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The New Guy

This is a column for men, just in case you thought I would never get around to writing one.

I’ve become interested in the idea of “metrosexuals.” A new one on you? Then obviously you don’t hobnob with the Style section of The New York Times or you would know that “metrosexuals” are the latest mintage of the Sensitive New Age Guy.

According to the Times, metrosexuals are “straight, urban men willing, even eager, to embrace their feminine sides.” But what separates the metrosexual from their SNAG forbears is the element of mystery involved for heterosexual women. Is he straight? Or is he gay?

And, oh, the joy for a straight woman happening upon a heterosexual man who can fathom the meaning of “mauve,” right? Well, I’m not sure that that’s really what women want most in a man.

Nor does it seem to me that using moisturizer or picking out your own clothes really counts as embracing your feminine side.

But there it is: By these lights, a tasteful, civilized, cosmetics-conscious straight man embodies the new male persona. He’s a marketer’s dream, a babe magnet and a cipher to gay men who can’t trust good grooming as a reliable indicator of sexual orientation anymore.

And if the market niche holds, metrosexuality will move from the Style pages to the Business section in short order.

Maybe it’s being passed off as masculinity’s nouvelle vague. But if you ask me, metrosexuals aren’t a new breed at all.

I’ve known my share of so-called metrosexuals over the years. You may be one yourself. A guy in touch with your five senses. An evolved guy, unafraid to feel the nap in a rug or wear a scent other than Old Spice.

Maybe I just got off to a weird start. My college boyfriend and his roommate, both arrow-straight, spoiled me into believing that straight and sensual wasn’t such a hard combination to find.

Jerry, my beau, was into cooking. His idea of a pleasant evening at home was to whip me up a little duck a l’orange while Joshua, a voice major, would sing Billy Strayhorn and Noel Coward as his cheesecake chilled.

I used to wonder how I could combine both of them into one perfect specimen of heterosexual man. And then clone him. Joshua was handsome; Jerry was brilliant. Joshua sang; Jerry made films. Joshua was in ballet class with me; Jerry and I took structural linguistics together. Joshua wanted children; Jerry loved the kitchen. And they both wore clogs.

Little did I know that those were the last years I would see straight men in clogs.

Whether or not you share my taste in men’s shoes—and an informal poll tells me that there is no such thing as a straight man voluntarily slipping on a pair of clogs—you get my point.

It’s fair to say that since my days with Clog Man and Mr. Strayhorn, I’ve known a lot of men who seemed to shrink from color and texture. I’ve known men content to dress in all the various shades of mud. Men whose sheets and towels were safe, gender- neutral colors—white, off-white, brown.

And though I did once convince someone to use Burt’s Bee’s Milk and Honey Lotion on his face—after being assured the scent didn’t linger for more than a moment or two—I’ve never yet given a gift of body lotion without having the man think it was actually a kind of roundabout gift to myself, a gift that remained at my house, in my bathroom, to be used after my showers. (Of course, there’s no denying that it’s a great way to splurge on creams I wouldn’t normally buy for myself.)

That said, I think that beneath most of you mud-color-dressed male readers lurks a closet metrosexual. And secretly you know that women like it: It’s a perk that you blow dry your honey’s hair better than she does. Your wife really grooves on the way you frost a cake.

You know who you are. Maybe you really care about thread counts. About bathtubs. For that matter, maybe you actually take baths. Maybe, from time to time, you use the words “sateen,” “chenille” or “chamois.” It’s a stretch, but you might even know what silk dupioni is. There’s no shame in this.

In your heart of hearts, I bet you know feng shui is not a noodle dish. I bet you can tell the difference between an aspidistra and a foxglove, between soft-paste and hard-paste porcelain. I’ll bet you can tell a Cuban from a stiletto heel. And none of that interferes with flipping between the hockey and the football games while your honey is out sweeping the driveway.

So do you really need a market niche? Not really.

But maybe you need a little encouragement. Like Harrison Ford on the cover of People magazine, Calista Flockhart by his right ear and an earring in his left.

Or maybe a line of grooming products called “Sharps” will mean you never have to borrow your wife’s raspberry-kiwi body scrub again. You’ll feel it’s manly to mousse.

Maybe it will help to know that I know a man whose banana bread is as tasty as the truck he rebuilt is reliable.

Condé Nast is trying to help you, developing a shopping magazine targeted directly at you.

But I know you don’t need that. All you’ve got to do is step out of shadows a little. Buy yourself an orchid to raise. Learn to flip an omelette. Imagine your pectorals after 20 sun salutations.

Metrosexuals, it’s safe to come out of the closet. Your soap-on-a-rope days are over.

—Jo Page

 You can contact Jo Page at

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