Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Last Man

The men in our society are plagued by an ongoing identity crisis.
Some might argue that the shifting sands of society's concept of manhood is mainly a media spectacle, fashion wizards and retailers seeking to foment dissatisfaction in order to sell their product. It may have begun in that manner, but America usually becomes conflicted when we're told to.
I don't know when the plague began, perhaps with the advent of television situation comedies, but it is now a pandemic.
I remember some time ago reading an article on about a new surge of boisterous masculinity in country music. Toby Keith was quoted, fairly extensively, as an authority on the subject, proof that the new confidence purported in male country stars was mainly an industry allowance to be a slob with a foul mouth and a mischievous propensity for drinking yourself into mindless oblivion, all the while trolling in a mournful, goat-like vibrato.
I am glad that Toby Keith and other country stars now feel it's okay to be male.
The article served notice on me that the time for un-selfconsciousness as a man was over, had been over, in fact for some time, for the term "metrosexual" had been coined seven or eight years earlier by an astute British journalist named Mark Simpson who had taken note of the masculine meltdown of the 1990's.
The concept was largely ignored for almost ten years, until some genius marketing strategist seized upon it for gain, tweaked it, and it became a media buzz-word.
Metrosexuality, which was by Simpson's reckoning handwringing anxiety over what sort of man to be, morphed into the new rage. It was Neutrogena's wistful daydream come true. Men who were not uncouth were now expected to be finicky.
Very finicky. Manicures, skin pampering, waxing. . .Advertisers laid the guilt on like a thick layer of pore refining moisturizer.
You mean you don't? was the incredulous reply accompanied by nicely sculpted raised eyebrows.
Metrosexual mania raged on for some time, pumped up by advertising. The label rested comfortably on Hollywood favorites such as Brad Pitt, George Glooney, and Ahnald Schwarzenegger, and, perhaps even more fascinatingly, Donald Rumsfeld, in "an antediluvian way." I wonder if anyone has informed Mr. Secretary he's an antediluvian metrosexual.
At some point, however, the hand-wringing began again.
Maybe women didn't want men to spend more time at the beauty salon than they did.
One Reader's Digest article I read during that time period based on confessions of a metrosexual told of the author's wife reacting with distaste at the prospect of her husband's nails looking betters than hers did.
What an Amazon woman.
Enter the ubersexual, a term I assume wrested from Nietzche's proposal of the uberman, or "overman."
The manicures and eyebrow tweezers were tossed overboard in the turbulent seas of cultural identity.
Ubersexuals were the new man's man and, more importantly, woman's man.
Ubersexuals are immaculate without obsession, sensitive without emotional instability, and supremely confident without arrogance.
They walk a tightrope over a pit of Bengal tigers, in other words.
Interestingly, the new pr guys for "ubersexuality" were mostly former metros.
(Except for Donald Rumsfeld. I think he still plucks his eyebrows when no one's looking.)
The transformation of metro to uber came to Mark Simpson's attention to which he replied, " Any discussion in the style pages of the media about what is desirable and attractive in men, and what is 'manly' and what isn't, is simply more metosexualization."
More hand-wringing.
He goes on, "Metrosexuality -do I really have to spell it out- is mediated masculinity."
So why does a Brit have to be the one to point this out?
The snide question rose in my mind when I read the article on country music manhood,
how masculine is masculinity when it's affected?
Here we have men studying how to be men. Not how to be great men, or good men, just men.
It's a pathetic picture. Maybe they should teach classes.
And the most disturbing thing to me about the male sex identity crisis is the icons we're given.
In our culture, who's more manly than a NASCAR driver, or a baseball player, a football player, or, deliver us, a basketball player?
Sports can no longer be considered entertainment, it is a way of life and it is the obsession of most males young and old in our society.
And this is one reason we can't decide what sort of men to be. What foundation for manhood is laid when our role models are engaged wholly in trivial pursuit?
It's a game, for crying out loud.
What is the meaning of life when the most breathless moments in America occur during the World Series, or the Indianapolis 500?
These are our shining examples of masculinity.
Men who don three foot wide shoulder pads and tight shiny pants, swagger out on a field and growl at each other through face-shields, and hold forth eloquently after the game is over, "Uh, yeah, I think-um, I think the thing was, you know the thing is, we just all, you know, really came together as a team, today, and you- we did what we needed to do cuz. . . you know we came, come out here to win, dats what the coach been tellin us. So you know, I think we did we what we came out here to do."
Dazzling analysis.
And over on the sidelines, you have the sports eunuch, the representative of male America, with his shirt off and head shaved and face painted with the team colors, shrilling and waving his arms and jumping up and down.
And the culture media has to ask why men are conflicted.
It's sad.
The problem with second-guessing your manhood should be obvious.
It's no good if you have to explain it.