My lady friend tells me I’m a bad listener, I think. I wasn’t really paying attention. It’s hard to understand what the problem is because she subtly tells me and I can’t read her signals.

She passive aggressively gifts me a Gentleman’s Expo ticket. I figure, why not? I’ve never been one to turn down sampling scotches, being surrounded by leather-bound books and the sweet scent of mahogany. I’m all for self-improvement. Just the other day I kept a conversation with her during the entire Raptors halftime break. Not a minute after, though—I’m only human.

Get ready GE, you have your work cut out for you.

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I mosey into the expo and immediately I confront an Axe & Hatchet Grooming Club’s sign with Christopher Walken’s face on it. That’s because “walk-ins” are welcome. Waka! Waka!

To say the bearded gentleman that greeted me at A&HGC is wearing a plaid shirt goes without saying. However, the air of dapperness is beyond what I thought would be a sea of Starbucks baristas. Seeing countless bearded men adorning low-cut, tailored suits, which show off their wildly-patterned socks (avocados, doughnuts, pizza slices, mostly food) and pristine Italian shoes makes me realise my Led Zeppelin t-shirt isn’t considered overdressed.

Beard Maintenance 101 is in session. They introduce me to beard science that will keep you looking like Jason Momoa, which I’d assume to be everyone’s facial hair aspiration. There are oils and creams and exfoliants, oh my! Bottom line: you can’t go cutting corners on growing a beard unless you enjoy the Nick Nolte mugshot look.

The fashion and grooming installations are filled with ostentatious accessories, like hammer canes topped with a hammerhead to make pimp canes (or “walking sticks”). Studs uses a 3-D printer to make Drake cufflinks I’m sure every Torontonian is dying to add to their collection, and apparently, wooden watches are the latest trend.

Indulging in libations requires tokens sold in packs of 10 for $10. When you’re sampling premium spirits you’d never order at a bar because a) you’re too drunk to taste the difference or b) you’re not a part of the one per cent, it’s a necessity. The priciest cocktails are three tokens, whereas at a well-managed bar you’re paying over 10— even your liver can’t argue with those prices.

My drink of choice is Jim Beam’s Storm Devil Cocktail made with Jim Beam’s Devil’s Cut Bourbon and ginger beer. The sales rep enthusiastically gives me her canned explanation that the “Devil’s Cut” is the bourbon trapped inside the barrel’s wood that they extract, and the “Angel’s Share” is the angels claiming their dues from its evaporation. I slink away before I spend enough to pay off her student loans.

While trying to keep my dignity intact, a camera flashes in my face as Rick freaking Mercer is now behind the bar doing his Clouseau-esque shtick of clumsily mixing drinks and eating the whole orange garnish from his drink—rind included. One of the men running the event was amongst Mercer’s entourage, and I ask how his team came up with the idea for this event. He stated:

“When shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire started taking off, we recognised that there was a lot of interest from people of that culture’s sense of style and grooming. We thought, why not put on an event that teaches guys about proper techniques and products they should use? Covering skin care to fashion to great speakers, like athletes, and house all that into one place. We want to replicate a men’s magazine like a GQ and bring it to life.”

Mercer’s next pit-stop is the Lab Series Skincare for Men kiosk, where he and other men get blue facials and turn into stylish looking Smurfs. I’m not surprised that Mercer joshes with the fish-out-ofwater, Viking-looking fellow. Going against my better judgement of messing with perfection, I get a facial too.

I soak up the alcohol by eating beef jerky as Jack Links makes it rain with free samples; I don’t have to worry about buying snacks for the rest of the NFL season. Luckily, a booth selling Daneson toothpicks made from Northern White Birch let me sample one with a ginger honey flavour to get the dried meat from my teeth; I use it more to walk around looking like a greaser.

Fueled and ready to work off my meat sweats, I choose to try my hand at Archers Arena. All the combatants enter the American Gladiators-like enclosure and our eyes glaze over as we’re told the rules, which could’ve been summed up in six words: shoot arrows low, keep masks on. I went full Robin Hood on their asses.

I unwind for a few minutes at the main stage, catching some of the tech talk given by a Best Buy employee presenting the DJI Phantom 4 Drone and its ability to lock-on and track a target. The grumbling consensus I heard amongst the men was that it’s just a way to stalk women and take voyeur shots. Gentleman’s Expo, indeed.

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After a few required pit-stops at booths dispensing the rest of their booze as they pack up for the day, I compose myself and go to a heating pad vendor—it should come in handy after a debaucherous day.

A lovely Persian woman demonstrates how they work until we simultaneously spot a Trojan BareSkin Condom—wrapped—near her foot. “It’s fate,” she says, and I wonder, there’s no way she’s forward enough to be thinking what I’m thinking. She continues—I couldn’t make this up if I tried— crooning: “this is your lucky condom, never use it! Keep it in your wallet for the rest of your life. You will meet a great girl in the next 24 hours.”

I have so many questions and I don’t know where to start. How the hell does she know this? Is this some kind of modern day Cinderella story? Is she so accustomed to finding free condoms that she has legends surrounding them? Why was she so quick to pick it up before ensuring it’s completely sealed or without a pair of tongs? How is it considered ‘lucky’ if I can’t use it? The concept was so absurd and hilarious that it couldn’t not be true.

After exiting, I fell into a conversation with the woman at the Lab Series Skincare for Men kiosk and exchanged numbers the old-fashioned way. Who needs Tinder?

The heating pad condom shaman is wiser than I thought. The lesson here: never judge a condom by its wrapper. Next stop: Shoppers for Gatorade and Tylenol.

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