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Ladies alas, the time has come. We are no longer alone. The number of straight men who are converting to the cult of image conscious vanity is on the rise. Carefully constructed ad campaigns and marketing schemes are swiftly shattering the upscale man's immunity to the appeal of fashion and cosmetics. These new and improved specimens who know the difference between Boss and Zegna, groom impeccably and train incessantly are known as metrosexuals. According to Mark Simpson, a British journalist who coined the term in 1994, "a typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis-because that is where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference." With all due respect to Mr. Simpson, for the purposes of this article I will use the term "metrosexual" only when referring to straight men that are in touch with their feminine side. (In my opinion gay and bisexual men have navigated the high waters of vanity for too long to qualify as part of this new phenomenon.)

The metrosexual's unstoppable rise from the ashes of the archaic macho man was triggered by the surge towards increased equality. Egalitarian tectonic shifts that rearranged the ground layers of our culture and society changed the way women and men interact. As female professionals began to contend and succeed in traditionally male vocations, it became apparent that men would have to work harder to stay in the game. Nowadays if men want to play the part, they have to look the part; let me tell you, an Ivy League educated femme fatale decked out in a Chanel suit is no easy competition. A sleek competent look, a carefully sculpted body, a buffed blemish free complexion and skillfully texturized hair are absolutely necessary to earn the kill in today's corporate jungle.

However achieving an edge in the workplace is not the only incentive for a man to take greater interest in his appearance. Living up to the expectations and desires of the modern, independent, educated women is another reason. I personally cannot seem to wander into a single bachelor pad these days and not see stacks of GQ, Esquire and Maxim piled on the bathroom floor. The winds of change are indeed in the air. My college friends whose understanding of a respectable outfit comprised of a pair of flip-flops and sweatshirts that read "Stanford University Football" are beginning to invest in Dolce and Gabbana pinstripe suits and Gucci camel cashmere coats. According to Roberto Olivarda, clinical instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, "there are now tons of magazines dedicated to men's bodies and they have the same

formula-which is look good, get more sex, get more women." Though I do not agree with Mr. Olivarda's over-simplification of this complex matter, I see merit in his argument. These magazines that give men advice on style, health and grooming are definitely promoting the idea that physical appearance and attracting the opposite sex are two intertwined issues. Side note: Let's face it, all males are driven by the natural urge to find a suitable mate, so that they can disseminate their seed (translation: all men want to get laid). But to be completely honest I cannot see what is so wrong with doing both sexes a service by letting uninformed straight males find out that clothes adorned with food stains, hairy backs, chipped dirty toe nails and body odor fall desperately short of turning on the ladies. Therefore I fully support the onslaught of commercials geared towards bringing down the age-old fortress of fashionably challenged, unhygienic, un-moisturized heterosexuality. Call me crazy, but I would take the cologne smelling metrosexual decked out in a Turnbull & Asser cashmere cardigan and designer jeans over the slob passed out on the couch, drooling into the pizza box balanced on his beer belly any day of the week.

Having said all this I would like to pose the million-dollar question, "Where do we draw the line?" As much as I like the idea of a living in a world surrounded by David Beckhames-que studs, do I really want my boyfriend turning into an uncontrollable bulimic so he can fit into a Hedi Slimane suit? The book "The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession" argues that body image disorders are spreading like wildfire among straight men. To me this kind of behavior constitutes an overt display of identity crisis. So, I would like to amend the statement I made in the last paragraph and say that metrosexuals are welcome as long as they can maintain self-confidence and most importantly self-respect.

How long is the self-life of the metrosexual? According to Jonathan Threw, the author of the brilliant satire "I love me so much," "The only problem facing the metrosexual in an otherwise carefree existence is the inescapable effects of aging. If 30 is 45 in gay years, then 26 is retirement age for the metrosexual-and no amount of biotechnological, re-hydrating, whale sperm dermo-care can alter that." I am not so sure I agree. I am a firm believer in lifelong pampering and maintenance. I think the idea that men should just stop trying when time catches up with them is ridiculous. (We all know that women don't) Even if an aging man is against cosmetic surgery or Botox, I don't see why he can't dress like a refined gentleman, groom and exercise regularly? Take Sean Connery for instance. He truly is the older metrosexual.

Euro RSCG Worldwide (one of the largest marketing firms in the world) conducted a study last summer on the "future of men in the US" and proclaimed, "most American men are leaning towards metrosexuality." It seems like the metrosexual is here to stay. Though many are considering the metrosexual's genesis to be nothing more than a major triumph for consumer capitalism, I beg to differ; his arrival heralds the dawn of a new era. Finally, we women will be able to enjoy the friendship and companionship of men who can please us with the aesthetics of their looks, flatter us with the sensuality of their touch, feed us with the help of their culinary skills and relate to us with the depth of their knowledge. Who could possibly say no to that?