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Testosterone spikes this season

13 Oct

Ah, the autumn! Crisp air, glorious colours,  the delicious harvest, and look out – the peak of your annual testosterone levels.

More than any other season, the fall seems to have the most birthdays, doesn’t it? A September-born friend of mine jokes about being a “Christmas Party Baby”, but it turns out that there is more to it than a slap, tickle, and one too many cups of holiday cheer.

“Testosterone levels and sperm counts are highest in late fall and early winter… the peak times for human births in the Northern Hemisphere is around August or September – 9 months after the high testosterone levels of the preceeding fall.” (Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behavior).

According to Jed Diamond in The Irritable Male Syndrome,  testosterone levels cycle throughout the year: “Studies conducted in the US, France, Australia found that men secrete their highest levels of sex hormones in October and their lowest levels in April.”

The irritable male syndrome is characterized by a “state of hypersensitivity, anxiety, frustration, and anger that occurs in males and is associated with biochemical changes, hormonal fluctuations, stress, and a loss of male identity.”  Diamond claims that there is a seasonal aspect to the irritable male syndrome that makes men “more irritable when days shorten and there is less light. The decline in testosterone between October and April may contribute to this irritability.”

When I read these two books a few years ago, I was left wondering why it’s taken us so long to start examining men like we do women. As I research further, I have found that male hormonal swings may be more powerful and more prevalent than female hormonal fluctuations, and yet women have been pinned as the changeable, screaming, crying, mood-and sometimes axe-swinging slaves to their monthly hormone changes.

Not only does a man’s testosterone level change throughout the year, it is constantly changing all day and every day – when men go to sleep, testosterone is on the rise hour by hour until its peak upon waking in the morning (if you don’t believe me, gentlemen, think about what you wake up with every day). By the afternoon, the hormone levels off, begins its decline, and by late afternoon, testosterone is at its lowest level – when men are said to be at their highest point of irritability.

Did you know?

  • Testosterone rises in men when they win a competition and falls when they lose (this seems to be the case whether the competition is direct or observed);
  • Testosterone tends to decrease talking and socializing – unless sports or sex are present;
  • Men higher in testosterone tend to be dissatisfied in marriage;
  • Men lower in testosterone tend to have more convincing smiles.

We’re only starting to recognize the complexity of men and the role of testosterone is fascinating, to me at least, in the way it motivates male thinking and behaviour; I think it’s important that people understand this and give a guy the benefit of the doubt because believe it or not, there are some things that men cannot necessarily control.

So fellas, before I end this week’s post, I want to tell you that because your testosterone is rising to peak right now and at any moment you could be at your most virile, I want to remind you to keep yourselves protected to prevent any surprises next fall.

Recommended reading: Effects of Testosterone On The Body

The life of the gentleman

10 Dec

The Perfect GentlemanThis is the third and final installment of the gentleman series, starring Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and
1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, a UK outfit that teaches men to be gentlemen,  one man at a time.

In the first article of the series, we discussed the things that drive men to want to become gentlemen: to dress smart, feel good, climb the social ladder, and make more money. The second piece focused on women and romance and found that women respond very well to true gentlemen. Knowing that manners, kindness, politeness, and grace are central to the gentleman, and understanding that largely, the world lacks this type of man, I asked Zach some questions about what it’s like to operate in the world as a gentleman – the topic of this final piece.

I know that well-dressed people – not just men – have a much different experience in life than those who do not pay attention to their clothing. For example, there was a time when people used to dress up to travel. If any of you readers have been in an airport lately, you may have noticed that very few people dress to travel anymore and airline line-ups are made up of extremely casual, almost pajama-clad travellers. But what would happen if a flier chose to dress up for his next trip? I remember my Irish grandfather insisted on dressing in a suit every time he flew back to Dublin, and a man I used to know told me that on a trip to Europe, he put on a suit, tie, and pocket square, and was chosen to upgrade to first class.

This should not come as a surprise. In this Daily Mail article about how to be the lucky flier who is chosen to upgrade, the way to success is through your dress: “Airlines want first and business class to look a league above, so make sure you do too… tracksuits and torn jeans certainly won’t further your cause.”

Gentlemen, as a rule, should do better in life. Zacchary cites other perks besides upgrades for true gents: free meals, compliments, and positive comments “all the time”, never mind the attention from women and the respect that comes with gentlemanly ways. Let’s see how else a gent fares in life as Zach answers my last round of interview questions:

LM: Are gentlemen timeless?

ZFB: Yes, absolutely. The core principles of the gentleman are respect, chivalry, and gentility. There is a 1000 year history of the English gentlemen, and a 4000 year history of Chinese gentlemen – the warrior poet, the philosopher warrior.

LM: Is a gentleman taken more seriously?

ZFB: Yes and no. In business and romance, yes, but not for guys who feel threatened by it. Some men have a fear of being less than, and they get defensive around gentlemen.

LM: How do gentlemen make the world a better place?

