Anthony Weiner: What does the pretty boy congressman's lack of chest hair signify about the current ideal of male…

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June 10 2011 4:01 PM

Pretty Boys

A few thoughts on Anthony Weiner's lack of chest hair.

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In any case, let's suppose that the filmic '50s actually ended in 1962, when a modestly hirsute Sean Connery hit the beach as Her Majesty's Sex Symbol in Dr. No. Then let's go a step a further and credit the British, generally, with encouraging furry fronts. The phrase "chest toupee" has appeared in the New York Times exactly twice, first in a 1966 Russell Baker column classing that hairpiece as a London fad to rank with the miniskirt. (The other occurred, seven itchy years later, in a humorous travel article about how to impersonate an Italian.) "What explains this English obsession with hair?" Baker wondered. I don't care—nor do I want to peer too deeply into the flocculence of an era that sometimes equated unruliness with liberated authenticity, as embodied by, say, Joe Namath.

I will point out, however, that the muscle-culture action heroes of '80s Hollywood wore no hair on their chests; that when Daniel Craig is shirtless as 007, he is clean from chin to treasure trail; and that an agonized chest-waxing is now a common trope in popular entertainments that dare to reckon with postmodern masculinity. The torture-by-tonsure scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a certified classic; The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt, a recent memoir by the cross-dressing book-party animal Jon-Jon Goulian, finds the author likening his first waxing to a moment in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle where a Japanese soldier is skinned alive. Trends in menswear—high and low, from the plunging necklines of Milan menswear to the American Apparel deep V-neck—would seem to reward those who believe, "No pain, no urbane." This is not mention that a race of people plugged into smartphones and MP3 players all day long are closer to machines than to animals and that it is only fitting they should be as glabrous as androids.

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What does all of this mean for Weiner? Try considering his perfidy in light of Skinner's Weekly Standard thoughts on non-piliferousness: "What has been lost as the hairless man, an eternal boy, has become our male ideal? Real romance, for one significant thing. The hairless man is perhaps searching for romance, but only insofar as it supplies self-fulfillment." This strikes me as prescient. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to pluck the first gray strand I've ever noticed on my sternum.

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