After years of slumming it in inner-city terraces where the 'bathroom' is just a closet with a bucket and tap, I've recently upgraded to a house with a proper setup. Our new bathroom can fit more than one person at once (wow!), and also features a floor-to-ceiling mirror – both terrifying and great for narcissists.
The novelty of this luxurious bathroom has seen the space become a semi-nude boardroom, Kate and I regularly conducting meaningful conversations while getting ready. As one person showers, the other brushes their teeth and via the reflection in the mirror, we'll solve all the world's problems.
It was during one of these recent chats that Kate paused, toothbrush wedged firmly in her cheek and hit me with this question: "So what's the plan with your chest hair situation?"
A woolly one
A fair query and one I'd been anticipating since the onset of winter. During the colder months, I'm guilty of hibernating under my chest doona and lately it's become unruly.
But in our collective defence, the male chest hair conundrum is a truly modern problem. Along with free education and cheap houses, our fathers also benefited from a one-size-fits-all chest hair approach. The essential thinking was – let it grow, let it go.
These days that no longer exists, it is instead replaced by an ever-shifting set of rules around how best to groom your chest. As you may have figured, based on Kate's worrying use of the word 'situation' I've yet to master my own chest hair timeline.
The season's cycles
During summer I'll try to clipper it back, but the temptation to go shorter and shorter becomes too much. Before long I'm completely bare, and I end up looking like a big, bearded, baby. Then it slowly grows back, and I get roughly two weeks of glorious, perfect chest hair coverage. These are my Kellogg's days – not too heavy, not too light, it's just right.
But then the growth comes in thick and fast, and I'm forced to either let it consume me and begin my new life as a Hasselhoff impersonator or shave it back and resume the adult baby vicious cycle.
So this seemed like an ideal time to reverse the question and see exactly what Kate preferred my situation to be?
"I don't know; I think I quite like a bit of hair, but not too much. Maybe that level it was at a few weeks ago?"
What a girl wants, what a guy needs
Further research confirmed that this was a recurring theme – none of my female friends wanted to go on record saying that wanted a hairless wonder, but also no one wants to go bed with a Tom Selleck-tribute chest.
Meanwhile, a survey of my mates (the first time I've requested they send me nudes), proved they were just confused as I was. Some opted for total trim; others were happy for a semi-spread. There were admissions of the occasional Veet, an experimental wax. We're all trying to figure out how to handle it.
My bald friend Nick is a fan of lasering, presumably believing that after the hair on his head betrayed him, he may as well take it out on his remaining follicles.
Unsurprisingly looking online only further muddied the waters. For every "Why Women REALLY Love Chest Hair" piece, there was a counter "What Your Hairy Chest ACTUALLY Says About You". What, what does it say? Someone put us all out of our misery.
Just when I thought I'd Googled myself into a chest hair k-hole of which there was no return, the internet sent this absolute gem my way.
A 2010 academic study on human male body hair published in Behaviour Ecology, had this to say: "Interestingly, the hairiness of a woman's father correlated positively with her preference with regard to body hair and the hairiness of her current boyfriend/husband. This suggests either that women are sexually imprinted for the hairiness of their father."
Time to get on the blower to my future-father-in-law to see what kind of chest rug he's rocking.
Get it off your chest, mate
While this connection was gross if I thought too hard about it, it did provide me with the perfect retort to Kate's chest-hair-situation jibe.
Walking back into our bedroom with the confident swagger of a man who has spent hours prepping his comeback, I pointed to my chest and said, "Maybe you should ask your DAD what the chest hair plan is!"
Without missing a beat, she smiled and said, "And what about you back hair?"
Nicely played – chest, mate.
After continually being told to "use his words" as a young boy, Thomas Mitchell took that advice on board and never looked back. Since then his words appeared all over the place, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, The Huffington Post and GQ. Thomas spends his days observing the unique behaviour of the Australian male, while trying not to overstay his welcome at the local cafe.
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