Last week I got out of the shower and was going through my 30 second get-out-the-door routine (deodorant, any hair product within reach and a swig of Listerine straight from the bottle), when I caught a glimpse of myself in mirror. I stopped for a moment and kind of stared– it had been a while since I really looked at myself naked. “So this is what women see?” I thought. God bless them, I wouldn’t want that body coming at me but thankfully some women have been open to the idea.
In fairness, I tend to be a hard on myself when it comes to physical appearance– partly because I’m human but also because working in entertainment I am constantly surrounded by attractive people. Even the most confident person would get a little down.
Thankfully, past girlfriends have generally liked my body. Among the traits they appreciate is my 6’1” height. I like being tall– I was only a foot and half when I was born and, having been all the heights in between, I like 6’1” the best. I can always see at parades and getting things off the top self is never a problem. Moreover, there’s a perception of authority that comes with height– I’ve never felt particularly authoritative but I don’t let on.
Another piece of the Michael package that garners positive reviews is my curly, blonde hair. “Its so fun” has been uttered by everyone from girlfriends to random women at bars who feel entitled to just walk up and touch it. Women love my hair. As a result, so do I.
But the parts of my body of which I’m most proud of are never the things women pick out. I work out in hopes of having strong, masculine arms yet women never mention them. I remember lying in bed with my then-girlfriend and, as she ran her fingers up and down my arms, I subtly flexed my biceps to solicit a compliment.
“I like your hands.” she said.
What? Who likes hands? Turns out, women.
One summer I decided I wanted abs. I practically starved myself, skipped carbs and pounded out every stomach exercise under the sun. After five intense weeks, I unveiled the results of my toil by asking my lady friend to help me apply suntan lotion (ok, sunblock) at the beach.
“I like the back of your neck.” She announced, while dousing my pale, Irish skin with SPF 50.
I lied there all afternoon, stomach pointing in her direction at all times, and not one mention. I went out that night and ate an entire pizza.
Alas, I probably think about these kinds of things more than the average man… or do I? I decided to ask some guy friends how they feel about their bodies (that sentence sounds as odd as the experience turned out to be). Getting them to talk was no easy task but after promising to change their names and, in some cases, plying them with beer, they opened up more than I expected. What I learned was fascinating…
“Women find my belly ‘cute’ and I hate it.”, says my friend Kevin, after three beers. Kevin is a little overweight, always has been. “Sometimes they rub it and make a wish.” Ironically, Kevin has no idea what he weighs. “I don’t own a scale. I just have different size pants in my closet and if I have to wear the biggest ones, I know it’s time to hit the gym. Or break out the sweatpants”
My other buddy, Gary, required no booze to announce the fact that he likes being a little heavy. “Extra weight actually makes you appear more powerful, both in business and bars. Its a lot easier to push through a crowded bar at 220 than 180.”
Both, however, agreed to being a little self conscious during sex. “Lighting becomes very important.” says Gary. “I prefer none.”
Kevin agreed, “Especially when I’m with someone new, I’m sucking in my stomach and flexing everything. It’s exhausting. That’s half the reason I like doggy style, I don’t have to hold in my stomach ‘cause she can’t see me.”
The touchiest subject among men, however, was hair. Or, more accurately, losing it. While I can’t relate to this one, I have a new appreciation for how lucky I’ve been to maintain my curls.
“The hard part is not being bald, it’s going bald.” says Brian. “For a woman, imagine your breasts getting a little smaller every day until one day you wake up and their gone.”
Along with his hair went his confidence.
“I never had trouble meeting women, but when my hair started to go, so did my self esteem. I thought, uh-oh I better develop a personality…”
It was right around that time Brian was lucky enough to meet Sarah, a super funny woman who loved Brian’s personality and could care less about his hair. They’re now engaged. Brian admits, given the choice, he would still take hair, but the whole subject now seems much less important.
So if putting on weight and going bald are the male Achilles, what about those guys who won the gene lottery? I called my friend Matt, who is so good looking women describe him as “beautiful”– a distinction that totally gets other guys’ attention. (We’re used to hearing the usual descriptors “handsome” or “hot”– but when a dude is so attractive that women have to use a word normally reserved for their own gender, we get rattled.)
Matt was uncomfortable with the premise of my inquiry, which was essentially, “What is it like to be physically perfect?” But I assured him it was for a good cause. And bought him beer.
The biggest surprise was when he confided to me that he actually has trouble meeting women. “Before I even open my mouth I’m considered a player so they stay away. Meanwhile my roommate– who’s just an average dude— hooks up constantly!”
While Matt does have a heartbreaker look about him, he is truly one of the kindest people I’ve met in New York. I was almost ready to sympathize with him when I noticed every woman at the next table staring at him. Tough luck, Mr. Beautiful.
So, while guys are probably still more accepting of their bodies than women, they proved far more aware than I ever anticipated. For my part, I’ve decided next time I’m standing naked in front of the mirror I’m only going to say nice things. And next time your man is subtly flexing in the hopes that you’ll swoon, throw him a bone.
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