Opinion column: You’re so vain

By Cassie Cleary

You probably think this article is about you. And if you’re a member of the male species (a straight member, that is), then you might be right. As students come flocking back to the University this week, not much has changed about the appearance of college women. Although I would like to believe most women outgrow their vanity by the time they graduate high school, there always will be those women (especially freshmen) who obsess over tanning, reapplying lip gloss, straightening their highlighted hair and gazing into the mirror at the combined effect.

However, it seems men too are now susceptible to mirror gazing. And I’m not talking about flexing in front of the mirror all day. I’m talking about men who spend their time obsessing over their image in a manner stereotypically associated with women; men who want the windows in the car rolled up, because they don’t want their hair to get messed up.

Don’t get me wrong. The vast majority of men, especially here at the University, with our plethora of frat boys, are still clueless about personal style and appearance. You’ve still got men who go days without showering and wear whatever dirty T-shirt they find on the floor. But then there’s the ever-increasing percentage of men, sometimes termed “metrosexuals,” who do have a clue – heterosexual guys who have developed their own personal style and wear jeans that actually fit them. These men pay attention not only to their clothes, but to their overall appearance as well. Males can now highlight their hair and tan in tanning beds without anyone questioning their sexuality. They don’t even have to be afraid to wear the color pink.

It’s a double standard to say that women can improve their appearance by tanning and highlighting, but if men do the same thing, they are acting feminine. Yet this kind of man certainly does not evoke the typical image of masculinity with all its rugged, Indiana Jones-esque charm. After all, you can’t run away from a huge boulder without at least breaking a sweat, and you can’t crawl through a rat-infested cave without getting a little dirt under your nails.

Obviously, men have different motives for behaving this way. Some, I’m sure, simply are interested in fashion or like to express themselves through their clothing. But the biggest reason for primping is the same for men as it is for women: to attract the opposite sex. Let’s take hair for example. Many women will hesitate before cutting their hair short, because they know men prefer long hair. In the same way, men are willing to highlight their hair, because they think they can attract the attention of more women that way.

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In other words, men are continuing to look and act more feminine, because it attracts women. This suggests that women are attracted to men who look and act like … well, women. I’m not saying women who like this new breed of men are homosexual. But perhaps women are attracted to men who are a bit on the feminine side. Why? Well, for one thing, a man who appears feminine (hopefully while still maintaining his masculinity) also appears sensitive and caring. It also makes sense that the man who spends hours coordinating his outfit and perfectly arranging every hair in place will look better than the man who rolls out of bed with remnants of last night’s Spaghettio’s on his face.

That said, it’s definitely possible for men to go too far with their obsession over appearances. Somehow, men must figure out how to maintain their masculinity while still tanning and highlighting their hair. Women don’t like waiting three hours for their boyfriends to get ready any more than men enjoy waiting for their girlfriends. And there still are women who prefer Harrison Ford over Ryan Seacrest. But as society changes and gender lines continue to fade, men seeking to attract women must find a way to walk the blurring line that now exists between masculinity and femininity – without slipping off and turning into Carson from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

Cassie Cleary is a sophomore in LAS. Her column runs Wednesdays. She can be reached at [email protected]