodontist friend called Matt, and he sorted out the moulds and gels for me. The first time I tried it, I knew I was crossing a line, but like all addicts, I felt I had a good reason. Mine was that I appear quite a bit on the television, and it was surely better – as a coffee and red wine drinker – to have teeth that were pearly rather than looking like bits of hard old cheddar. You see? My logic was unassailable.
But here comes the embarrassing bit – the hair dryer. Now I know that in some countries nearly all men use these things, but in Britain, they are big no-no, a sign of almost absurd vanity.
So why do I risk ridicule by using one? Again, like all addicts, I feel my reason is justifiable – my hair has an annoying habit of flopping down, and because I don’t want ‘curtains’, I whack in some hair gel – ah, whoops, did I forget to mention the hair gel? – and then I blow dry it to make it all stay in place and to give my barnet a bit more oomph.
For my wife, this habit is too much – not least because I regularly pinch her hair dryer. I suspect that many would agree with her, because there is nothing so ugly as male vanity.
In my defence, I’d say that it could be a lot worse. I don’t manscape or dye my hair, and neither have I had surgery or used botox. (I confess to irregularly using some anti-ageing serum, unlike a middle-aged male historian of my acquaintance who uses it every day.) My grooming routine is, I suspect, standard for many men in their twenties and thirties, but not for those clocking in at half-a-century plus.
There’s also a bloody-minded part of me that sees no reason why I should let myself go. I’m certainly not trying to look younger, but what I am doing is to look the best I can for the age I’m at. Is that a crime? I think not, and I hope that others agree. I think I’m a long way from the full Rylan, but like all addicts, I may not realise that I’m beyond hope.
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