ZFB: If everyone treated the world, others, and themselves with respect, by golly, the world would be a better place! Part of being a gentleman is about being selfless. People should think about their actions and the repercussions that follow.

LM: Are politicians gentlemen?

ZFB: In the modern political world, it’s very difficult to be a gentleman. A politician has to do so many ungentlemanly things – there is no reason that politicians need to insult each other, there is a high level of selfishness, and they are not as authentic as they should be – there are so many factors that would not make them a gentleman. Modern politicians aren’t gentlemen because the politics of politics and the business of politics is not gentlemanly. If it was, they’d actually think about things. No politician has ever made our gentleman of the year.

Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

*Happy holidays to all – writing resumes in January!

Gentlemen, women, and romance

26 Nov

how ladies feel about gentlemenWelcome to part two of my interview with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and 1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, an operation that seeks to make the world a more respectful, stylish, and gentlemanly place, one man at a time.

Zach and I talked about many things during our Skype interviews, including romance in the world of the gentleman. Perhaps this comes as shock to some of you because romance seems to be something sadly missing from our modern world – Tinder, digital pornography, and internet dating/hook-ups have taken care of that. At least in North America, we don’t make time for romance anymore, but we can pencil in a quick booty call which may momentarily satisfy our needs, but I think will ultimately leave us feeling empty and emotionally frustrated.

The term “romance” may seem old-fashioned to the modern reader, but it is romance that will win our hearts. In fact, The Perfect Gentleman insists that men learn how to romance a woman, to woo her, court her, prove his worth through respect, affection, attention, and mutual enchantment.

Men always want to be a woman’s first love – women like to be a man’s last romance.

-Oscar Wilde

I told/whined to Zach that there are not enough gentlemen in the world and wished there were more.   I asked him if women worldwide ask for gentlemen. “So far, yes!” he said, “I have yet to meet a lady anywhere in the world who does not desire a gentleman.”

The following short video provides a glimpse into women`s desires to have more gentlemen in the world:

Interview

Please enjoy the following interview about gentlemen, women, romance, and sex with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield.

LM: What do gentlemen look for in women?

ZFB: Everyone has different parameters, but most guys, if they’re honest with themselves, are attracted to who they’re naturally attracted to. Look within. Romance is about shared connection. A gentleman should build her self-respect. A gentleman should be able to help the woman he’s interested in.

LM: Does a gentleman understand women better?

ZFB: He should. Fundamentally, a gentleman should be a lover – gentle, kind, courteous, and a fighter in the sense of being a protector, but not an aggressor.

LM: Is there such a thing as a gentlewoman?

ZFB: We call them “ladies”, and ladies abide by the same key principles as gentlemen – respect for themselves, others, the world. Women tend to think more about how they present themselves to the world and there are more resources for them, also, their support structure is different: inclusive, conversational, and supportive. There are more ladies than there are gentlemen in the world because of this.

LM: Do you think gentlemen have more luck with women?

ZFB: Yes.

LM: What about sex?

ZFB: Ha! Between two consenting adults, the gentleman stops at the bedroom door.

The next article in our gentleman’s series will feature a gentleman’s attitude towards the world at large and how he fits into it.

Read part one of my interview with Zach and becoming the perfect gentleman. Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

Become the Perfect Gentleman

12 Nov

The Perfect GentlemanI was lucky enough to have not one but two two-hour long interviews with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and 1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, an operation that seeks to make the world a more respectful, stylish, and gentlemanly place, one man at a time.

The Perfect Gentleman runs courses and events to teach men the art of the gentleman, and includes dressing, how to dance, how to be charming, etiquette, romance, and modern chivalry. North America is fortunate to have the two-day PG event, Becoming the Perfect Gentleman, tour in early 2016 and visit five American cities: Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, with one Canadian date (Toronto). For any of you who have fallen under the spell of Downton Abbey, you will agree that it is high time to resurrect the gentleman and all the niceties that go with him.

Falconer-Barfield explained to me that the gentleman is who he is and what he does. As a child, he spent countless hours watching old movies and was influenced by the most stylish and gentlemanly of gentlemen: Cary Grant, James Bond, and David Niven, among others. He was raised by women who gave him an understanding of etiquette, and he always dressed well. In fact, every Friday is Cravat Friday for our 1st Gentleman.

He explained that there have been centuries of gentlemen, but World War II saw the beginning of his decline. It was a time of austerity that saw the massive loss of life, the rise of women, and changes to the socio-economic world that urged men not to bother anymore.

“It’s been four generations since the war – three moved away from the gentleman and now we’re moving towards it again.” Falconer-Barfield believes that it’s just in the recent past that men have had style ideals to live up to and the social freedom to make an effort. He says that men are being held to a standard again, and cites George Clooney, David Beckham, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Hugh Jackman as modern icons of style and gentlemanly ways.

Please enjoy part one of my interview with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield.

Interview

LM: Do North American audiences/men differ from British audiences/men?

