Letter From New York: Just Gay Enough

"I know what a duvet is, for god's sake." He muttered this in shame. Summoning up his courage--at least six beers' worth--he gushed out what was really bothering him. "We're a generation of men raised by women!"

Hear the cry of the all-American heterosexual male, who's at a bit of a loss these days. Apparently it's not enough anymore to drink Bud, weigh 250 pounds, grow body hair, make sexist jokes and cook exclusively on a grill, if he cooks at all. A new species of man has emerged, the so-called metrosexual.

You may have read about him in the New York papers. He gets manicures and pedicures on Saturday nights; he shops till he drops; he conditions his curls, and he watches "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"--the TV hit wherein five gays make over average Sloppy Joes--and actually picks up its tips.

This metrosexual may be the new guy on the block, but I think I've always mixed a little metro with my hetero. After all, I'm British, which means I am begrudgingly somewhat European. (In America, there's an old standard that women ask themselves when sizing up a guy: "Is he gay--or just Euro?") I treat ladies with respect, wear sandals and necklaces in the summer, like to cook and shop at H&M. Many male friends remain skeptical. One recently eyed my trousers and said: "Malcolm, those pants are sooooo gay. If you were president, you'd be Gaybraham Lincoln!" But let's face facts: New York women are starting to nix the Neanderthals for the metromen. These days, it seems, macho is out and JGE is in. Just so you know, that's short for Just Gay Enough.

Personally, I predict it will all backfire pretty soon. As I see it, there's a fine line between JGE and JG--Just Gay. Yes, it's nice to groom well. Yes, clothes are cool. But what kind of woman is going to pick a long-term partner who spends more time and money looking good than she does? Worse, the hard-core metrosexual focuses on the worst attributes of femininity to get in touch with, the very aspects feminists longed to escape. He's devoting his life to his looks, just like dumb blondes of yore. Working out isn't enough; he's into anorexia and bulimia. And nose jobs? Last year more than 1 million American men underwent cosmetic surgery--calf and pec implants, liposuction, you name it. Chest waxing has become de rigueur. Don't even get me started on baldness "cures."

The madness is even starting to rub off on me. The other day I turned to a lady friend after breakfast and asked her, in all seriousness, "Does this shirt make me look fat?" It's embarrassing, I know. But the first step to recovery, as alcoholics say, is admitting you have a problem.

That's really where this whole metrosexual tire meets the road. I don't mind guys going gaga over fashion. Getting in touch with your inner girl is a very good thing. And who cares if these guys are annoyingly shallow and vain, wasting their valuable time and energy on frivolities when they could be playing rugby?

Live and let live, I say. But when we flip over to the other side, let's at least be aware we're doing it--and try to maintain some minimum standards of manliness while we're at it. Otherwise we'll find ourselves sipping our lattes, moaning to each other over pedicures about the girls who "won't commit" and telling each other how cute our outfits look but secretly calling each other fat, while all the women run off with the hairy-ape men's men at the local dive bar. My duvet-fearing friend was worried about our men being a generation raised by women? I have no problem with that. I just know I don't want to be part of the first generation to be completely shunned by them.

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