August 25, 2004

Narcissus on the Prowl
By Jonathan Yardley

The term 'metrosexual' was coined in 1994 by Mark Simpson, Peter Hyman reports, “a British queer theorist who used the word to satirize the phenomenon of 'strays' -- gay-acting straight men who, with their disposable incomes and consumeristic obsessions, were shopping in record numbers in London.” Hyman himself defines it (and in so doing defines himself) as “a dandyish heterosexual narcissist in love with not only himself, but also his urban lifestyle; a straight man who is in touch with his feminine side.”

Peter Hyman -- the name is genuine, though its multiple double entendres make it sound like a nom de plume -- lives not in London but in New York, and lives the metrosexual life with what he claims are mixed feelings. He is, he says, a metrosexual "reluctantly," as he explains:

"By this I mean that the buzzword has been foisted upon me, and even as I accept that some of its parameters may accurately describe me, I prefer to play the snarky contrarian. And of course, given the title of this [book], it is in my interest to disavow the trend as a marketing construct, but to do so in a way that allows me to embrace certain aspects of it with cagey ambivalence. As with metrosexuality itself, my position is more a posture than it is a legitimate identity."