ZFB: Yes. English men think they’re already gentlemen – English women will disagree. North Americans wonder when we’re coming over! The difference between the response to learning how to be a gentleman is that there is no culture of self-improvement in the UK for men; the thought of a “gentleman” is perceived as elitist, but of course this isn’t true. In the UK, it’s immigrants who seek out self-improvement.

LM: Do men in different countries have different challenges?

ZFB: The same challenges seem to be generic across the world – dating, romance, but there are minor cultural differences: business etiquette and style. How do I approach a lady? How do I have a good date? Universal. Style? Cultural differences, but a suit is a suit. Male icons are fairly universal.  Confidence is king.

LM: What drives a man to be a gentleman?

These are general drivers: everyone wants to be better and have better relationships; dress smart, feel good, climb the social ladder, make more money. When men realize what they’re capable of, the world opens up. It’s a kind of enlightenment.

The next article will feature a gentleman’s attitude towards women and romance, and women’s attitudes towards gentlemen.

Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

Nice guys finish last… or do they?

17 Sep

nice guys finish lastNice guys finish last. There is some debate over how this quote came to be, but there is no doubt that it came from a cranky New York Dodgers manager, Leo “The Lip” Durocher (Durocher was famous for arguing with umpires). During the summer of 1946, Durocher`s response to sports reporter, Red Barber`s question, Why don`t you be a nice guy for a change? prompted an answer that would coin the famous line:

“Nice guys! Look over there. Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott [NY Giants coach] ? Or any of the other Giants? Why, they’re the nicest guys in the world! And where are they? In seventh place! Nice guys! I’m not a nice guy – and I’m in first place.” 

That fall in the Baseball Digest, Durocher’s quote about nice guys in seventh place was boiled down to last place, and the phrase was born.

So it’s that idea of Durocher’s that nice guys perhaps aren’t tough enough to win pennants or to be in first place that has captured our imaginations and damned nice guys to be unworthy, spineless, second-rate wimps. But is it really true, or have nice guys just given up and accepted the assumption that they’re unworthy, spineless, second-rate wimps?

Nice guys: It’s all about perception

I had the opportunity to speak with First Gentleman, Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, at The Perfect Gentleman in London recently and I asked him if gentlemen, the considerate, polite, chivalric types, have more luck with women. He said that the idea of women being attracted to bad boys is short-term and the appeal of the bad boy disappears quickly. These gentlemen, these nice guys, have a lingering effect and are the ones women want to marry or have long-term relationships with.

Psychology Today article speaks to this. In Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last? Theresa DiDonato says that “until a woman is interested in establishing a steady partnership, she may sacrifice niceness for other desirable attributes”. She goes on to suggest that for short-term partners, women may choose attractiveness over kindness, but for long-term relationships, kindness and warmth will have more importance.

“Men confuse “nice” with “weak” and this is the problem,” Falconer-Barfield says, “Being nice is being polite and respectful; someone willing to compromise. Being weak is lacking in self-confidence, but this is a temporary state of being, and it’s all in your head.”

I’m always thinking about the social prejudices that men live with and from what I can tell, the idea of masculine weakness is associated with the feminine and to be thought of as feminine is a cardinal sin in the world of men (though I’ve never been able to understand why). That pressure to be strong, to be the man’s man, to be the best, to seize the booty is the patriarchal expectation of males and it’s that kind of pressure that seems to sort out the men from the boys, or if you like, the jerks from the nice guys. But this expectation only exists if you say it does; if you don’t, you’re free to be who you want to be.

Who really finishes last?
boring guys finish last

While looking for graphics for this post, I found a meme that really spoke to me: Nice guys don’t finish last, boring guys do.

Nice is always better than nasty, and nice doesn’t have to mean boring. One can be nice and bold, or nice and adventurous, or nice with a sense of humour. Nice guys can have some edge to them, just like bad boys, but they’re probably more present and attentive. Interesting individual characteristics blend well with “nice”, so don’t be afraid to be yourself.

If I created another meme for this post, it would be Nice guys don’t finish last, guys that try too hard do. There are nice guys out there who have the best intentions but cater too much to other people and invariably cast their own needs aside in order to please others. (Here there is a hint of co-dependency here, but that is another topic.) Then there are the nice guys who don`t know how to say no and can easily be taken advantage of by those looking out for their own gain. Nice guys like this run the risk of turning into doormats, and honestly, people don`t respect doormats; they wipe their feet on them.

Scientific experiments discussed in this short video about nice guys finishing first explains that “[f]rom an evolutionary perspective, animals which contain genes that promote nice behaviour are likely to have more offspring. It’s the basic underlying code for altruistic behaviour – you help me and I’ll help you. And ultimately, we’ll all do better! So while some mean, cut-throat, or envious people may temporarily exploit and gain from others, in the long run, not only nice guys, but nice people, really do finish first.”

