At 35, Mike said goodbye to his marriage, his home and the hair on his back. The first two vanished quickly enough via divorce. The hair took a little more time.
Three years have passed since the Davie, Fla., man started having his hair permanently removed by electrolysis.
"The back hair really bothered me to begin with," Mike says. "Then on top of that, people would say stuff about it. Like, at the beach once, some guy says to me, 'Hey, what's that growing on your back?' And one night I heard some girls talking about hair on a guy's back and how it really turned them off."
Mike is part of a clean-cut crew who would give the shirts off their backs to get the hair off their backs. And off other places, too. The ears, nose and between the eyebrows.
This despair over hair is talked about quietly, say local electrologists who are responsible for the disappearing act.
Take Mike, for example, who works in the he-man world of warehouse workers. He's a real person, but that's not his real name.
"This isn't something you talk about," he says, enjoying the anonymity of a telephone interview. "It's kinda personal, ya know?"
But why in this prime time of male primping, as men get their faces lifted, tummies tucked and hair dyed, is this such a big hairy deal?
"Men are so sensitive about having it done, especially the back," says Laurel Bisogno, of Electrolysis by Laurel in Hollywood, Fla., "because they know women hate seeing hair there. It's hard for men to deal with, like it is for women who have hair on their face."
For years, swimmers have removed hair, either by shaving or hair removal creams, to cut down resistance in water. Cyclists and triathletes do the same. So do bodybuilders. And don't forget models, too.
Just this month, famed model "Fabio," whose sculpted face and frame graces dozens of sexy-saga book covers, told "People" magazine he keeps silky smooth by shaving his chest twice weekly.
So now the latest twist in the hair today, gone tomorrow story is that just-your-basic guys are doing it: boyfriends and husbands, truck drivers and cops, doctors and lawyers, fathers and grandfathers. And they're doing it with electrolysis.
So full is the bandwagon of the newly hairless that men make up as much as 40 percent of their clientele, say some electrologists, who notice a difference in attitude between the sexes.
Though waxing, shaving and depilatories can remove hair temporarily, some choose electrolysis because it's permanent.
The procedure is done by inserting a sterile, hairlike needle into the hair follicle and transmitting a current, which destroys the hair's regenerative cells. When done correctly, scarring doesn't occur. Take note, though, that the darker the skin, the more scarring is likely.
How long it takes and how much it hurts is an individual matter because everyone's hair is different and so is their pain tolerance. But understand this: Electrolysis is neither quick nor pain-free.
Mike, who started with almost unheard of four-hour sessions three times a week, found one way to deal with the pain.
"I'd go for two hours, then during the break take a Tylenol 3 and have some beers and come back for another two hours," he says.
More common are half-hour to one-hour sessions depending on what's being done. Clients, who pay $40 to $75 an hour, normally schedule sessions depending on what their wallets and schedules allow.
Because the back is such an extensive area, electrolysis can take years. For Mike, it has been three years, though the sessions are now shorter and further apart.
"Now, at the beach, mowing the lawn, I can take off my shirt anywhere," he says.
But mainly, he wanted the hair gone for the same reason women want excess hair to vanish. To feel better about how he looked so he would feel better about himself. And on that point, he's hardly alone.
"I've had guys tell me they won't get into bed with a woman without a clear back," says Gloria Williams of A Beautiful You Studio in Fort Lauderdale.