Heather Havrilesky's "Meet the Smoothies!" prompts male readers to debate waxing, sparks fear of a "mini-race of tween angels," and angers those who find stories about hairless hunks disgraceful in a time of war.

Published July 1, 2005 11:12PM (EDT)

[Read Heather Havrilesky's "Meet the Smoothies!"]

Cheers to Heather Havrilesky for the story on the new masculine phenomenon. I see it all the time at the gym. Guys who look like Superman (Tom Welling, Dean Cain or the new movie S-dude, Brandon K Routh, you pick) and will take every opportunity to preen in the mirrors. They can work up a sweat and grunt with all the weight they're pressing, but their spiked do is perfect and meticulously maintained. I see it at the coffee shop. Guys in corporate dress, tailored just so to show off the fact that they have gym memberships, and they use them! Hair spiked and coiffed just right.

It's at once hilarious and telling. It's usually white boys that do this, but this thing crosses races. I agree with Heather that women tend not to be too keen when it takes their men longer to get ready than it does them. My partner seems to have accepted the fact that it takes me at least as long to get ready as it does her. But I think she's still got an edge over me. She's got makeup, after all. But mostly, I nod to the GQ or Men's Health style. I'm down with it. Women compliment my taste quite often. But ... and it's a big BUT ... I am not down with wearing women's underwear, Brazilian waxes, or self-tanning. I'm black, for God's sake! How much darker do I need to be? Furthermore, I don't give a right damn how "secure" David Beckham is with his masculinity, I don't need to know about his preference for his wife's underwear or what he frolicked in while in St. Tropez!

However, there does seem to be a larger point: Men, who have been relegated to feeling only anger and disgust and dressing in wife-beaters, are trying to redefine what being a man is. We're experimenting with things, trying to get it right. The balance, I mean. Women may have missed it, but men have rich inner lives too, and some of us are in touch with our interior to a degree that would be shocking to some of our female contemporaries. Doesn't mean we're crybabies like the salon owner in the article (Man up, junior!), but we know what's going on in here.

Many of us hold those secrets close until the right people arrive who can treat them as the treasures we hold them to be. A generation of New Kids, Dylan McKay, David Boreanaz, and Chad Michael Murray hasn't changed that. At least, not yet.

-- Ken Dyier

As a 49-year-old gay man, I'm fully aware of how far the "smoothie" concept can go. I used to do that kind of stuff back in the late '70s and early '80s. Every detail was perfect! I've known hundreds of "perfect" men, and every single one of them was insecure about not being perfect ENOUGH -- there was always somebody with bigger biceps or whiter teeth.

Now, decades later, I have grown to accept my back hair... it's natural, it's supremely male and it's me. I'm a big fan of my hairline and my gray beard. I pity the 55-year-old men who are trying to pretend that they are still 23!

I predict that there will be heterosexual members of the "Bears" clubs soon. These clubs are a refuge for men who can't stand to be held up to unnatural standards. Love me as I am! What you see is what you get.

I'm happier now, because folks love me for all of me (including my mind, character and soul), not how closely I adhere to some sort of fantasy role. People are more attracted to me at this time in my life, long after my abs have disappeared, because I'm glowing with self-assurance and inner peace.

It's all very nice to get the hots for that super-buff man on the billboard with the perfect abs, but the picture doesn't show him on the morning after the photo shoot, cleaning up dog poop in the backyard. The fantasy only goes so far, boys. Life is not a cartoon strip, or a music video.

Daily, normal life is hardly a fantasy, but it's far richer and deeper than chasing "perfection" and being neurotic about perceived "failings." The endless effort to pursue body perfection was a never-ending, stressful run on a hamster wheel. I do NOT miss it at all.

-- Papa Tony

Heather Havrilesky's "Meet the Smoothies!" article speculated that the marvelous bronzed and polished bodies of young reality TV hayseeds reflected new liberated gender roles, decades of pretty boys, or the triumph of marketing. I see a much darker explanation for the parade of hairless hotties, though.

Body hair is a sign of physical maturity; shaving it off is a renunciation of adulthood and its complexities and responsibilities. Another explanation is that since body hair is an evolutionary holdover from our more primitive history, smoother bodies are subconsciously interpreted as more evolved, a step further away from the swamps from which we crawled. This applies to women as well as to men.