————

Pride 2015: Loving my gays

25 Jun

gay prideI have known and loved gay men ever since I can remember. A man my father worked with when I was a wee child was gay – this was in the early `70s when being gay was still hush-hush and freshly decriminalized in Canada – but I had no conception of sexuality. Sid was flaming and living a lie, married to a woman. As a kid, I could neither put my finger on what it was about Sid that I was sensitive to, nor did I have the language to describe my perception of him, but there was something extra special about Sid: he had a lisp, a limp wrist, and he loved martinis.

What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.  – Tennessee Williams

In high school, I made friends with Jay, a fun, gentle gay man who I am still friends with. Jay was just Jay and his sexuality was not an issue – in our social group at least. Trying to deal with high school in the 1980s when homophobia was rampant and homosexuality very misunderstood, I was grateful for people who broke the rules and weren’t afraid to be themselves.  Jay was one of these; he was just himself and we couldn’t understand why people made such a big deal out of his sexuality – especially at a time when the people who teased him wore horrible mullets and listened to crappy bands like REO Speedwagon!

He took me into the clandestine gay bar in our small prairie city, a place very close to one of the larger and popular hetero bars. It was a secret place – we had to be signed in by members of the club and buzzed in through the locked door. At that time, being gay and being a gay ally was dangerous, so precautions had to be taken. But it was a wonderful time; Jay told me about his exploits with older men who recognized his state of being even before he did. It was a time of discovery about ourselves and our tastes; our rebellion, our character, and our desire to be ourselves. Through Jay, I learned to have fun and be true to myself no matter what people said about me.

Before you criticize queens, fairies or someone who acts ‘too queer’, consider where we’d be without them. -Ken Hanes, The Gay Guy`s Guide to Life

My first job out of high school was at a Canadian department store where I worked in the menswear department. This is where I met Greg. He was always neat, tidy, and smelled good. Greg was older than me and lived with his boyfriend in a gorgeous apartment in an old building with white pillars in the front. They introduced me to lots of older professional gay men who immediately accepted me for who I was, and I was completely taken by their open minds, their zest for life, sense of fun, and of course, their good taste.

Life can throw tough circumstances at us, but when you’ve got a life-long friend – especially a gay one – you know that you’ve been blessed. Greg and I have been through good times and bad together, still going strong 30 years later. He’s easy to talk to and laugh with; we have common loves like clothing and design. We don’t live in the same city any more, but no matter how much time has passed since we’ve been in contact, we always pick up where we left off. Greg taught me that no matter what a person’s sexual identity, we share the same joy, fear, and pain because we’re all human.

There’s this illusion that homosexuals have sex and heterosexuals fall in love. That’s completely untrue. Everybody wants to be loved. -Boy George

I spent ten wonderful years volunteering at the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT). I was the first woman in the history of the agency to volunteer for the gay men’s outreach program, where I handed out countless packs of condoms and lube to guys in gay bars and talked about safer sex and social issues. In the beginning, some bars didn`t welcome women but I went in anyway and did my job with the objective of preventing transmission of HIV and STIs, and ultimately saving lives.  I also coordinated the route on several AIDS Walks for ACT to raise money for services for positive men in the community. My time with ACT gave some of my most fun and fulfilling moments, and I gained a deep understanding about the gay experience, gay politics, sexual health, and stigma; being open-minded, how to listen, and how not to judge.

I have no idea why gay men love me, but I would have to assume it’s because they know how much I love the gays! Everyone needs a good gay man in their life. – Chelsea Handler

The bond between gay men and hetero women is a natural match; most of my friends are gay men. I’ve met many fantastic gay men and made friends with some of the more amazing ones who have completely enriched my life. If you ask me, gay men are perfect beings created from the best elements of the masculine and the feminine and the more they are recognized and empowered, the better world it will be. I am very fortunate to know so many gays and I couldn’t imagine my life without them – love you all, darlings – Happy Pride! XOXO

PS – I’m taking July off writing – enjoy the summer!

Stress and the man

19 Feb

From the archives… The differences between the sexes and how they deal with the physical, emotional, and mental effects of stress.

In the Key of He

stressWe all experience stress in our lives, but we don’t talk about it enough – men especially – but there is growing interest in the topic – upon this writing, “men and stress” catches 239,000,000 Google results.

I spoke to a couple of stress experts through the Distress Centres Ontario (DCO),  a provincial organization that provides support services to lonely, depressed, and suicidal people, often via a 24-hour crisis line.

DCO presented “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Stress”, focusing on how to shift from a stress reaction to a support response in our body.

Asha Croggan and Arianne Richeson co-presented the learning event – Asha provides support to crisis lines and suicide networks across Canada and is the Provincial Programs Manager for Suicide and Mental Health Networks, and Arianne Richeson is the Manager of Educational Service at Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region. Below are some…

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Spread ’em. Actually, don’t

8 Jan

you balls are not that bigInspired by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the move to ban “man-spreading”–men who sit on public transit with their knees spread so far apart that they actually take up seats next to them–has reached Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission, and it’s caused some interesting gender chatter.

