One of the more bizarre burdens that accompanies being a homosexual is that I am frequently the recipient of text messages, e-mails, or side conversations at cocktail parties, dinners, or weddings from women who are desperately seeking any advice I can dispense about how to improve their partners’ physical appearance.
One woman, for example, explained to me that her boyfriend would never willingly set foot in a Sephora (nor shop on their website), so she needed a list of things to buy for him that would make him “stop complaining” about his undereye circles—and, thus, stop pillaging her medicine cabinet. Another wanted something—anything—to replace the drugstore body spray that her entirely grown-up, well-paid boyfriend was wearing, and she needed a recommendation for a scent that would help him appreciate the world of finer fragrances. And, finally, there was the woman who covertly asked for a product that would alleviate her boyfriend of ingrown hairs, so he’d be less self-conscious when leaving the house.
Initially, I found these kinds of requests extremely amusing, and a little sweet. After all, what is love if not wanting the very best for your partner? But then, as the frequency of the requests increased, I started to realize that most of the women in my life were taking it upon themselves to spend the money on these products, educate their partners about how and why to use them, and then (in some cases) replenish them when their partners would inevitably run out. And that’s when I started to get a little mad! Are these women partners or babysitters?
It sort of reminded me of every red carpet premiere for an Adam Sandler movie, where the star would show up looking absolutely slovenly—shirt untucked, wearing ill-fitting jeans, looking like he’d just rolled out of bed. Meanwhile, the lead actress would pose next to him—tall, fit, beautiful, and immaculate. Somehow, sexism had benefited men in even this most vain of ways: Women must look perfect at all times, and men must look like they’re not trying too hard (and the richer you are, it seems, you may not even have to look like you’re trying at all). There’s a double standard happening here, and it’s high time men (of all orientations, mind you) started to give a damn.
It’s a little disarming to be having this conversation in the age of this new GQ, which is symbolic overall of men’s growing interest in fashion, and of taste levels expanding and rising across the board. Thankfully, today we have men like you, who are interested in looking their best and being smart about how and what they purchase. But for all the strides in style we’ve made, the true last frontier of men learning to give a damn still remains—and it is grooming.
On this front, men are often the butt of the joke—hence, the title of this essay: “Fellas, Is It Gay to Take Care of Yourself?” inspired by short king and comedian, Jaboukie Young-White.
While men are arguing about whether or not it’s crucial to wash one’s legs in the shower, and male Presidential candidates are telling reporters they use body wash on their face, women and many LGBTQ+ people have ascended to dizzying levels of beauty mastery: body contouring, false eyelashes, lip plumping, and beyond. It is just one more example of a limited perception of masculinity hindering men from actually being our best selves—and getting left behind in the process.
It makes you no less of a man to invest time in yourself and what you look like, and to educate yourself about how to make smart investments of your time and money when it comes to self-maintenance. In fact, I always think of a good grooming routine in the context of a long-term investment: the more time you spend now preventing what may come—like, say, a receding hairline, or deep-seated wrinkles—the less you’ll have to worry about as you get older. (Seriously, do you think guys like Dempsey and Elba aren’t taking full advantage of products, services, and beauty professionals? Please.)
Grooming isn’t about “primping and preening” so much as it is about making smart and conscientious decisions for what you’ll look like in the mirror 10, 15, and 20 years from now. (And trust me—you’ll never regret using eye cream. Nobody has ever regretted using eye cream.)
In this column, I’m going to do my best to give you the advice you need to start taking care of yourself more seriously. Sometimes, that will be in the form of elementary guides (a 101 for the beginners), and other times, I’ll try to pull you way outside your comfort zone. This isn’t Queer Eye. I’m not here to hold your hand and scream “honey!” when you learn what “serum” is. But I will give you good and practical tips at a variety of price points, and I’ll always be honest about what’s bullshit versus what’s the real deal.
You can reach me at @pfpicardi on Twitter (same on Instagram, too) and occasionally on GQ’s social channels, too, for quick tips on product recommendations and troubleshooting. So clean out your bathroom, Windex your mirror, and for God’s sake: wash your damn legs. We’re gonna make a man out of you yet.
There are millions of grooming products in the world. Not all of them are good, and not all of them are good for you. These are the best for the most of us.
Originally Appeared on GQ