We men, we know our place. We do things like barbecue, hook up the stereo and buy the cheapest toilet paper we can find. You will never, for example, hear a guy say, “Jason, it’s a nice Sunday in October – let’s go paint pottery.” We don’t buy potpourri. We don’t get our eye brows waxed and we don’t own 25 different kinds of lotions because they all smell different. (Is there really a difference between mango scent and papaya scent? Someone help me out here.) But recently however, shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have us starting to rethink things. Regular guys on that show have been forced at gun point, or at least gay point, to do things previously relegated to the women’s side of the bathroom or the gay corner of town.
So curious to explore my inner metrosexual (if you don’t know the definition, do a Google search, you slacker), I decided to give some of this non-guy stuff a shot. Now I can’t afford to throw out everything in my closet and go buy colorful shirts with sleeves I can zshuz. And anyone who has seen my apartment knows that, while still pretty guy-ish, it’s put together pretty well. You won’t find a futon anywhere, I don’t have Hulk plastic cups from McDonalds in the cabinets, and none of my artwork is held up with thumbtacks. Instead, I did what any football-lovin’, beer-drinkin’ guy would do: I called up Gail Ann at the Cheek T’ Cheek Salon in Mill Valley and made an appointment for an eye brow wax, a facial, and a lash tint.
Cheek T’ Cheek specializes in facials, waxing, massage and a host of other face and body services. I arrived at a small waiting room and met Gail, who I would have guessed to be in her late 30’s until she mentioned she’s been doing this for 24 years. (Damn, maybe this stuff does really work.) Currently, about 20% of her business is men – though mostly for things like back waxing.
“It’s not just for women,” she told me, “but men think that [going to a spa] means they’re not a man.” And I have to admit, when she led me into a small doctor’s office type room with low lighting, fragrant scents in the warm air, and John Tesh-like piano music floating out from the speakers, for a second I thought maybe I was about to get my Guy License revoked for good.
I took off my shirt and shoes and climbed underneath a soft, warm comforter atop a small table. Gail sat up near my head as we started with the brow wax ($18).
I’ve seen the Queer Eye episodes where they take some guy with a monster unibrow and prune back two thirds of it until the guy stops looking like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. But my eye brows aren’t really that bad, right? Well, according to Gail, wrong. She explained to me that since my brows came down the sides of my eye, they made my eyes look down turned. By getting rid of that part, plus cleaning up the tops and bottoms of the brows, it would frame my eyes and give me a stronger look.
I’m not sure I knew exactly what that meant, but I was curious to find out. Gail applied a line of warm wax to the underside of my eye brow, covered it with a strip of cloth…and ripped. Now let me explain, I have a pretty high threshold for pain. So take that as you will when I tell you it didn’t hurt. There was just a quick, light sting, and then it was over. She repeated the procedure on the top of one brow, and then the problematic side.
“Oh wait, you’ll forget how you were,” she said as she handed me a mirror so I could see a before-and-after. And what do you know? I was shocked at the difference. My left eye seemed stronger, more prominent. The brow framed it much better. It didn’t look droopy or tired. Who knew ripping out a few hairs could do this?
“For most guys, it’s different from women – you just need to keep the natural shape,” she told me.
She finished the other brow and handed me back the mirror. The best way I can describe it is the difference between before you get your hair cut and after. In terms of hair removed, it’s not a whole lot, but it gives you a cleaner, more polished look that seems to hold everything together better. Total time: 2 minutes and very worth it.
Next came the lash tint. Honestly, this is the one I was most worried about. Exactly what was she going to tint?
“You don’t need it.” Gail decided. Apparently my lashes are dark enough that my eyes stand out as is. However many guys have light lashes and could use something to make their eyes show up better. Tinting mine, I was told, would be too “feminine.”