Globe and Mail article on the topic mentions the Canadian Association for Equality (CAE) who started a petition to stop the ban on man-spreading. The group says, “This sets a very bad precedent as men opening their legs is something we have to do due to our biology. It’s physically painful for men to close their legs and we cannot be expected to do so, and it’s also a biological necessity for us to do so.”

According to the petition, a ban on spreading one’s legs would “be a big blow to men’s rights.” Men’s rights to do what? Take up unnecessary space on public transit? To be discourteous to others?

Mike Wood, a volunteer advocacy officer with CAE argues that men should be able to take up as much space as women who board buses with strollers, but he fails to understand that when women bring strollers onto a bus, there is another person in the stroller, and the baby in the stroller needs space, just like any other person.

I wouldn’t agree that testicles have any independent rights and need their own seat on the subway.

 In Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behaviour, James Dabbs describes “panache” as a manner that seeks to get the attention and respect of others. “A person with panache,” he writes, “scores points by looking dominant. Bluffing often works just as well as fighting when it comes to getting attention and respect. Male animals bristle, puff, strut, preen, spread their tail feathers, control space, intimidate their opponents, and show off to get their way and impress the opposite sex.”

Is this not what man-spreading is? Puffing up to take up more space and display some form of power and superiority? Why else would a man would choose to sit in on public transit in a way that exposes his most vulnerable body parts, open to potential contact with knees and parcels at the sudden jolt of an unexpected brake. If I were a man, I would protect my fragile spheres, not make them targets.

Ball room

Subway behaviour has its own etiquette and etiquette is about respecting other people and making them comfortable. Man-spreading is the opposite of this. Mr. Wood mentions men’s biology a couple of times being the reason that men need to spread. Some men will need a little extra space for their tackle than others, yes, but how much space could comfort possibly require? Are your testicles so big that you need an extra foot to accommodate them? Perhaps it’s time to change your style of underwear instead of hogging transit seating.

The image used for this post is from a hilarious site about man-spreading. YOUR BALLS ARE NOT THAT BIG seeks to out man-spreaders on the New York subway by posting pictures of the culprits (world-wide submissions are welcome). The blogger makes it clear that man-spreading is about men concerned only with display and their own comfort, not the comfort of others.

Display includes body language, the expression of our self-confidence. Individual self-confidence and self-esteem speaks through the way we move and position ourselves in space, including the way we sit. A man who sits with crossed legs looks comfortable, a man sitting with knees 6″ apart also looks comfortable, but when men sit with knees wide apart, i.e. over 12″, he’s telling the world that a) he’s desperate for attention, b) he’s painfully insecure, and c) he wants to appear virile and by spreading his knees apart so far apart, he can show off those “big balls” of his. Testosterone likes to put on a good show, as Dabbs says.

Funny thing about virility: it’s often not what it seems. Like male animals, much of the virility is false but the display can be stunning.  I had a boyfriend with a huge set of testicles that hung heavily under his pinkie-sized penis which only ejaculated prematurely, so I wouldn’t say that large testicles necessarily indicate virility. The whole puffed-up, I-have-bigger-balls-than-you-and-that-makes-me-more-masculine mentality of man-spreaders is a delusion; mere posturing.

In the animal world as Dabbs mentions, panache works to look dominant and impress the opposite sex. I cannot imagine any woman being attracted to a man who tries so hard to show he’s masculine by exposing what he thinks are mammoth testicles to prove his manhood, while simultaneously imposing himself into other people’s space.

I’m not even sure that men are aware of how much space they take up because they haven’t been challenged on it until recently. Once men are called on it however, many will acknowledge their puffed-up, space-taking wrongdoing and change their position (at least this is what happens in polite Toronto). Several times I’ve been on public transit and saw the only seat available beside a wide-kneed man,  but instead of being intimidated, I said, excuse me, and lowered my bottom into the seat (while he scowled because I’ve messed up his space). If a man’s leg is in my space, I ask him to please give me some more leg room and I’ve never had an argument. Politeness and a kind smile can do wonders for personal comfort, so I recommend it.

Now that the New York subway system’s anti-spreading campaign is on and the messages are travelling to other large cities, it’s time for men (and women who take up more space than they need to) to pay attention and be more aware of the necessity to share space in our ever-increasingly populated cities. As subway posters in Philadelphia say, “Dude It’s Rude… Two Seats — Really?”

PS – Have a look at this site that features Japanese subway posters from the 1970s and 80s that even back then, tried to make people aware of how man-spreading negatively affects people.

 

Human behaviour, Desmond Morris, and his comb-over

25 Dec
Desmond Morris

Desmond Morris sports a deep comb-over.

Desmond Morris, the famous British zoologist who wrote The Naked Ape, put together a six-part BBC series called The Human Animal: A Personal View of the Human Species during the mid 1990s, in an attempt to examine and explain human behaviour.

