Originally published Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 05:58a.m.
I had a great Christmas in 2017!
My wife made a lot of cookies, we visited with a lot of friends, we attended a nifty candlelight service on Christmas Eve, and I scored some impressive gifts under the tree.
One gift, in particular, offered great potential although it was a relatively common toiletry item: shaving cream from a guy named Tom. This shaving cream was a brand I’d never tried before.
To learn more about the barbering adventure awaiting me, I consulted the ingredients portion of the shaving cream label. I was immediately bludgeoned with the multi-syllabic ingredient of PPG-2 hydroxyethyl cocamide. My research revealed that this compound is an excellent cleansing, solubilizing, dispersing and emulsifying agent. I decided to try the product anyway. Within just a few minutes, I felt cleansed, solubilized, dispersed and emulsified to a fare-thee-well. (Incidentally, I recommend a good night’s sleep before voluntary emulsification.)
I was completely gratified to find that the isobutane contained in this shaving cream is the simplest alkane with a tertiary carbon. There’s no way I’d be satisfied dealing with a primary or secondary carbon constituent in my shaving.
Despite the fact that the small print on the label was giving me a headache, I persevered.
Next on the hit parade was aloe barbadensis leaf juice. Of all the leaf juices the manufacturer could have squeezed into the caldron, I was delirious with joy when I read that aloe barbadensis leaves contain over 200 nutritional substances, including a flock of minerals, amino acids, vitamins and active enzymes. By the way, it’s best to lock the doors before mixing a geriatric with active enzymes, just so you’ll know.
I was about to conclude my research when I noticed cetraria islandica extract. God help me; who has the time to sit around all day making up these technical terms? Anyway, this extract comes from Icelandic moss, which was traditionally a popular additive in porridge. I wonder whether Goldilocks and the three bears knew about this stuff.
With only one ingredient sentence remaining, I couldn’t stop. Fountain-of-youth-ethylate was the longest word in the paragraph, but was of greatest interest to this aging consumer. A great surge of well-being swelled within my aching joints. Ponce de Leon and I became instant spiritual brothers.
Now, if I spread PPG-2 hydroxyethyl cocamide, isobutane, aloe baradensis leaf juice and cetraria islandica extract all over my face, I expect the same results I see on the television shaving commercials. I’ve noticed that all the TV guys standing around in towels using famous shaving cream products are handsome, square-jawed and extremely fit. And they have full heads of hair. This couldn’t be a coincidence, so I lathered up with enthusiasm.
With the last razor stroke, I rinsed my face and couldn’t believe what I saw in the mirror. Staring me squarely in the eye was the same wrinkled geezer face I’ve learned to live with over the past few years. Where was the manly jaw line? The fitness? The hair?
All those TV ads are full of crap. I suppose as a retired promotions guy, I should realize that advertising generally contains a fair amount of puffery. But it isn’t fair, really. Guys my age are looking for a fountain of youth. Actually, a fountain of any kind would be a pleasant surprise. So sadly, shaving remains nothing more than clearing away the daily scruff. It is no panacea, no gateway to revived youth or masculinity.
Novelist Ben Lerner probably put the whole thing into perspective when he said, “Shaving is a way to start the workday by ritually not cutting your throat when you’ve the chance.”
Wil Williams, a resident of Chino Valley, is a retired advertising agency executive who served in the U.S. Army. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.