How much vanity is too much vanity? In the age of the Metrosexual, men seem more comfortable with things that used to be considered the sole province of women – massages, manicures, hair coloration. Shows about plastic surgery are on TV, and in the common discourse. We all know that looks are important – for a man or for a woman. They affect the way people respond to us, as well as how we see ourselves, and our level of self-confidence. They affect our careers and our personal life. Pretty tough to get that job as a network anchor without a pretty face, and, for all the talk we hear about character, most beautiful women seem to be with good looking – or very rich – men. So we work out – because that also make you healthy – and we spend some time – but not too much – on dressing right. But where do we draw the line? Plastic surgery is a fundamental change, different in nature from other changes. First of all, it relies primarily on the skills of someone other than yourself – you select your own clothing and probably chose your workout routine, but the skill of the plastic surgeon will control the results of your surgery.
Manly vanity is certainly nothing new, and has probably been around, in one form or the other, as long as female vanity. Modern men are probably no more vain, perhaps less so, than the men of the 18th century, with their powdered hair and wigs. But somehow those men still managed to read serious books, and think serous thoughts. For a variety of reasons, modern male vanity, combined with trends in the media and elsewhere, have combined to almost completely distract modern men from any serious contemplation of deep or profound ideas, although such ideas are no less, perhaps more, relevant than they have been in centuries past. The great intellectual leveling that has taken place means that even the graduates of elite universities seem to have almost no interest in ideas, but a great interest in getting ahead through whatever means are available to advance their careers. There is nothing inherently wrong with vanity, unless it becomes such a distraction, or obsession, that one loses focus on the more important things of life.
But is our problem simply that plastic surgery, unlike clothing and working out, is a new idea? Or do we object because real men simply aren’t willing to go to those lengths to make themselves more attractive – and would rather rely on humor, force of will, intelligence, personality, and other factors? A large part of being a gentleman is to know how much time, energy, and money to devote to superficial things, like appearance, and how much to focus on those things of more substance. And where to draw that line depends to a large extent on your own personal circumstances.
If there is a single feature of your body or face, perhaps the result of a birth defect or accident, that really bothers you, and distracts you from more fundamental things, by all means, if feasible, have it changed to your liking. But real men don’t fine tune their face or body; make the most of what you have, and move on to face the bigger, and more interesting issues, of being a manly man in the modern world.