Women have long been subjected to a wildly unrealistic expectation of beauty. The advertising and marketing industry has capitalized on the obsessions and insecurities of women for decades. Multi-million dollar campaigns pushing the newest age-defying moisturizer or flaunting the latest breakthrough in weight loss have flooded the pages of magazines and our TV screens.
Even mainstream marketing towards heterosexual men most often uses the insatiable sex appeal of perfect women that can act like an indirect reminder to the mother at home that her wrinkles are showing and her thighs shouldn’t touch. But now, as the almighty gay dollar is becoming more and more recognized, the unrealistic idea of male beauty has emerged. You might want to hold on to your wallets, boys, because it is your finances that are now in the crosshairs.
It isn’t breaking news that a healthy portion of the Dallas gay male population has always strived to look more like a comic book character and less like a real man. Most gay men at least have a gym membership card attached to their key ring as a reminder that they aren’t there and can name at least three luxury skin care brands. Although we may not be cornering the cosmetic market anytime soon, the advertising practices of numerous products and services have increasingly taken on a homo-slant. Why? Because the advertising industry has discovered that gay men are just as susceptible to the youth delusion as women.
So what does the perfectly impossibly A-list gay man resemble? Well, it’s a sort of amalgamation of Anderson Cooper’s face with the body of someone from Magic Mike. We are supposed to be impossibly wealthy and ripped to pieces yet somehow frozen at the age of 25. The money can be a little more than difficult to come by. But the appearance of having it all — let’s just say some Dallas boys have mastered the art of illusion.
But now, mainstream marketing has smelled our desire to look like an action star and it has taken note. Just across the street from Equinox, a new business has opened up that is geared toward the male client and promises that you will look better, feel better and, indeed, live better. I walked into this new business, with the cleverly ambiguous name of Thrive, thinking that it would be just another “wellness” center offering Botox, Restylane and the like. Although it is injections that they are touting, they are not the kind that you put in your face.
Thrive brings to Dallas the latest trend in youth preservation with an emphasis on the male client. Their product is simple — custom tailored hormone injections that will make you feel stronger, increase your sexual appetite and be the trick up your sleeve come pool season. Once I realized that this place was the injection fountain of youth, I figured I was probably not the ideal client. But was I ever wrong! Even at the age of 30, I was a prime candidate for a host of treatments that they would be happy to stick me with. As tempting as a boost to my muscles and manhood sounded, it was just one step too far.
Although I escaped the allure of designer hormones (at least for the day), the pressure to appear perfect never felt so tangible. The experience forced me to step back and assess the behaviors of my peers and myself and wonder how well we balance quality of life, the content of our character and the quest for perfect abs.
Of course, there are many homosexuals that do not subscribe to the Men’s Fitness version of what a man should look like. Even those who could very well be on the cover of the next issue may often demonstrate some of the richest character of all. But I challenge anyone to deny the pressure that the Dallas Gay Culture places on its subjects. I will be the first to admit, I contribute to the problem.
I constantly worry about my diet and beat myself up every time I accidentally inhale a batch of brownies.
The value of my fancy gym membership takes way too much precedence when considering my not so fancy budget. I maintain a four-season bronzed glow (thank you, Tom Ford). And even though fashion has never been much of a priority, I catch myself coveting the labels that so many of my friends adore. As Dallas is one of the premiere markets for fashion, fitness, plastic surgery and cosmetics, it appears I am in good company.
Of course, none of these traits do a monster make. But the failure to recognize that these vain indulgences are just that, vain, can lead to some pretty gruesome characters. The boy who won’t eat a single carb and looks at you with disgust when you do, even at his own birthday. The guy you dated that could never meet you for dinner during the week because it interrupted his two-hour gym session. The group of friends that only will hang out with people who look and act like them. These people are real, and whether you like it or not, they have the ability to impact your life.
So how do you protect yourself from your inner narcissist? The answer is easy. Learn to recognize when you feed into your vanity and focus instead on what makes your presence beautiful to be around — not just something pretty to look at. We all strive to be the best versions of ourselves, but the impact you have on the lives around you will linger much longer than how great you looked at last weekend’s pool party. No matter how perfect you mold your image to be, someone will always look better, dress better and appear more “perfect” than you. So take time to enjoy the things that matter and, for heaven’s sake, eat a piece of cake on your birthday.
After all, designer hormones may be able to stimulate muscle growth and boost your libido, but there is no injection for a bad sense of humor.