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|The Rise of the Retrosexual|
Jul. 18th, 2008 at 7:36 am
During the mid-nineties, I had long discussions with my friend Tagore about what it meant to be a sensitive nineties man, a form of manhood demonstrated in Bill Clinton’s seemingly bottomless capacity for appearing to understand and empathize with people in low places.
This was a confusing time to be a man, if you couldn’t recite Maya Angelou and cook couscous.Â And with the end of the Clinton presidency, gender trend-setters made a serious error in trying to promote metrosexuality as the next iteration of American manhood.
Given the success of Shrek and the recent emergence of highly successful cable shows Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, Tougher in Alaska, Ax Men, Black Gold, and others, many observers are seeing a backlash against the trend of metrosexuality that swept U.S. pop culture a few years ago. In contrast with Ricky Martin, Ryan Seacrest and the prissy, fashionable men of Queer Eye, the retrosexual is a man who basically dwells in what I call the Bermuda Triangle of Men’s Thinking: Machines, Sports, and the Female Form.Â It’s an uncomplicated existence that was once the norm among men, and is now producing hit TV shows watched by contemporary pedicured, capri-wearing men who probably yearn for more of the simple, rugged retrosexual approach to life.
At BYU, my concept of the Bermuda Triangle of Men’s Thinking was thrown out the window.Â We had movie nights in my singles’ wards where grown men suggested The Little Mermaid and other Disney cartoons for viewing, and I could never fit men’s participation in ballroom dance into any of the three angles of the triangle, not to mention guys’ appreciation of Afterglow’s music.Â On the other hand, at BYU, I suppose retrosexuality takes different forms.Â Instead of the partying and promiscuity that generally accompany retrosexuality at other universities, at BYU there are illegal fireworks, dry ice bombs, camping, and a lot of other activities that tap into our manhood.
Post-college, it’s hard for many of us to adopt a retrosexual way of life as is depicted on TV, because many of us work in the information economy- we don’t swing axes or drive on ice roads for a living.Â But those of us in this situation can appreciate the rise of retrosexuality anyway.Â When Tagore is pressured to get pedicures, wear capris, mirrored aviator glasses or lip gloss, or use any number of lotions, he can say that’s so 2002, and not even the gayest of his housemates can argue with that fact.Â Thanks to cable TV’s coverage of our retrosexual friends in the Pacific Northwest, the Bering Sea, and the oil fields of Texas, it’s a great time to be a man.