Gay men picked up the bald look from bodybuilders in the 1980s. "For gay guys, this has been around for a long time," Mr. Papapetrou says. "But women have decided they don't want to be in areas where hair is out of control either, so all men are taking it up."
A while back, my cousin, a B.C. logger, attended a drunken university party in Prince George. Somehow over the course of the night, most of the male revellers ended up naked. "They were all laughing at me," my cousin says. "I'm a mess down there and they all had these perfectly groomed little triangles."
Style preferences vary. "I know guys who shave all the way down," Mr. Papapetrou says. "Others leave a bit."
The main advantage is obvious, he says. "It makes it look bigger. It's like the rock underneath the grass when you trim your lawn. Things poke through."
By the end of Ashley's chest-waxing job, the pain had subsided from throbbing inferno to smouldering burn. Ashley told me to avoid sun and chlorine for 24 hours and to exfoliate my chest with a loofah. She then rubbed me with soothing azulene oil before sending me on my way. The final cost: $45. And my pride. I looked ridiculous, a clear line at the base of my pecs segregating bare chest from shaggy belly. I needed product.
I drove to a Shoppers Drug Mart and discreetly slipped Parissa male waxing strips, Nair for Men and a loofah into my basket. They would join the Bodygroom I already had in my apartment. I didn't look the cashier in the eye.
At home, locked away in my bathroom, I unloaded my loot.
Nair for Men has the consistency of mayonnaise. The directions say to smother the hair with the slop for five minutes and then wipe off with a towel. What the directions don't mention is the reek of burning hair. I gave up before I'd reached my belly button.
Personal waxing strips sound like a nice idea. By bringing the wax experience home, men can both avoid the spa costs and the risk of striking a Mariah Carey falsetto in front of complete strangers. But there's one problem. Most people's brains are hard-wired against the self-infliction of pain, especially pain emanating from the breadbasket. And so, with the wax warm and the strip set somewhere between the top of my thigh and the base of my stomach, I froze. After several false starts, I peeled the strip away slowly, too slowly to lift any hair. A sticky green rectangle remained on my skin. I tried another strip, and then another. With several strips in the trash, I was no less hairy.
My quest for a marble smooth pelt seemed doomed to fail. My skin was a tacky, irritated mess. I staked all remaining hope on the Bodygroom with its shiny steel head and streamlined design. Starting with the longest of three length attachments, I buzzed the trimmer back and forth over the remaining wisps a few inches below my belly button. Maybe I could salvage a nice triangle. But nothing happened. I opted for the next attachment down, and then the next. Finally, I tossed aside the length attachments altogether. Just steel on follicle. Bad idea.
While the bare Bodygroom shears smooth skin with relative ease, its rigid head doesn't easily adapt very well to contours. When it meets skin with the furrows of, say, a Shar Pei, the Bodygroom has a tendency to pinch. I haven't taken it out of its box since.
In the mirror I looked part mange-ridden dog, part chicken pox sufferer. My chest was aflame with little red dots. The rest was a blotchy patchwork of red skin and curls.
Later that day, I walked around my neighbourhood. Unencumbered by wooly insulation, I could actually feel a breeze through my shirt. But my chest burned. My gut reeked. Everything else itched.