According to Janet Charlton in the Oct. 17 issue of Star magazine, Ricky Martin is dissatisfied with his own ass. So convinced is the Puerto Rican hottie of the flatness of his own butt that he has embarked on a rigorous course of glut exercises; he is also rumored to be wearing padded panties and contemplating surgery. It just goes to show–the (gr)ass is always greener.
But the real shocker is that Ricky’s bum-orexia would appear to be part of a serious epidemic: All over the city, men are striving for physical perfection with a demented zeal reminiscent of certain unmentionably gnarly chapters in German history. Every guy, regardless of his sexual orientation, is rushing to endure painful and expensive procedures–nose jobs, pec implants, hair plugs, acid skin peels–as if a mandatory, Chippendales-sponsored beauty pageant is about to occur.
What’s it all about, Alfie?
Namby-pamby California researchers and social psychologists, quick to cast anyone in the role of victim, offer a sympathetic explanation: Men, having finally been objectified, are now subject to the same insecurities as women. Their self-
esteem (yawn) is tied to their body image. Another factor might be a delusional identification with celebrity. During my in-depth probe into this sick and twisted world, I found that many of the procedure-crazed guys I spoke to rationalized their self-punitive beauty quest by listing the famous clients with whom they had rubbed shoulders in the waiting room.
There might be a simpler explanation: The November issue of Allure has a piece by Simon Dumenco which suggests that if your guy walks past your dressing table often enough, he will eventually start using your concealer (i.e., familiarity breeds cosmetics). This “beauty osmosis” theory makes sense; the proliferation of obsessive beauty treatments among chicks is bound to impact their blokes. The ultimate example of this phenomenon is to be found at our nation’s makeup counters. You’ve seen those salesmen with the Linda Evangelista eyebrows–all day long they’re surrounded by maquillage . It’s inevitable, even if only from boredom, that they should start dipping into those little pots of lip gloss and foundation.
Don’t pick on them! It’s harmless and, anyway, what’s a little makeup compared to the agonizing quest for the perfect G.I. Joe physique? But when the pain gets to be too much, Dr. Brad will be there to hold your hand.
This month an apocalyptic event will occur in the male beauty community. Dr. Brad Katchen, the dermatologist who “does” the Sex and the City girls, is opening SkinCareLab (568 Broadway at Prince Street, 334-1155). This new palace de beauté will offer an unprecedented range of skin treatments to men as well as women. Upstairs from Dr. Brad’s Soho dermatological practice will be 3,000 additional square feet devoted to the expanding aesthetic side of his business. Brad’s exploding male clientele has enabled this expansion. “Men are embracing their vanity,” he said, “from the Wall Street guy to the Helmut Lang guy.” As he prepared for the mid-November opening of SkinCareLab, he appeared to have no qualms about capitalizing on this sick and crazy societal narcissism. “I know how to speak to a male client–I understand his insecurities and who he is.”
Who the hell is he? “In his head he’s a 26-year-old guy. One day he looks in the mirror, and he’s not happy with what he sees,” said Dr. Brad. “I know that if I can make him look closer to the way he feels, he will feel better about himself.”
I don’t get it. What’s wrong with looking like Martha Graham and feeling like Britney Spears? I ask. Dr. Brad changes the subject: “You could use some Botox in your forehead.”
I tell Dr. Brad that nobody has any expectations about my forehead; I’m just a middle-aged bloke. Dr. Brad rounds on me. “With Botox treatments, there is a feminine aesthetic and a masculine aesthetic. I can raise the curve of your eyebrows.”
Now he’s galvanized my interest. “How beyond! Dovima eyebrows!”
Brad cuts me off. “That would be feminine and you would look ridiculous. Marlon Brando and James Dean both have a low straight-across eyebrow. I can give you that with Botox.” For $500.
Feeling very Carly Simon (as in “I haven’t got time for the pain”), I eschew the world of Botox, hair plugs and calf implants, opting instead for an Epicuren Discovery facial ($150 plus tip) administered with great dexterity by Matthew. This beauty treatment involves citrus and herbal cleansing, a hot enzyme peel and two masks: one to extract toxins–whatever they are–and the second to tighten and lift. Except for the nerve-racking moments when Matthew discussed my toxins, I found the whole treatment unbelievably soothing. My skin looked exactly the same–but I felt utterly soothed.
Other soothing treatments available at SkinCareLab: mud wraps, seaweed wraps, salt glows. Prices start at $100 per hourlong treatment.
Hyper-grooming is not just the prerogative of the upper crust. In fact, it’s not their prerogative at all; most old money folks have cascading nose hair, rotten teeth, heinous halitosis and moles with wisps. You’re more likely to find hyper-groomed men in Queens than in Greenwich, Conn. If you don’t believe me, schlep out to the Manolo and José Unisex Beauty Salon in Astoria (31-18 Broadway, though you have to walk around the corner to the 32nd Street entrance; 718-932-8661). Hand-bag designer and international sophisticate Neal Decker swears by their eyebrow waxes–just $5.
Every so often, a beauty product comes along with such a high camp value that my knuckles go white while I’m reading– and loving –the press release: Eau de Raisin 1999 Vintage, a hydrating spray from Caudalíe, is one such product.
Extracted from the juice of the grapes of Château Smith Haut Lafitte, this limited edition (made from 5,000 liters of Bordeaux grape juice from the 1999 harvest) has become the fave of many a highly strung celeb. Isabelle Adjani calls it “my holy water.” If you have always wanted to blast your face with raisin-scented cold mist, you too will adore Eau de Raisin 1999 Vintage. It’s $12 at Barneys, Bergdorf’s and Sephora.
Vanity without flamboyance is a bummer. In the 1970′s, male vanity meant nothing more strenuous or painful than rimming your lids with Kohl eyeliner (MAC, $12). It was all very Carly Simon (again), as in: “You walked into the party / Like you were walking onto a yacht / Your hat strategically dipped below one eye / Your scarf it was apricot.”
In his 1977 book Scavullo On Men ($20 at http://www.bibliofind.com), Francesco Scavullo coerced many of the photographed male luminaries to divulge their beauty secrets. Mick Jagger happily admits to using “a lot of Elizabeth Arden for painting my face” and putting perfume “on my ass, behind my ears and on my wrists.” Chanel’s Cuir de Russie is, or was, his preferred brand. Maybe Ricky Martin should content himself with perfuming his ass instead of torturing it.