As far as beauty and personal hygiene products go, I think I've tried them all.
I'm talking thousands of dollars over the past decade on various shaving creams, aftershaves, deodorants, colognes, lotions, soaps, hair gels, shampoos, stick wax and overpriced haircuts.
Never once did I emerge from my bathroom looking like Joe Millionaire.
About a year ago I gave up trying so hard to look good. I abandoned the expensive stuff and have adopted what my father's been using for as long as I can remember. Old Spice. It's cheap, it smells good and it's reliable. But there's something deeper than just being frugal that motivates me.
One of my fondest memories from my childhood is when I would watch my father shave every morning before he went to work as a UPS man. It was an artistic ritual of careful precision that would end with a splash of that cool, brisk aftershave on his face. I used to love how the scent lingered in the bathroom all morning. Somewhere on the road between childhood and adulthood I lost my way.
I discovered designer brands in college. There, some of my so-called friends wouldn't don a shirt unless it had a guy riding a horse on it. I followed the pack. I started using expensive cologne, buying those shirts and somehow ended up with a regular $50 buzz cut from a hoity-toity "beauty salon." After college I continued on this pampered endeavor for years, hopping from one Manhattan salon bearing a Frenchman's name to another, each one a little more expensive than the last. The trend continued until Sept. 11, 2001.
That horrible day I realized that my wife, my family, my country, my friends and even my pets were more important to me than anything else in the world. And I felt foolish for being so vain all those years. I don't think I was any kind of a monster, but what kind of a moron would spend more than sixty bucks, plus tip, on a buzz cut? What idiot buys $40 shaving cream and $60 aftershave? Or a $200 nickle-plated "shaving utensil?" Me. Despite all of the pampering, I didn't like what I saw in the mirror (and my father likes to joke that I've never seen a mirror that I didn't like).
But it had nothing to do with the image that I could see. It had to do with the one that's harder to see. The one that only the people who truly love you can see, but who never tell you just how bad a sight it is (although one of my colleagues who barely knows me -- FNC White House correspondent James Rosen, did tell me to lose the highlights in my hair -- thank you Mr. Rosen).
So now I use Old Spice aftershave, soap, and deodorant. I go to a barber for my $10 buzz. I've abandoned the overcrowded and overpriced gym for the home-based Bowflex. I save money, and I'm not so image conscious. I am not alone. Men across the country are liberated in the fact that the days of the '90s "sensitive" man in touch with his feminine side are gone. The man of the new millennium combines the sensitivity that women cherish with the machismo women want.
Being in the TV business, I still need to make a conscientious effort to try to look good. But as I get older, I realize the message is more important than the messenger. These days I concentrate more on what I'm saying or writing, rather than how I look doing it.
Mike Straka is the project manager for Fox News's Internet operations and contributes as a features reporter and producer on Fox Magazine (Sundays 11 p.m. on FNC) and as a reporter for Foxnews.com.