Once I had a lover with fur: A small, triangular patch of it. It started on his lower back and carried on down in a point to the start of his buttocks, which was completely hairless. When he was in the shower, the fur was like an arrow pointing straight to his behind. It was a cute behind, and although I liked all of his body, the part I liked most was that puzzling patch of hair just growing there on his lower back. Perhaps this was because it didn’t serve any purpose, or perhaps this came about because it was a secret; something he was ashamed of. I loved the way the fur made that part of him look, as he himself put it, ‘like an ape.’ ’What’s wrong with a touch of ape?’ I asked. I reminded him of the iconic image of King Kong: A giant, hirsute gorilla clutching a blonde in his hand: A picture of superhuman strength and danger, in a cuddly package. ‘The desire to be grabbed by a beast,’ I said, ‘has survived feminism, the dictates of fashion and all the social hysteria about body hair. It’s still lurking there in a corner of the female brain.’ But my lover shook his head. He said men, modern men, simply had to be smooth and streamlined. It was a sign of culture and hygiene. Men, I thought gloomily, are going to be hairless and eventually scentless, spotless, fatless, of course and maybe faultless or flawless, like a machine. I began to reflect on how people follow the herd in this (acting like sheep so as not to look like apes). Will men, like women before them, have to look like overgrown children just to comply with the norm? To be considered ‘cultured’? To rise up to Photoshop standards? Must King Kong gradually turn into his blonde captive? These days we’re up to our armpits in domesticated men. Nice men. Considerate men. Men in aprons, clutching dish-towels. Nothing wrong with that, but when they start standing in front of the mirror with hair trimmers, or getting themselves waxed once a week, I can’t help feeling something’s been lost. Things are a bit different for women I guess, but men choosing to remove what gives them that hint of untamed wildness? Who’s declared war on male fur?
I mean, my God, smooth is so boring. Hairless flesh is nondescript. All that bare skin and you hardly know where to look there’s so much of it. It’s boneless chicken breasts at the deli. It’s a pig dangling from a hook. It’s an erased map, a blanked-out photograph. It’s all so relentlessly anonymous. Give me the glory of hairy male arms; the bristly sensation of chins and cheeks; the bliss of a chest your fingers can get lost in. It’s the ultimate boundary between covered and uncovered, a permanent stage between dressed and naked. It’s the twilight zone, the land of promise. ‘Why on earth,’ I asked my lover one night, ‘are wolves so eager to look like lambs?’ He laughed. ‘That’s easy,’ he said. ‘Everyone thinks lambs are sweet and innocent.’
I stroked his back. My fingers traveled down his patch of fur to the start of his buttocks. ‘I don’t,’ I whispered. ‘I only like them when they growl.’