During the series, he explores humans as “hunting apes”, looks at our body language, genetics, and tackles the differences of the sexes. During part 6, Beyond Survival, Dr. Morris, the brilliant zoologist that has moved the study of body language further ahead than anyone else in history, says, “Every time we go out in public, we’re making complex statements about ourselves”. Dr. Morris is absolutely right, but his statement reeks of irony because he talks about complex visual statements while wearing a wicked comb-over.

Method

Comb-overs, a ridiculous “style” that balding men create to cover their baldness was extremely popular during the 1970s, as I recall from childhood. The comb-over was so big that it was actually patented in 1977. The patent is officially 37 years old as of December 23, 2014, and was the brain-child of smooth-headed father and son team, Donald and Frank Smith. Below is the U.S. patent. Click on it to read the details about the Smith’s “invention”.

Comb-Over patent

comb-over illustrationThe patent info explains the correct way of covering your bald spot by “cross-hatching” (FIG. 6) three sections of longer hair and combing them over one another. Original illustration at right–it’s a dandy, isn’t it?

Instructions: “To begin with the subject’s hair must be allowed to grow long enough to cover the bald area, generally about 3 to 4 inches. Of course, the length of the hair will depend on the size of the bald area, for example, a person who is front to back bald, as in the illustrations of FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, will require more length than a person with a bald spot either in front or in back of the head. In addition, the particular hair style to be performed will dictate the required hair length.”

Can you imagine losing your hair and thinking that the best thing to do is to grow sections of your existing hair quite long, strategically comb it up to cover over your bald head, then paste it to your scalp or on top of existing strands with some sort of adhesive (probably hair spray) in an attempt to fool others into thinking that you still have your full head of hair? Only the wind could betray your clever ruse! It’s genius!

Just kidding.

Comb-over symbolism

“Wearing a comb-over is like sweeping your baldness under the rug; it’s still there,” says Jason Kearns of Toronto’s Kearns & Co. hair design.

Kearns began his professional life in the late 60s in swinging London, when hair, and everything else, was all about fun and free expression. He watched the music stars of the time mature and change–some of their hair left the building before they did, and grace didn’t necessarily follow. He says of an aging rock star like Robert Plant, “If the hair is long and you’ve got all of it, wear it.” Guys like David Crosby or Max Webster-era Kim Mitchell who have lost it all on top but keep the bottom long? “Cut it.”

Clumsy, fragile comb-overs are an attempt to camouflage or hide something; they may even induce suspicion. It was no surprise to hear Mr. Kearns say that men who do comb-overs have no sense of self and are probably clinging to their youth. I imagine it could be quite upsetting, even devastating for a man to lose his hair; it may be seen as the loss of youth and possibly a loss of strength, and therefore a blow to masculine identity (could all men have a Sampson complex?). But this belief is a choice.

Bald and bald alternatives

Perhaps it was the unforgettable Yul Brynner who made bald okay for the first time in the 20th century. Biography UK describes how Brynner’s bald head became his trademark: Yul Brynner

“For his role as the King of Siam [in the 1956 Academy Award-winning The King And I], Brynner shaved his head and following the success of the film, he continued to shave his head throughout his life but wore wigs for certain roles. This was an unusual and striking look for the time and became known as the Yul Brynner Look.”

While Brynner wasn’t bald, he was balding. Below left is a shot of the intense, Russian-born actor with a receding hairline; at right below, with a hair piece in his second bald role as Pharoah in The Ten Commandments. To my eye, he’s much more striking without hair.

Yul Brynner

Yul Brynner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the 50s moved into the 60s and 70s, a fully bald head was still scary to people, but someone came up to the plate and made baldness sexy. Telly Savalas rocked the bald head in the early 1970s in his hit TV show, Kojak. Unlike Brynner, Savalas didn’t shave his head for any particular role–his hair loss was well under way, as seen at left in a screen shot from season two of The Untouchables (1961), when Savalas still had some hair. Compare that to the second shot at rightwhich is one attractive than the other?

Telly Savalis

Telly Savalas in an early episode of The Untouchables.

Telly Savalas

Savalas as bald-headed NYPD Detective, Theo Kojak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So why did bald work for these two when so many other men at the time chose the comb-over? First, they’re both actors, and they’re already confident (I have read in my travels that actors and football players have the highest testosterone counts of all occupations). Second, once they took to the look, they “owned” their baldness and made it work for them. Third, they have good shaped heads that are in proportion to their bodies–this is important.

Shaving one’s head is definitely an alternative if a guy is losing his hair, but shaving your head bald isn’t for everyone. Why? Proportion. I have a small head and I notice that when I put my hair into a tight ponytail, my head looks smaller, and I look out of proportion. Men with small heads who intend to shave their lids should take heed of this; I often see (usually white) men walking around with tiny shaved heads perched above hunched shoulders, their expression embarrassed and apologetic. Just because you’re losing your hair doesn’t mean that you have to shave right down to the wood, fellas; instead leave a 1/8″ or 1/4″ of stubble to break up the visual expanse of skin, and avoid large collars and scarves that can make your head look even smaller.

