DOES SHE LIKE IT ROUGH?

March 2015

I don't understand Fashion. But I don't understand it from afar - it has never bothered, or influenced me, one way or another. From the time that I was first able to pick my own clothes, I've been a jeans and work shirt/tee shirt/sweatshirt person - even when such attire was far from appropriate, no matter what Fashion had to say. I've had long hair and short hair, I've had a beard or no beard - but usually when I had one or the other, it wasn't fashionable at that time. I looked the way I looked because I wanted to look that way. And I guess that's why I don't understand Fashion.

   Many, many years ago, I heard more than one person say that "fashion designers" were either puckish or sadistic people who really wanted to see how incredibly stupid or unattractive people would cause themselves to look in the name of Fashion. I'm sure this isn't true of every designer - to me, some innovations seem pretty good - but, in general, I believe it. Both men and women seem to be willing to go to almost any length to be part of some new trend. How else can one explain the current crop of skin-headed men who look like Neo-Nazis, and all the men and women defacing themselves with tattoos that once would have made only a hard-core motorcycle group and street gang proud?

  (The tattoos bother me more than anything else, I guess. You can always change your clothing, grow your hair long or cut it short again, and remove your nose ring or lip jewelry. Although tattoos don't have to be "forever," they are a hell of a lot harder to get rid of than some other bodily defacements. I wonder how many of the current tattoo sporters are going to be content with their ornamental body art once the fad dies and the Fashion World moves on to something else.)

  (Idle speculation: I wonder if I was fifty years younger, would I be tempted to cover my body with colorful ink swirls. I'm inclined to think I wouldn't; I didn't succumb to hardly any of the freaky fads that my generation went through. But a bigger question for me might be, would I want to date a girl who looked like animated street graffiti?  I think I wouldn't; I certainly don't find anything very stimulating in the current young adult versions of femininity [of course, that may just be my age showing]. On the other hand, when I was a young lad, I found girls quite appealing, and if a walking signboard had been my only option..... )

   But all this is just warm-up for what I really wanted to talk about: facial hair. I'm not talking about moustaches - I've had one for about forty years, now - or full beards - although a good many of the arty ones don't scream either good taste or good sense.  I'm not even talking about the ridiculous eruptions of chin hair called "soul patches," which in my opinion could not look good on anyone. No, I'm talking about the residue on the cheeks of many men nowadays that is apparently meant to give the impression that the man has not shaved for about two days. I suppose the look is meant to identify the man as "manly;" at any other time in the history of the United States - even in those periods when beards were all the rage - adjectives used to describe the look might have included "unkempt," "scruffy," or "poorly groomed."

  An interesting aspect of this trend to scruffiness is that the look is not easy to maintain. I can't grow a very good beard of any kind nowadays - too much white in it, and the hair doesn't come in as evenly as it once did - but I know from past experience that, after about two days, stubble starts to become hair. Normally, at that point, one decides either to continue growing a beard, or else to shave. To keep the unkempt look requires a lot of careful semi-shaving to keep oneself looking a little dissolute. Frankly, even if I could still grow a good crop of facial hair, I doubt I'd have the patience to work hard enough to keep looking fashionably slovenly. But then, as I've already said, I've never been a slave to Fashion.

*   *   *

  Look: when it comes right down to it,  I don't really give a rip how you look or what fashion you follow. I only brought up the topic because I've been pondering a much deeper question, with strong psychological-sociological implications. Baldly put, it's this: is "whisker burn" not important to women, anymore?

   I haven't kissed a lot of girls - few enough, in fact, that each past encounter of a close kind still stands out as a special memory for me to savor.  But from my own relatively limited experience, joined with what I heard from other people, it seems like in the second half of the Twentieth Century there were few things that women liked less than scraped faces resulting from contact with poorly shaved male cheeks and chins. Even relatively benign "five o'clock shadow" was not looked on favorably, and might be enough to deprive the male of the osculatory contact hoped for.

   So what's it about? Are women tougher, nowadays? Is male stubble tenderer? Have women had to  become a little more masochistic than before in their move to more freedom and equality? Have men become even less sensitive than we once were, and now don't even give a modicum of thought to "whisker burn?" It's all quite puzzling.

   I'm inclined to suspect some kind of connection between the effects of the Sloven Look and the proliferation of products claiming to help women restore and maintain their smooth and blemish-free skin. Is there some sort of back-door collusion between the Stubble Promoters and the face cream distributors? Is this (even more than usual) more about Business than Fashion? But, if it is, why aren't the razor manufacturers crying foul over the obvious erosion in the use of their products?

   As I said, I don't understand Fashion.


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