On Benchley, Breathing Strips, and Aftershave

Tonight I am channeling my inner Benchley (Robert, not Peter). Even though I promised myself that I wouldn’t write any more long, rambling essays about nothing in particular, I can’t help it. I am hopelessly addicted to meandering rambles (or perhaps rambling meanderings) over the hills and dells of my memory and psyche. I’m not sure which is the hill and which is the dell, but I suppose I should be content with the fact that my mental makeup has actual topographic features and isn’t just a giant sheet of flat grid paper like the landscape in the movie, “Tron” (the original, not the remake).

As an aside, I was shocked to find out that a synonym for dell is “dingle”. I found that quite amusing for some reason. I suppose it conjured up the alternate lyrics to “The Farmer in the Dingle”.

Speaking of awkward segues, I can’t decide which I hate worse: not being able to breathe at night or having to rip a “breathing strip” off of my nose first thing in the morning while still half asleep. There’s nothing like starting your day by having to do the equivalent of ripping a BandAid off of a sensitive patch of skin. It would only be worse if a hand came out of nowhere and slapped me squarely on both cheeks to apply a liberal dose of Skin Bracer (byyyyyyy Mennen!).

Speaking of which, I remember in my early years (before I became jaded) believing every bit of advertising that Madison Avenue shoveled out of their executive stalls into great, steaming piles on a credulous public. For instance, I believed that using Old Spice cologne would not only get rid of my razor burn, but would also give me a nautical air that women would find irresistible. Well, true enough, it gave me an “air”, but not a nautical one … and certainly not one that women found irresistible. It was more the the type of air that yellow signs warn one not to smoke in or create sparks in.

I eventually became disillusioned with Old Spice because I came to the slow realization that it was not the olfactory equivalent of epaulets and braids. Therefore, I turned my hopes to Skin Bracer because I thought, as shown in the TV ads, that slapping myself vigorously with a hand steeped in the eerie green liquid would leave me feeling braced and looking like a male model with smooth, manly skin that was free of both five o’clock shadow and razor burn. However, I never managed to perfect the fine art of slapping myself vigorously without getting Skin Bracer in both eyes or all over my clothes. This was about the time that I realized that all aftershave lotions were merely bottles of alcohol with FD&C blue or green or some other soothing color and a dash of something that smelled strong enough to take our minds off of the fact that we were pouring alcohol on razor-irritated skin. It was like, “Holy jehimanies my face is on fire!… oh neat … eucalyptus.” And then we’d leave the house feeling as if we were now irresistible to the ladies. What the rest of the world saw, however, was a man who seemed to have a severe case of rug burn all over his face and neck and who reeked of something used to clear sinuses or awaken antebellum ladies who had fainted from wearing their corsets too tight.

I also succumbed to the hype surrounding gel type shaving creams, believing that they would allow me to shave my face so closely that I could rub cotton balls all over my face and not leave a single cotton fiber clinging to even a microscopic specimen of beard stubble. To add to their air of authority and trustworthiness, these gels came in a variety of different colored cans, each color indicating a different formulation for different facial types. I tried the orange can for awhile, because it purported to be for sensitive skin, but later on I switched to the white can because it promised that it was “medicinal”. What a great idea! Putting medication on the razor wounds at the same time they were being inflicted. How efficient. So I slathered on the gel, fascinated at how it turned to foam as I smeared it around the ol’ epidermis. And at least part of the advertising claims were correct: it did allow me to shave very closely. But the advertisements were strangely silent on what happened after the gel/foam was shaved and washed off and you were happily on your way to your first class of the day (this was back in my college days). What happened was that, as the eucalyptus and other emollients wore off or evaporated, the beard began to grow back. Unfortunately, now that the stubble tips were below the skin surface, they were often confused about where exactly they should grow. As they groped their way blindly up towards the surface of the skin, they poked and prodded and stabbed their way towards the light, the effects of which were to make me look as if I’d unsuccessfully fended off an attack by a maniac wielding two red-hot ice picks coated in allergens. So I learned that close shaves were not all they were cracked up to be.

So, being a poor college student, there was an avenue open to me that is not open to most responsible, employed, and conscientious people: I grew a beard and forsook shaving altogether.

Later, however, when I graduated and was forced to become responsible, employed, and conscientious (not to mention conscious), I bought myself an electric razor. But here, too, I succumbed to the unrealistic claims of Madison Avenue. I believed that running this electric gizmo back and forth across my face would make strange women want to rub their hands across my cheeks, chin, and neck. That never happened. I’m not sure they even noticed the difference between a razor shave and an electric razor shave. In fact, I’m pretty sure they didn’t notice whether I shaved or not. Or even if I was actually there. I probably could have shaved with a scythe or a scimitar and gotten just as much notice from the fairer sex.

Luckily, now I am immune to the deceits of Madison Avenue.

On an unrelated note, I think I will buy a new computer. I saw an ad the other day for the latest octal-core, double-clocked processor that will make all my computing needs seem like child’s play.


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