Slice of Life: Demistifying the metrosexual

Metrorail? Innovative. Metrobus? Even better. Metrosexuality? Never. There are many things the city-savvy student body at GW is willing to try. But when it comes to metrosexuality, students seem less accepting. Sure, we have a fairly large gay and bisexual population, but when it comes to those guys who do not mind showing a little chest hair in the American Apparel deep V-necks, our reaction is the same as when we encounter a thermonuclear equation on a chemistry test: “Whaaaaaa?!”

Perhaps our confusion lies in the combination of “metro” and “sexual.” Metrosexuality is a 21st century neologism that has absolutely nothing to do with a man’s sexual preference. Instead it is a marketing term first used in the early 1990s by British journalist Mark Simpson. It describes a growing demographic of heterosexual male consumers heavily invested in their personal appearance. Sometimes marked by vanity or a shopping addiction, metrosexuality has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality. What, then, becomes of the guys who represent the heather gray metallics of the social spectrum?

Not understanding this emerging group may also come from our inability to neatly categorize the men who sport tight polos and do not mind spending the day shopping in Georgetown, but still will not hesitate to hit on our roommates. Girls, we get. My girl friends are the ones who critique my work outfits, laugh with me at reality shows and back me up when my new guy is being a class-A jerk. Guys, we understand. My guy friends will not dare leave the room during a college football game, would rather die than help me pick out the perfect pair of heels for a night out and will never cease to ask about that “hot chick” who once met us for dinner. Categorizing our friends – knowing whom we can invite over for chick flick night, and who would rather watch an all-girls pillow fight – has been key to arranging our social lives. When these two gender roles collide, we get something of that heather gray metallic area – a social conundrum in which male is female and female is male and nothing except everything goes.

Sometimes, though, it is not the social categorization that sends our heads spinning. Metrosexuals themselves have a hard time pinning down exactly where they fit in. A friend of mine once lamented to me about the troubles of fitting in. He loves Club Monaco and the arts, but girls, and even his close guy friends, often mistake him for being “girly.” Is this a lasting reverie from our high school tendencies to break down the social dynasty into the same old jock, cheerleader, geek, Breakfast Club-esque groupings, or a normal part of the social process? My girl friends do not seem to be able to grasp the idea, either. We like going out with our metrosexual friends because we feel protected. They feel like “just one of the girls.” However, it is hard for us to identify where that line lies. In the back of our minds, we wonder, “When you are giving me the once-over, are you staring at my breasts or trying to figure out if my sweater is 100 percent cashmere?”

Today we are at a point where women are allowed, and even encouraged to pursue male-like tendencies (thank you to Diane Keaton’s stellar Tuxedo get-ups.) What’s more, the woman’s “statement” pieces for the fall are a blazer and a male-inspired trouser pant. Women are encouraged to blur gender lines while men are encouraged to stay on one side.

I am in favor of men taking more pride in their appearance. However, I do admit it is entirely possible to take metrosexuality too far. What I am asking for is an acceptance and serious consideration of the lifestyle of a metrosexual. If you cannot tell your Chuck Taylor from Chuck Close, that’s fine. If SportsCenter stirs up more enthusiasm for you than the latest post by the Sartorialist, I’ll deal with it. But since we girls work hard to manage our general upkeep, it is nice to see a little effort from the other side.

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