It's bad enough that Marom Unger needs a squirt of Botox under his armpits every six months to help curb excessive perspiration. Even more humiliating, though, is sitting in his doctor's office surrounded by women.
Unger, a restaurateur in New York, knows that his waiting room companions are probably so consumed by their own cosmetic injustices that they barely notice the XY chromosomes in their midst. Still, he feels as if he's parading around with a wad of toilet paper Velcroed to his heel. Naked.
"As a man, I'm a little self-conscious," Unger, 35, said. "I know it's in your head. But it's the same reason guys go smoke in a cigar bar: to have that camaraderie."
Heard it all before
Unger's unease is something his plastic surgeon, Dr. Norman Rowe, has often heard from his male patients, who make up about 22 per cent of his practice. And he has listened. On December 26, Rowe is opening the Club House, a medical man-cave on the Upper East Side where men can gather for Poker Brotox Nights, Cognac and Chemical Peels, hair transplants, microneedling, liposuction and, yes, penis enlargement procedures.
"A lot of men tell me they don't like to come in and have a woman sitting next to them," Rowe said in his Kentucky drawl. "They don't want to call up and have a woman answer the phone and say, 'Hi, what would you like to come in for?'"
He paused and lowered his voice. "'I want to come in for a penis augmentation,'" he whispered.
"They want a man to answer the phone," he said. "They want to sit next to a guy, they want to watch sports on TV and not listen to Michael Bublé on the radio."
Below the belt
Possibly he's on to something. About 8 to 10 per cent of plastic surgery procedures across the country are performed on men, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Liposuction and tummy tucks are the top two procedures.
While "men only" spas have been in existence for a while, they often have female employees and offer facials, massages and manicures. They usually do not do surgical procedures, and there is no medical professional on the premises.
One of Rowe's signatures is a noninvasive penile enlargement, in which he injects dermal filler into the penis. (It typically lasts about two years and costs around US$6000, depending on the amount of filler required). He also does anal tightening procedures, "which is exactly as it sounds," he said. (It can be a laser treatment or done surgically.)
For obvious reasons, most men don't like to discuss these sorts of things in polite company. To prove his point, Rowe notes that almost 80 per cent of the inquiries he receives for such procedures come between 2 and 4 a.m. through voicemail or online submissions. Those are the hours when men are searching, thinking about it, he said.
But it's not something they want to broadcast. Joseph, a 31-year-old sales executive in New Jersey who asked that his last name not be used to protect his privacy, saw Rowe two years ago for Botox in his forehead. Recently, he decided he wanted more girth in his penis. When he phoned Rowe's office, a female voice answered the phone. This, he said, unnerved him.
Garrett Munce, the grooming director at GQ, understands the sentiment. "Talking about things like thinning hair and aging and penis enlargement treatments are very hard for men in a public or semipublic setting, much less mixed company," Munce wrote in an email. "It's the same reason, when you book a massage, you are often asked if you have a preference for a male or female therapist. Some people are just more comfortable interacting with their own gender in such an intimate setting, and spas are all about being comfortable."
The vibe at the Club House is decidedly comfortable. All of the office attendants – the front desk staff to the patient coordinators to the nurses – are male. There is no sign over the entrance, but rather a brass plaque with an insignia resembling the adult Simba. Instead of fluffy robes, patients will wear navy cotton jackets with the embossed emblem over the left breast.
There is also a poker table, a fireplace, a widescreen television tuned to C-Span or ESPN and a private entrance and exit. Run-DMC jams on the overhead radio.
Rowe's concern now is what to do about his female clients, some of whom have expressed interest in seeing him in the new location. (It seems worth noting that most of them are single.) Clearly, it would be discriminatory to turn them away, but the idea is to create a space for men.
"As far as plastic surgery goes, men are kind of an underserved population," Rowe said. "They want a place where they can be a little bit more themselves. Straight or gay, they want to do something to better themselves."
"There's nothing wrong with a man maintaining," he said.
The New York Times