Through asexual reproduction, we've seemingly spawned a mini-race of tween angels. It doesn't help that the current political climate works overtime to separate us from our more libidinous, naughty desires, such as sex and drugs.

-- Margaret Weigel

Smoothies? Guys trying to get laid. That's all that this is. We're reaching a bit when we try to assign some sort of larger cultural relevance to guys simply following a televised trend in an effort to score. Remember when sporting a mustache was a popular choice? I don't think people wrote such lengthy essays about the pervasiveness of Hawaiian detective grooming habits on American masculinity.

So the boys in small-town America are enjoying a "Queer Eye" trickle-down and have decided to shave their nuts, bathe more often and bitch more freely and this is an indication that there's some greater movement? As soon as this narcissistic television fad passes, men will undoubtedly adopt whatever the new fashion and lifestyle trends deemed swoonworthy by women across the nation.

And I hope it happens soon. I'm getting really sick of exfoliating.

-- Paul A. Johnson

I know it's all the straight rage now, but body waxing is "very yesterday" in the gay world. The hairy-chested guys are getting all the attention now. Just as always, you straight guys are five years behind.

-- Michael Smith

I find it interesting that many, including the author, consider metrosexuals as "looking gay." The reason this is interesting is that the largest minority within the gay community are "bears." Bears are gay men who are hairy, bearded and typically overweight and over 40. Bear fashion put simply is to dress like a redneck, jeans, flannel shirts, T-shirts, work boots, but naturally to do it with style. Are they trying to look straight? I think what they are trying to look is masculine, which is always a plus if you want to attract other gay men.

-- Larry Firrantello

Heather Havrilesky's disapproval of men who enjoy displaying their own beauty reminds me of men who think of aggressive businesswomen as bitches. I look forward to the day when Heather and her kind become a rarity in our society. Until then, I hope that men who are unafraid to show their beauty to the world remember the question, "What do women want?" and answer it with, "Who gives a shit?"

-- Mark Stevens

I guess after more or less reading the article, I'm left with one big question that Ms. Havrilesky should have answered at some point: What is the point of writing, thinking, or worrying about self-absorbed, insubstantial people? Forgive me for sounding condescending, but who cares what these guys are doing to their bodies? With all that is going on in the world, this is the lead story of the day on Salon.com? Seriously?

I realize that the job of someone like Ms. Havrilesky is that of a postmodern pop culture anthropologist -- someone who examines, labels and categorizes the "living" rather than the dead. But to what end? Is it in the hopes of someday being a talking head on one of those asinine VH1/E! Channel shows like "I Love the '80s" or whatever?

While reading the article, I kept hearing certain lines from Dylan's "To Ramona." Specifically,

"But it grieves my heart, love,
To see you tryin' to be a part of
A world that just don't exist.
It's all just a dream, babe,
A vacuum, a scheme, babe,
That sucks you into feelin' like this."


"I can see that your head
Has been twisted and fed
By worthless foam from the mouth."


"From fixtures and forces and friends,
Your sorrow does stem,
That hype you and type you,
Making you feel
That you must be exactly like them."

But in the end, I was asking myself, "Why am I spending my lunch hour writing this letter instead of something important?" -- you know, like checking the standings to see if the Giants are in last place yet.

-- Blake Mitchell

I don't get the "new" Salon. Yesterday, June 29, you run a great, incisive article about the lack of reporting on the war in Iraq and you bemoan the news channels like Fox for promoting things like sex and sensationalism over hard news stories.

Then, the next day, what's Salon's lead article? "Meet the Smoothies." I'm sorry, but what the fuck? If any neocon news outlet wanted to show how hypocritical you are, all they'd have to do is look at this article in comparison to yesterday's. In doing this, you are just as bad as Fox and the other news outlets.

I thought Salon was better than that.

-- Chris Connolly

I'll be brief. For cryin' out loud, with all the problems this country faces, with all the justified criticism the mainstream media gets for over-covering the Paris Hiltons of the world, how can you waste time, server space and my subscription money by doing three pages on small-town boys with shaved chests and bald crotches? What's next, a feature on canine fashion shows? A retrospective on the art of Thomas Kincaid? An in-depth profile of the lovely purple Barney?

-- Richard DiMatteo

By Salon Staff

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