Masculinity Reduction Surgery

On Tuesday, we talked about what it means to be a woman. Today, let’s examine what passes for being a man. According to the Wall Street Journal:

more men are opting for plastic surgery and other enhancements to lift droopy necks, excise excess body fat, and pin back protruding ears.

Younger men are increasingly viewing cosmetic procedures — generally not covered by insurance — as an acceptable way to make themselves more attractive, or correct embarrassing or unmanly features.

The subject of the article wanted to please his enchanting fiancee, who “playfully” suggested that she’d rather be flayed alive than be captured on film next to someone as repulsive as her 59-year-old husband-to-be. “I’m basically marrying his bank account,” she purred, smoothing her nylon hair off her bronzed, frozen forehead. “So why should I have to look at his neck for the entire six months before I file for divorce? I mean, I have some standards!”

All right, that wasn’t an exact quote. What the worthy lady did say was that she “didn’t want wedding pictures ‘with that big old saggy chin.’” Nice! I think that same line occurred in the Divine Comedy, when Beatrice was speaking about the nature of true womanhood.

It does not seem to have occurred to her that a marriage founded on such nakedly loathsome priorities will fall to pieces long before the average Polaroid has a chance to develop anyway, so who cares if his chin blots out the entire wedding party?

What I mean to say is, didn’t there used to be men in this country? Men have always been vain, certainly, but one of their most endearing features has always been that most men will be vain for no particular reason. Haven’t you seen one of those 60-year-old behemoths on the beach, proceeding imperially down the shoreline like a glorious Adonis, even though his rock-hard, hairy, sunburned, hassock-sized belly alone takes up more property than the typical starter home? But he doesn’t care! He is who he is, and he’s going to strut his stuff.

I’m not even kidding: That is what I like about men. They don’t give a damn. Their neck bulges over the back of their collar? So what? Their ears are hairy, their hands are rough, they snore and make noise and take up lots of space. That is what men are supposed to be like, and if they are going to start frowning into the magnifying mirror and getting all teary when bathing suit season comes around, then we might as well just call it a day. Good night, America. Sorry, Ben Franklin. It was a pretty good country, but it’s over now.

So how did we get here? The generation of men who were perfectly at home with homeliness hasn’t even completely died off yet, for pete’s sake. Wrinkles, rough skin, bow legs, calluses and crow’s feet—these used to be the signs of masculinity, the evidence that a life had been lived. It was in the late 1950s that things began to change, and we saw less John Wayne and more Wayne Newton. Now leg and chest waxing, manicures, and highlights are commonplace for people previously known as as guys. Botox? Why not? They don’t even feel the need to make discreet appointments anymore, because everyone’s doing it.

How did we get here? In my entirely unscientific opinion, something else happened in the ‘50s, when men started making appointments with their doctors for a different procedure. And once it became common, there was no particular reason for men to look like men. One word, and I’ll give you a hint: It starts with “v-a-s.”

Ooh, sorry, neutered guys, did that hurt your widdle feelings? THAT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT A MAN.

You think I’m exaggerating, but explain to me how it is that one in six American men can voluntarily have his manhood made meaningless, and then have any motivation whatsoever to appear to be a man in any other way. I know that there’s more to men than two little vasa deferentia. Virility isn’t everything. But it’s not nothin’, either. And giving it up intentionally—paying someone to do this to you!—is the saddest, sickest, most terrifying symptom of despair I can think of.

You’ve heard that, by age 40, you have the face you deserve. So now it’s 2011, and America has the men it deserves. You don’t have to look like a 40-year-old; you don’t have to be 40-year-old man. You don’t even have to be a man at all. You can sign away your very power to give life, so why not smooth away those marks of age and experience? It’s all superfluous anyway. If you’re going to bow out of life, you might as well make a pretty corpse.

At least Esau got a mess of pottage when he sold his birthright. What does the modern castrato get? One fabulous wedding photo before he dies.