Tough Love From Your True Love

September Men's Room

Hello there, fellow middle-aged man.

The lady in your life has asked you to read this because she’s concerned.

First of all, please know this: She honors the fact that you’ve been busy since graduation. With all of your work and family commitments, plus volleyball on Tuesday nights, the years pass quickly, and it’s easy to forget that your twenties ended long ago.

You know this already?

Well, if that’s the case, she wonders, why do you still dress like a frat boy who delivers pizzas on the weekends?

You’re about to close this magazine, toss it dismissively onto the coffee table, and head out to eat chicken wings and watch the big game. However, on behalf of your better half, I implore you to please read on, my brother.

You see, when we were young and fit, we got away with wearing whatever we wanted, but our bodies have changed since we were rocking out to the Spin Doctors and Blind Melon. Gravity has done a number on us. That tribal tattoo encircling your bicep is distorted in an off-putting, funhouse mirror sort of way.

So while back in your twenties, you looked great rocking a dirty Lollapalooza T-shirt, baggy jeans, flip-flops, and three days of scruff. When you dress like that these days, parents hug their children a little closer as you pass by.

And while we’re on the subject of flip-flops, here’s a simple rule: Wear them with shorts or a bathing suit, only during summer months, and buy a new pair each year. If you have chronic toenail fungus or ugly feet, flip-flops are not for you.

And while we’re on the subject of hygiene, you may not have noticed the thorny greying sprouts emerging from your ears and nostrils. But your lady has. And she’s sick of them.

Oh, am I being harsh? Are your precious little feelings getting hurt?

Man up, pal. Buy some clippers, hit the bathroom, and make them go away. All of them. You don’t get points for aimless swiping. Be methodical. If you can paint a door or change your oil, you have the technical agility necessary to thoroughly expunge hair from a nostril.

(And don’t even try complaining about the time and effort or the expense of new grooming appliances. She’s been shaving and waxing and trimming for years and doesn’t want your whining.)

Last thing. And this is important. As the sharp shame of this wakeup call fades, you may feel an urgent impulse to take it upon yourself to make drastic updates to your grooming and wardrobe. Avoid this at all costs. You risk falling prey to inadvisable current trends like ultra- skinny jeans or the dreaded man bun. Let the woman in your life be your guide toward age-appropriate fashions and grooming styles. Trust me, you’ll both be a lot happier.

See, dude, that wasn’t so bad, was it? I’m glad we could have this little talk.


Dylan Patterson is a writer and filmmaker who teaches English at Cape Fear Community College.


To view more of illustrator Mark Weber's work, visit