Good God, if the guys in my fantasy football league could see me now…
Then we moved on to the deep pore cleaning facial ($85). As I closed my eyes and relaxed, Gail cleaned my face, neck, and shoulders with two types of cleansers. It actually felt really nice to have someone clean you with a soft, warm washcloth. Next, Gain explained, she applied a wheat-based enzyme peel. She might as well have been talking about replacing a CV joint and a limited slip differential to a Quaker for all I understood, so she tried again in language I could understand: basically it helps remove the dead skin cells and opens up my pores.
With the enzyme peel in place, she positioned a steam machine over my face, dimmed the lights and left the room for about 10 minutes, although it could have been 10 hours for all I knew – with the lights off, soft pads over my eyes, the soft music on repeat in the background, and warm steam floating down over my face, it was the most relaxed I’ve been in months. I had to actually make an effort not to fall asleep. If there was a fire, I would have died for the simple reason I wasn’t going to move from that spot no matter what.
When Gail returned she started in on the “extractions” – which is a very politically correct term for “squeezing all the nasty crap out of my pores.” I think because I was so relaxed, the pushing and pinching didn’t seem to bother me at all. And apparently I needed it. Gail was at work for a while.
Next came a blend of essential oils based on my skin type. (The only skin type I thought I had was the Casper the Ghost white type.) These all-natural plant extracts helped hydrate my skin, kill off any bacteria deep in the pores, and improve my skin tone. After the oils came a massage with sea water and aloe. And I thought I was relaxed before…
Finally, Gail applied a mask (once again the ingredients depend on skin type). This supposedly lets all the other stuff penetrate into the skin. I’m usually not a big fan of smelly/girly products on me, but whatever this was, it smelled surprisingly good. After 10 minutes of more relaxation in a dark room, Gail washed off the mask, applied a moisturizer, and I was done.
My face was softer and felt cleaner than I can ever remember it being. I had a nice, glow about me and the combination of that along with my new eye brows made me look happier and healthier.
“Women are taught to do this, but society says men look better as they age. However that doesn’t mean men can’t take care of themselves, too.”
As I thought about that, I realized it’s true. Men should learn to take care of themselves. We do at the gym, we do with our diet, why not do it with our skin? Men are hairier, have bigger pores and sweat more – if you think about it, guys need things like facials and waxing even more than women do.
“Let’s face it,” Gail said, “male movie stars have been doing this for years – how do you think they stay so good looking?”
Good point. And with that, I went to go paint some pottery.
Editor’s Note: Cheek T’ Cheek is located at 329 Strawberry Village in Mill Valley. (415) 383-FACE.
Matt would love to be George Plimpton...welll, except for the being dead part. He supplies the doing and the writing. All he asks of you is the reading.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
10.15.03 @ 10:23a
Good for you! One of the things guys don't realize (and that Queer Eye stresses repeatedly) is that by taking care of youself, you come across not as vain, but as someone who pays attention to details. This is subtle info that women don't necessarily realize consciously, but that adds tremendously to their first impression of you.
On the whole, I think Queer Eye is camp, over the top, and a lot of fun... but there's still good information in there that men can, and should, apply.
10.15.03 @ 10:34a
Maybe the reason you can't meet a nice girl, Matt, is that you're actually looking for a nice boy.
It's a shame there are so few homosexuals in San Francisco for you.
Kidding. You've actually encouraged me to get my ears waxed.
10.15.03 @ 11:02a
Men really should pay attention to their eyebrows.
Even if they don't wax, they should at least tweeze. Some guys have the most beautiful eyes, but have a honkin' unibrow border above them. No good.
Reading all this made me want a facial reaaaaallly bad.
10.15.03 @ 11:09a
"Inner" metrosexual? Ha.
10.15.03 @ 11:34a
Waxing doesn't hurt. This reminds me, I need a facial.
10.15.03 @ 11:55a
Well, I had my legs waxed for a bike race once. That had areas that hurt and I had little red bumps all over. But the eyebrows? No problem.
10.15.03 @ 12:01p
I had an underarm wax once. Not only was it one of the most painful experiences of my life, it didn't even work well. Never again on that one.
Tweaks here and there -- the brow thing, for example -- can really make a huge difference. I don't need a guy getting weekly manicures, but the occasional facial just seems like a good idea, no matter what your gender.
