“Facials are for fags,” they say. “Only fruitcakes go for diamond peels.”
And so it goes, in this world of swagger and machismo.
Words like luminous, velvet-smooth, sun-kissed are not supposed to be associated with Real Manly Men of the Schwarzenegger mold. Rugged, chiseled, wind-torn – now those are the words socially mandated for use in the tomes of How Real Men Should Be, and a pox be upon the man who has the misfortune to be discovered by his fellows with vitamin-enriched cucumbers nestled delicately on his eyes, and his feet gently marinating in a peppermint-jasmine foot spa.
So what is it, therefore, that makes a Real Man?
“He must subject himself to trials and tortures,” the classical machismophiles may say.“He must willingly subject himself to pain and suffering, and utter not whimpers but rather manly roars, congruent to those of a cow besotted with intestinal gas.”
To that, I will agree, and it is for that reason that I must say – getting my first ever facial and diamond peel was quite possibly the manliest thing I have ever done in all my life.
If in medieval times, men marched proudly into war to face down dark goblins and be gored through by rusted battle-spears, then the modern male equivalent is the dermatologist’s office. But today’s man faces down a different sort of foe; it is blackheads that besiege him, and it is gleaming silver blackhead removers that thirst vilely for his squeals of pain.
I will be honest in saying that the fear I felt as I stepped into Dermstrata’s Greenbelt branch was fathoms deeper than any I had ever felt before; not even a 700-lb load on the Gold’s Gym leg-press had ever jellied my legs in the manner that the dermatologist did. And for all the distinctly manly pains I have gone through in my life – circumcision, a muscle-tear, an attack of gout brought on by a stray over-indulgence in an incredibly manly plate of roast pork belly – nothing compares to the poking and prodding that my deceptively-harmless facial care specialist submitted me to.
“Zarah,” I remember moaning softly to my girlfriend, as glistening steel implements dug, scraped, and squeezed viciously at my ruggedly handsome face that some have said reminds them of a young Marlon Brando from a certain angle and distance*, “I think I’m going to cry.”
And it was true. Every quick jab, poke, thrust at my nose felt like a broadsword through my intestines. Over the course of the hour-long session, I truly, sincerely wanted to curl into a fetal ball and weep myself silently to sleep. As lasers screeched over my ravaged countenance, I felt instead like the White House being blasted by an extra-planetary laser in the movie Independence Day. As the finely-ground diamond peel Blast-O-Master 3000 whirred dangerously over my studly cheeks, visions of slaughterhouse accidents danced manically before my tear-bleared eyes.
“Sir, would you like to see your extracted blackheads?” the attendant murmured.
“By Odin, god of all Manly Men and official sponsor of Mr. Olympia 2015, yes!” I roared, eager to see the carnage and entrails I was sure had been spilled over the course of the last hour.
Before me was a saucer lined artfully with tissue paper. “Are those sesame seeds?” my mind wondered disbelievingly, staring at its contents.
“Your blackheads, sir,” the attendant whispered, seemingly reading my thoughts. “They’re much larger below than what you see on the surface. Like icebergs.”
“Icebergs,” I parroted back numbly. I literally melted back into a rubbery heap on the trolley. My stomach was churning. I had imagined blackheads to be diminutive little buds, perhaps suggestive of the short-shorn hair you find on your razor after your morning shave. I had not anticipated that they would be of such beastly proportions, roughly the size of sesame seeds, a sickly yellow-green in color, and ever-so-slightly crusty.
“Icebergs,” I whimpered one more time. “Like the ones that sank the Titanic! And killed Leonardo DiCaprio!”
I was catatonic. Nauseated. In shock.
But forty-eight hours later, I find myself radiating like a freshly-bloomed Ecuadorian rose. My skin feels silky-soft, buttercream-smooth. On my nose, where I used to have distressing little black dots, there is now only a pinkish-white luminescence. I feel dashing, debonaire, handsome even.
I realize now, that like a sword that must be forged in the hottest of fires and folded in on itself over and over again to achieve its most glorious, finely-honed potential, so too must a man subject himself to the scourges and suffering of a regular facial to reach the mythical pinnacle of studliness. It’s an experience that challenges a man to question his capacity for courage, his tolerance for pain, his ability to soar above the sensation of the now.
People say I seem much kinder these days, more gentle and refined. An air of serenity seems to waft discreetly from my pores, and I glow with the radiance of a summer sun. “Have you found God?” they ask, “or perhaps your higher calling?”
“No,” I say, a beatific grin dancing on the edges of my lips. “I had a facial.”
* – When seen from behind at a distance of 2-kilometers on a slightly overcast day.