She tells me it won't hurt, that none of her clients, mainly Bay Street suits, have ever screamed. And she tells me that the most painful movie scene in the history of man - the one in The 40-Year-Old Virgin where the titular character howls in agony after having his chest hair torn off with a wax strip - was done all wrong.
"That was a demonstration of exactly what not to do," assures Ashley Cox, a manager at The Men's PowerSpa in Toronto, as she uses a tongue depressor to spread a layer of blue goop, warmed to body temperature, over my left pectoral. The goop is chamomile wax. "It's soothing ... calming," the petite 21-year-old says.
Soon she starts patting an eight-inch cotton strip over the goop with latex gloves. I see her pinch the end of the strip and raise her elbow, like a gunslinger ready to draw. I dig my fingernails into the foam mattress, determined not to be the first screamer.
Torture has become a hallmark of modern male grooming. After decades of gazing at magazine covers and sports competitions featuring ripped, hairless models of the male form, the average man has given up the hope that the Burt Reynolds type will ever again be a sex symbol. And so we are manscaping - snipping, shaving, waxing and burning away our weedy thickets of body hair.
"For men, hair removal has become the equivalent of putting on a suit," says Peter Papapetrou, a Toronto fashion stylist. "There's something very polished about it. The perfect male form has that smooth look and the average guy is taking notice."
Grooming companies are catching on. Last month, Philips Norelco launched the Bodygroom, an electric shaver designed for trimming delicate male bits south of the Adam's apple, in Canada.
In the United States, the Bodygroom has become the company's second-most popular grooming product.
There's also depilatory cream for men, waxing strips for men and even a Bodygroom competitor - the Mangroomer, an electric shaver on a stick designed for those hard-to-reach tufts.
And for those who have hang-ups about hovering reciprocating metal blades over their own nether regions, male-only spas have found homes in every major city.
"A day doesn't go by that someone doesn't come in for hair removal," says Ian Sutherland, owner of Mann, a male spa in Montreal. "They can be anyone from businessmen to construction workers."
At PowerSpa, male hair removal has become the most popular service after massage and hand treatments with requests ranging from back hair cleanup to the Boyzillian (the male Brazilian).
Such a frightening trend must undergo a proper journalistic audit. So, over the course of one day, I waxed, razored and doused with chemicals parts of my body from shoulder to knee. Yes, even those parts. Which brings me back to Ashley.
The only thing I remember after the sound of ripping flesh is a half-scream, half-groan I try so hard to muffle that I would wake the next morning with a sore jaw. Rivulets of blood burble up through empty follicles. "Not so bad, is it?" says Ashley.
"No, just burns a little," I lie.
"Now, did you just want your chest done, or your whole front side?" she says.
"Just the chest. Please just the chest." The rest I would save for myself.
Up until recently, most men would deny keeping any kind of manscaping routine while secretly turning razors and facial trimmers into rudimentary body mowers. My first brush with manscaping came in first year at Simon Fraser University when I started playing hockey in a Vancouver men's league. In the dressing room, I noticed that I was the hairiest one on the team. At age 18, I was also the youngest. Must be genetics, I thought.
That same year, I secretly began using my roommate's electric shaver on my beard. It worked well, until he caught me one day. "I use that to shave my nuts," he said between bursts of laughter. I finally grasped how common, and how secretive, the whole manscaping phenomenon had become.Report Typo/Error