Probably the most important thing around hair loss is acceptance. I discussed ways to deal with hair loss in my last post, but ultimately gentlemen, it’s all about embracing and making the best of yourself, not making an awkward attempt to hide what is gone and in the past. Jason Kearns says that baldness is a way for modern men to make their lives simple and to deal with hair loss with grace. He offers other alternatives to comb-overs and bald insecurity: “Instead of hiding your bare pate,” he says, “try to work with it and add accessories like interesting eye glasses or a neatly trimmed beard.”Desmond Morris

Desmond Morris said in the Daily Mail  in 2008 that the key to a long life is calmness. If you want a happy and long life, it’s best to relax about things you have no control over, including whether or not your hair will hold out. Don your look with grace, avoid the comb-over, and for goodness’ sake, have a sense of humour about it; it’s not the end of the world.

For a laugh, read this Cracked article: Inside the Mind of a Man With a Comb-Over.

Hair loss

10 Dec
men's hair loss

When faced with hair loss, a man’s confidence may suffer, but it doesn’t have to be this way

When the weather turns cold, my hair falls out; I think a third of it is gone by now. My hair is long and it’s everywhere: under every sleeve of every garment, laced into every towel, caught on every textured surface, and sometimes found  on my plate.

This isn’t just annoying, it causes a certain amount of stress in me because every time I wash and comb out my hair, I pull out what feels like a fistful of strands from my head and from my comb, and it’s something of a shock. Fortunately for me, I know that when the spring comes, the hair will grow back like it always does. That’s for me, a woman, but this isn’t necessarily the case for men.

While women tend to lose their hair from all over their head, men lose their hair in a pattern. According to the American Osteopathic Association, male pattern baldness affects 2 in 3 men. “Despite the fact that male pattern baldness is very common, many men who are faced with hair loss feel embarrassment and have low self-esteem.”

If the AOA is correct and 66% of men experience hair loss, one might think that a brotherhood would form to support other men who lost hair. Instead, I see sad statistics: “60 percent of all bald men are teased at some point in their lives”. Hair loss can be a self-esteem issue to the man in question and a demeaning point of ridicule. eMed Expert lists 16 ways balding can affect people–all negative and some terrible, except for one: bald men are perceived as more intelligent than haired men. However, one positive point out of 16 is not encouraging.

Factors in hair loss

male pattern hair loss

Male pattern baldness

Hair loss usually has a genetic origin, but there are many other factors that contribute to it. Male pattern hair loss happens when hair follicles become smaller and smaller and produce shorter, finer strands, until eventually, no hair grows from the follicles at all. Dr. Philip Ginsberg, a Philadelphia osteopath says that while genetics play a role in male pattern hair loss, the gene can come from either parent (not just the mother, as the myth goes), and that men with hair loss “usually have a high presence of endocrine hormones.” Male pattern hair loss comes in several forms: thinning hair, a receding hairline, hair loss at the crown of the head, and loss in an “M” shape.

“The average person loses 80-100 hair strands a day,” says Jason Kearns of Kearns & Co.hair dressing  in Toronto. He says that besides genetics, there are many factors that affect hair loss: diet, health, hair care routine, and hair tools.

Diet

Kearns’ Colour Director, Aaron O’Bryan, says that everything comes from the inside, and stresses the importance of diet. In his hair blog, he lists some beneficial foods to encourage hair retention:

  • Salmon: Rich in protein and vitamin D which are key in promoting stronger healthier hair;
  • Walnuts: Contain Biotin,vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids–all three help to save your locks;
  • Eggs: Are full of protein and have key minerals like zinc, sulphur, and iron. Iron plays a major role in hair retention as it helps cells carry the oxygen to the hair follicles;
  • Spinach: This has iron, beta carotene, folate, and vitamin C which helps keep hair healthy and scalp oils circulating.

Other dietary suggestions:

  • Gelatin strengthens hair and nails and can be found at drug stores or health food shops. Gelatin is made of boiled animal parts like bones and hooves. Gelatin rhymes with skeleton, says People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and if this doesn’t sit well with you, alternatives to animal gelatin are kosher gelatin (which may or may not contain fish as I just learned), agar, and carrageenan (a seaweed);
  • Essential fatty acids support healthy hair and are found in walnuts, flax seeds, fish, and avocado;
  • Biotin encourages hair and scalp health and is found in nuts, brown rice, and oats;
  • Silica is a natural compound that contains biotin and helps maintain and repair connective tissue, collagen, and promotes bone and wound healing. It is recommended for clear skin and healthy hair. Silica is found in leafy greens, cucumbers, whole grains, beets, and root vegetables, and can be taken in capsule form.

Read more about natural diet options here.

The right tools for the jobhair brush

Gentlemen, be honest about your hair type; its condition has nothing to do with virility. Whatever state your hair is in, treat it right. If it’s fragile (i.e. brittle or thin), be gentle with it and use the right tools for it (i.e. shampoos for fine, thin hair, and a suitable brush for your hair type), if it’s oily, use shampoo for oily hair, if it’s dry, use a shampoo for dry hair, etc.