There's a men-only spa in DC, even.
10.15.03 @ 12:56p
Yeah, but it's probably in Dupont. That doesn't count.
10.15.03 @ 1:04p
I'm not going to lie to you, I always thought stuff like "essential oils" and "exfoliating masks" and stuff was just fake marketing jargon. Like "Retsin" was. But after actually trying those things, I've got to say, that stuff really works.
10.15.03 @ 1:31p
Matt, you are more girly than I have ever been. And damn do I ever want a facial now.
I'm in favor of men paying more attention to basic beauty care. Now if only the beauty product industry would meet them half way by making skin care products without the crappy floral scents...
lee anne ramsey
10.15.03 @ 1:44p
Get a bikini wax and then we'll talk about whether or not waxing hurts.
(This reminds me too that I need to make a facial appointment...)
10.15.03 @ 2:22p
Adam, it's not in Dupont. Shows what you know.
Sarah, some of the Healing Garden stuff now smells more like plants than flowers... I really like their lotions.
10.15.03 @ 5:11p
Guys, check out the bath & body choices offered at Sephora.com.
And girls, if you're into interesting, original fragrances that aren't sweet or fruity, Sephora carries the Demeter line of fragances - great stuff like "clean laundry" and "fig leaf" and "angel food cake"!
10.15.03 @ 5:51p
I've never had a facial, but after reading this column I'm thinking about checking out some of the local spas.
The guy who does my hair trims my brows, but being a blond my brows barely show.
10.15.03 @ 6:05p
Ah Robert! You'd be perfect for a brow tint. Look into it.
10.15.03 @ 6:10p
There's really nothing physically as weird looking to me as blond eyebrows/eyelashes on someone. I call 'em "stealth lashes." Go for the tint, Bobby.
10.15.03 @ 6:34p
Point: Matt takes spin classes and just bought a latex shirt.
Counterpoint: he doesn't drink hard alcohol.
What an enigma!
And does anyone else like the QEFTSG theme song as much as I do? It cheers me right up I tell you.
(Aside: I will never tint my blond eyebrows as they are street-legal proof that the carpet matches the drapes.)
10.15.03 @ 7:18p
I color my hair from time to time and I see no point in coloring my hair a color I could just GROW it. Thus, it's a shocking red right now that matches nothing that occurs in nature, up to and including my eyebrows and my...er.. carpeting.
10.15.03 @ 7:32p
Matt, you may have a straight eye, but at least it's framed by well groomed eyebrows. I salute your experimentation, although you haven't really experienced the pain of waxing until your "Speedo" line has been removed.
10.15.03 @ 8:29p
I find it hysterical that Adam and Robert are the only Intrepid Males commenting on this article.
I'm not a wax kind of person. I'm more of a bleach and pluck and shave kind of person. I have a very low pain threshold where waxing is concerned.
10.15.03 @ 9:03p
I shave every other day. I am clean, and I use antiperspirant. Once in a great while, I may use aftershave or some cologne. I get my eyebrows trimmed by my barber, using the same electric razor he uses to cut the rest of my hair.
That's my fancy grooming regimen.
10.15.03 @ 11:23p
Oh, and about Queer Eye? It's nothing new. They did the same thing 50 years ago, only they called it "Queen for a Day."
10.16.03 @ 1:11a
Juli, I'm very stealth. Um, I do have my hair highlighted to keep it a "natural blond" instead of allowing it to go "natural", since "natural" would be headed toward "white" at this point.
As for carpeting, I like berber or a nice Native American designed wool rug.
Tracey, I guess Adam and I are the only two males, and now Russ as well, secure in our sexuality. Aside from Matt, of course.
And Russ, Queen For A Day doesn't quite count. Didn't they just pick a random audience member, and send her to a spa?
10.16.03 @ 7:34a
10.16.03 @ 7:36a
What I meant to say was, thanks to you all, I dreamed about going to a spa last night. Strangely enough, it was also a restaurant, so you'd have dinner guests threading their way through the people waiting for treatment. It was very strange.
