or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Products
Hello, my name is Karl. Let me tell you a little about myself. I’m 32, single, was born and raised in Manila. I run a small self-owned business. I listen to rock and electronic music. I am particularly fond of cats, hiking, travel, photography and scooters, in no particular order. And, up until a couple of months ago, I belonged to the glaring majority of men who couldn’t give a rat’s ass to personal grooming.
My morning ablutions consisted of a quick shower, using whatever shampoo was available and the sliver of last month’s soap, a dry shave using a dull safety razor and a zippy brushing of teeth. In the absence of a comb, which was often, I would run my fingers through my hair a few times and be satisfied. Spray on some deodorant, throw on some jeans and a ratty t-shirt and I’d be all set. Mirror? Who has time for that?
If you called me sloppy, untidy, or disheveled, I would deny it. Never mind that my hair would always be a mess, or that some grit would invariably collect under my fingernails, or that, by midday, my deodorant, trusted since puberty, had let me down. In my mind, I was like most other guys. I was all right. I was happy.
My singular experience with personal vanity at that point had been unpleasant. I was to cover the launch of Fashion Café’s local franchise for Men’s Zone, and I was to meet German uber-model Claudia Schiffer. I thought, I ought to look good. Perhaps I’ll have a facial.
Why I went to my barber, a man with big burly arms, heavily calloused hands and warm breath, for a facial I cannot now fathom. With a blunt tool wielded ungently, he prodded my face, seeking and eradicating blackheads and whatnot. That evening, with a face covered in bee stings, I met one of the world’s most beautiful women. I promised myself never to be superficial again.
Flash forward several years and I find myself in the mountain city of Baguio, covering another superficial event for Men’s Zone. This time, the launch of Nivea’s new line of skin care for men. Surrounded by beefcake actors and pretty-boy models, I took refuge among fellow members of the press. We were the normal ones, the real people, the salt of the earth. The rest were all (buzzword!) metrosexuals, not real people in any sense, but subjects to be observed from our journalistic, holier-than-thou point of view.
Our hosts kitted us out with samples of their new products: soap, facial wash, shaving cream, after-shave balm, moisturizer, and deodorant, explaining to us during the press conference the uses and benefits of each item. Why men would want clearer skin was a mystery to me. Were we not placed on this earth to till the land and make it bear forth fruit with our labors? Would not our labors bring forth hard callouses on our hands (like my barber) and furrows on our brows? Our rough, gruff exteriors differentiate us from the fairer sex – why would we want to blur that line?
That was the zealot in me talking. The reporter in me was dying to investigate, to find out the truth. So, despite my long-standing resistance to such frivolity, I let my curiosity get the better of me. In the bathroom in my hotel room, at two AM, I succumbed to the promise of clearer skin, deep cleansing, and that taut refreshing feeling that men love, applying all the products given to me in sequence. I showered with the soap. I used the facial wash. I put on some shaving cream and used a razor to shave along the grain slowly. I applied the shaving balm to my face and neck, then massaged moisturizer into my hands. And, even though I would be sleeping right after, I put on some deodorant.
I went up to Baguio City an unkempt man with oily skin and a musky odor. Three days later I came down a slightly changed man, straight to the arms of my girlfriend. “You look great,” she said. “You smell a lot better, too.” Then she kissed me.
Let’s admit it. A little superficiality is good for the soul.
Phone Booth near event venue
- **I wrote this article over a year ago for a local Men's Magazine. I'm now slightly older, but still obsessed with facial care products for men.