Kearns suggests to speak to your stylist about the type of brush to use for your type of hair, and keep it clean. Cleaning your brush may seem daunting, but Kearns offers a tip: use dishwashing soap on the brush and rub another brush into it; the hair, dried styling product, and dandruff will come right out.

Brushes with too-close bristles will pull at the hair and pull more strands out. Like a wide-toothed comb, a wide bristle brush is best for wet hair because it won’t snag the weakened strands.

Shampoo

O’Bryan recommends sulphate-free shampoos because sulphates can dry out the hair and scalp. One of his favourites is  Bain Stimuliste in the Kerastase range for thinning hair “to make it look more fabulous and full”. For the more naturally minded, he recommends shampoos that contain biotin like Mill Creek Biotin Shampoo that gives thicker, fuller hair.

He says that regular cleansing is important to keep pores and follicles clean and open for hair growth. In the shower, massage the shampoo into the scalp to increase blood circulation and encourage hair growth. Scalp massages aren’t only for the shower–you can do it yourself while you watch TV or listen to music. A rush of blood to the scalp feels great–dig your fingers right in.

Styling recommendations

Blow-drying your hair can really damage the hair and scalp. Stylists recommend to keep blow-drying to a minimum and air-dry hair if possible. If you do blow dry, keep the heat on medium so as not to damage the hair.

Chemical options

O’Bryan  recommends Rogaine for men (there is also a Rogaine for women, so buy the right one), a foam to be used on hair twice a day. However, as Kearns says, it can be “a very expensive addiction” (i.e. over $100 each month), and  if a man stops using Rogaine, whatever hair he gained during the time he used it will fall out once he stops.

Like Rogaine, O’Bryan suggests Finasteride/Proscar for genetically-inherited hair loss. This drug is taken orally and the treatment provides about a thirty percent improvement after six months of use. Like Rogaine, Finasteride only works as long as the drug is taken. If this option for you, gents, learn from O’Bryan’s experience: “I absolutely noticed a major difference with this tablet which was way more affordable than other options, but I was one of those unlucky ones who lost his sex drive–definitely not worth the risk in my book–but only a small percentage of men suffer from this.”

Permanent solutions 

For those of you who can afford it and want to do something permanent about your hair loss, there are options like hair plugs and transplants, but these are expensive (i.e. several thousand dollars) and may not be feasible for everyone.

Wigs and hair pieces are not popular with the stylists (nor image consultants like me). Hair pieces are not frivolous accessories like a bright pair of socks or a cool man bag to go with different outfits; when people see you, they assume your hair is real, so if you have a full head of hair one day and a bare pate the next, this is quite a shock to people. Some may even consider it dishonest.

Jason Kearns isn’t so hung up on proactive hair loss measures. As a man who has lost most of his hair by now, he stands by the idea of aging gracefully and owning the fact that your hair is gone. “The consolation for men who lose their hair,” he says, “is that he’ll never have to go through it again.”

Watch the Sirius XM video of Kearns and O’Bryan on hair loss here.

Terry Crews: What Makes A Man 2014

27 Nov

I was lucky enough to attend the What Makes A Man (#wmam2014) conference in Toronto this week. Thewhat makes a man 2014 two-day conference was stuffed with speakers and presentations discussing the state of masculinity, road maps to manhood, and ending violence against women. There were some excellent discussions and ideas presented by writers such as Rachel Giese and Junior Burchell, a panel on mental health and masculinity, and fantastic closing session with TV actor (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Everybody Hates Chris, Who Wants To Be A Millionare?) , former NFL player, and the Old Spice guy, Terry Crews.

Journalist and TV personality, Nam Kiwanuka, discussed manhood with Crews who spoke very freely about his childhood when he witnessed his father’s violence toward his mother, his anger, his terrible behaviour to his wife and family, and his porn addiction. Now Terry Crews is a man redeemed; he has seen the toxic  masculine code turn him and many other men into a stoic, angry, and aggressive men,and he recognizes how destructive this attitude was to his family. Mr. Crews made no move to hide his tears when he described the pain and the shame of mentally and emotionally abusing his daughter, and the relief that never came the day he beat his father out of revenge for the abuse given to his mother.

As I sat in the third row with tears in my eyes, what I saw before me was not a big, powerful football player or an American TV star. I saw a human being. Terry Crews is a real and grounded man who expresses himself naturally and believes that when men show their true feelings, they display strength, not weakness.

I want you to watch a few minutes of Terry Crews speaking to the Huffington Post. Here, he gives his views on anger, the NFL, Ray Rice, and domestic violence; the toxic mindset of hypermasculinity that teaches men that they are of more worth than women, and his strong belief in gender equality. I’d like to thank Terry for his courage and his inspiration, and bringing gender and masculine violence into the light.