Archive - June, 2010

Men’s health – the lower back

The topic of today is the upkeep of the male body, more specifically, an aching back.

First, let us dispense with problems in the extremities. Apart from pattern baldness, failing eyesight, tinnitus, tooth decay, receding gums, moles, wens, basal cell carcinomas and diminished cognitive function, the head really doesn’t suffer much from age. Be sure to wear a sunhat.

Men rarely have issues concerning hands and arms. Find some upper body workout you don’t mind doing, and do it with regularity. Watch out for free weights. They are waiting to ruin your joints.

Because feet, knees, and hips suffer normal wear and tear, they require special attention. Some men are lucky and don’t get sore feet. If like mine yours are always aching, take a class from a dance instructor and learn how dancers warm up. Do this warm-up every morning in the shower and your feet will function properly.

There are only three sure-fire cures for backache. One is whiskey. Another is downhill skiing. The third and finest of all is found behind closed doors with an enthusiastic partner. Unless your partner suffers from nymphomania, in which case I don’t want to hear from you, you’ve got to find a daily substitute.

The pelvic thrust – what ladies refer to as the pelvic “tilt” – is the single best exercise for the back and stomach. This, too, you can do in the shower.

As you bend into a half squat, reach your hands forward as if grasping something, then while pulling the arms and shoulders back thrust the pelvis forward slowly and strongly as far as you can push, holding it in position for a moment before repeating.

Because I find it helps to visualize, here are a few pictures to help your focus.

Trilby with irony

Lately the sidewalks of New York are abloom in colorful Trilby hats ornamenting the uncoiffed heads of young white indie boys affecting a style derived from blues and jazz men.

It’s a look that could be called nouvelle beatnik.

The look says, “I don’t wear this hat because I need to cover my head like some old bald guy (although in truth my hair is a fresh-out-of-bed mess). This hat radiates insouciance and cool. It advertises that I am in the know and am self-confident enough to be sartorially ironic.

“If I wear a Trilby, it’s not a smart gray one with white hatband like Sinatra’s. Mine is purple corduroy. Get it? I like this style because it’s the farthest from handsome I can possibly imagine. (My grandfather wore one, but his was black rabbit fur.) For me this hat is bohemian and beat, ironic and flip, camp and cool.

“I channel Robert Johnson, greatest of blues legends. I channel Frank Sinatra, greatest of vocal stylists. I would never sport Buster Keaton’s comical porkpie hat, even if Lester Young wore one. [And nobody ever had a cooler sound than Lester Young.] Dude, comedy is not irony. And who listens to Lester Young these days anyhow?”

The brief on underpants

Underpants – a comic masterpiece of a word. Just try maintaining a serious tone when saying the word “underpants.” In Britain you can’t even say “pants” without getting a clever-clever rejoinder. For them, pants are garments worn under trousers.

The German word for panties is “panties,” which when pronounced with a German accent sounds very, very naughty.

It’s difficult to know how to frame the argument about underpants. Boxers or briefs? Surely this is a false dichotomy. To me, boxers just don’t do the trick. They feel like shortie pajamas.

Unless you are seriously underweight, jockey briefs will chafe and bind. In the male the connection twixt thigh and torso is already cluttered. There simply isn’t room for bunches of cloth.

I’m not arguing that we should all “go commando.” Underpants offer a beneficial buffer to sharp stitches and creases inside trousers.

Women who wear thong panties solve this problem in the most uncomfortable way imaginable. How can they stand to walk the streets tortured by a constant wedgie? A scold’s bridle or chastity belt would be less punishing.

Male bikinis barely cover the topic.

Aren’t bikini underpants for men another conspiracy designed to make us all buy French fashion products? Honestly, does a real guy need fragrance, facial foundation, designer luggage or a man purse?

A man needs to support his parts. He owes them that much. Like participles, testicles should not be dangling. Neither should they be tucked up tight like a ladyboy. Body heat causes ache – the dreaded blue balls of yesteryear – not to mention decreases sperm count.

Personally I like the Calvin Klein boxer brief, the greatest sartorial invention of the 20th century. They offer kind support without unsettling the groin.

As for color, Russell Baker said that underwear, like bed sheets and dinner plates, should be white.

Napping Book of Rule

Like voting in Florida, napping is an activity to be pursued early and often.

However, to call napping an activity perhaps may be a misnomer. Napping is to activity as atheism is to faith or NASCAR is to contemplation, that is, something defined by its absence.

Friends and valued family members label me a nap master, a compliment I accept with both humility and pride. For me, a nap is critical to good health and happiness. Furthermore, napping promotes the general welfare. Because it acts directly to reduce hostility, I believe there is patriotism in napping.

America’s Protestant forebears extolled the value of industry, by which they meant labor. (Pilgrims were a little fuzzy on economic theory.) They placed equal value on ideas of rugged individualism, “Don’t Tread on Me,” taming the wild frontier, winning the West, and so on. In America you’ve got to be your own man, by jiminy, follow a different drum, plant a seed, and stand on the shoulders of giants.

Speaking from personal experience, I would argue that every one of these tasks causes backache, which is easily remedied by a nap.

Accordingly, here is my napping Book of Rule.

  1. Find a hiding place far from your significant other. What she doesn’t know won’t create a rankling in her breast.
  2. Remove garments with elastic at the waist. The belly is the seat of repose, or very near to it.
  3. Cover the eyes and ears with a dense, soft, old piece of clothing, known in my household as “the head rag.”
  4. Place a bolster under your knees. Aching legs and feet cause crankiness, marital discord, and varicose veins.
  5. Elevate the head so as not to interfere with digestion. Tuck another bolster pillow under your chin so that while sleeping you don’t go slack-jawed like a mummy.
  6. Since it is never easy to free the bonds of consciousness, you must focus the mind on some object of transcendent beauty, something ethereal, perfect and pure, for example, a page from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
  7. Breathe slowly and deeply into your belly (unfettered by elastic).
  8. Do not move for at least 20 minutes – for far longer if you can get away with it.