10.16.03 @ 8:19a
Juli, you're right about Demeter. They have some great, unusual scents. I have the Ginger Ale and Gin & Tonic bath salts, as well as the Earl Grey Tea perfume. However, they also have some really scary-ass scents, like Dirt, Tomato, and Riding Crop.
10.16.03 @ 9:04a
Uh, Jael? I wear Tomato.
10.16.03 @ 9:53a
Well, tomato's a fruit, right? Haven't actually smelled that one. It could definitely work.
Dirt, though. Dirt! Who wears Dirt?
10.16.03 @ 10:16a
People who want to pretend that they weed their own garden instead of hiring someone to do it for them?
The one I don't understand is Riding Crop. Since when is walking around smelling like sweaty, sawdusty, leather a good thing?
10.16.03 @ 10:20a
Earl Grey? Hot.
Male sexual response is said (in a clinical study) to be heightened by the following scents: anise, lavender, vanilla, nutmeg and mace (the spice, not the spray!). The article also suggested the following foods: cola (beats me!), oriental food (the commonly used "five spice" powder contains anise), pumpkin pie (nutmeg) and doughnuts (mace is the leading spice in cake doughnuts).
10.16.03 @ 10:22a
The tomato fragrance is much more like the scent that's left on your hands after you prune the suckers off your tomato plants - sort of a warm, leafy scent. People often tell me I smell good and that they recognize the fragrance, but aren't able to name it.
The Dirt fragrance is also lovely, although I don't wear it. And Riding Crop just smells leathery, sort of. More like a new leather jacket than sweaty leather.
10.16.03 @ 10:24a
And "clean" dirt smells good. A musky, loamy smell. But I'd call the fragrance "Earth," and not "Dirt." "Tomato" is nothing without a dab of "Garlic" underneath.
I can completely understand "Riding Crop."
10.16.03 @ 11:34a
Just checked out the website... I am also stymied by Turpentine (I've smelled it, and they mean it), Sawdust, Tobacco, Vinyl, Lobster, Sushi, and Mildew. Mildew!
Some that sound odd but might be lovely include Black Pepper, Basil, Bonfire, Carrot, and This Is Not A Pipe.
10.16.03 @ 11:45a
Basil is MARVELOUS.
10.16.03 @ 12:43p
Sawdust sounds interesting. I like the smell, although I'm not sure I'd want to smell like it.
10.16.03 @ 12:46p
Ditto. I love cookies, but I don't want to smell like them. I'll just be hungry all day.
10.16.03 @ 12:48p
It's funny how many people have now told me they are going to get a facial, brow wax, etc.
True, 90% of them are women, but still.
10.16.03 @ 12:53p
I just need to pluck the line back into my eyebrows from the last wax. I got it done right before Vegas, which enhanced my psycho eyes.
10.16.03 @ 12:57p
Good god that photo scares the crap out of me.
lee anne ramsey
10.16.03 @ 2:22p
Thanks again to Matt for reminding me to make both a waxing appointment and a facial appointment for next week.
Zents.com has some amazing essential oil fragrances - my favorite being "Sun" which is a nice blend of Vanilla, sandalwood and sweet orange. True, when I got into the cab on Saturday night, my friend's boyfriend asked me if I had just baked cookies.... but I have had overall positive reaction from members of the opposite sex. (Also - while I'm sharing beauty secrets - Lush products, especially Dream Cream and Potion, seem to encourage random men to approach me in public to tell me that I smell great.)
10.16.03 @ 10:10p
when is walking around smelling like sweaty, sawdusty, leather a good thing? -- sarah ficke
It depends on the person, but I think the Folsom Street Fair would be a good placxe to wear that scent.
And I kind of like that photo of Jael and Tracey. It has a very sensual look to it. Sleek, sexy, mysterious, and challenging. It says, "come on, you know you want it." While also saying, "Do you think you've got what it takes?"
Anyway, I'd liked to try the sawdust scent, maybe the leather, but my favorite is always coconut.