Cutting it close

So what if I haven’t used aftershave in loooooong time. Maybe it has been 4 years, maybe 5. Is that really a fact worth writing about here tonight?

I do shave my face and neck every day. I do it in the morning, after a shower. I don’t completely cut away all my facial hair, I leave a *stylish* goatee and sideburns. I like the faux chin line and visual enhancement to my otherwise doughy face…

So, yes, I am a man who shaves and uses shaving products, like shaving gels and (too) expensive triple razor blades… BUT, several years ago, I ran out of aftershave lotion, and I just never bought any more.

I am sure the timing coincided with a super-strict budgeting routine. Back then, I was counting every red cent, and refusing to let go of even one, if I thought I could avoid it. I wanted to save a few bucks a month by not buying little plastic bottle of stingy stuff.

Sure it smelled good (which is how I prefer to smell). It also probably imparted some moisturizing skin benefits. Overall though, since I’ve quit using it, I really notice no major difference… at all.

I don’t know about other guys out there, but I can remember growing up and watching commercials for aftershave. They would show cool blue animations of little fresh spring raindrops landing on a male model’s face. The drops would spread and combine to form some sort of jelly-like moisturizing layer of protection. The guy would then look into the mirror proudly and smile, ready to tackle his day.

I’m sure I watched my grandpa use aftershave too. I remember being with him, while he would get ready for work in the morning. I probably was encroaching on his personal space, but I can still vividly recall the sink full of water he’d splash the razor back into, over and over. He had a small arsenal of shaving supplies. I would watch him and wonder when someday, I would get to stand at the sink myself, like a grown-up and use sharp objects on my face.

Well sure, lots of guys shave, and I do too… The thing about skipping the last step, as the commercials and I guess traditions would have me follow, is that I miss nothing, which I can really notice.

I do question what we truly need in this life. I do wonder about the list of ‘things’ that actually matter. I struggle and fight with myself over the truths that tradition has handed down. I can get sincerely scared when I turn my attention to the ‘supposed to’s’ of our consumer culture.

If making all the right purchases and avoiding all the wrong ones, is my life’s purpose, then I am truly a sorry sad sack. That grain of salt, may be losing it’s flavor. I wonder if there is a pervasive notion out in the meat of the American population, that we can make decisions and operate ourselves within boundaries and parameters set up by our own creative imagination. I wonder if the advertisers have truly won, when the context of our concrete-clad upper-middle-class stylish-strip-mall trips are the highlight of our week?

I may be just insecure, that I don’t own a mini-mansion. I may secretly want to have a pintrest-decorated commercial kitchen overlooking my backyard infinity pool and an ocean-view. I am talking about stuff here, yes, but also the lifestyles of celebrity and success. The tv can tell me that these houses exist. I can see that someone out there has achieved beyond my dinky imagination. I watch and wonder, I may want to partake in the smallest of ways, a material rich life.

See those smallest of ways may include my aftershave. Maybe I can buy a nice brand of it. Maybe I can wear a higher-end cologne than they sell at Wal-Mart. Maybe if I start with the small things, then I will be on my way to the big things… Maybe if I can get everything bought just right, life will be perfect.

Or not.

It is easy to see, here on this screen, that these concepts are silly-bo-billy. I have had them though. It has occurred to me, that if I can get this next ‘thing’ then my life will be better. If only I had ‘it’, then I could finally have ‘it’.

Truth is, I don’t really truly believe deep down, that any of the things in this world actually matter. I can’t even prove that things actually exist. I can explain my observation of these things. I can prove my opinions and judgments and like and dislikes. However, those ideas reside within the boundaries of my mind, within my own brain. They don’t exist out in the atoms or the matter of that object itself.

The stuff is neutral. Completely neutral. The companies who produce the neutrality are dying to inject the drama and the desires into their gray chunks of plastic and wires. Some flashy lights or the fake curl of a sliver of a chocolate bar can touch your senses. A tv commercial, viral video or a print ad can inspire your brain to make up stories about a product. The amazing grey-matter of your mind can convince you that these things possess powers. We can be sad without them, and remain hopeful when we think we may acquire it.

I know, I know. I am just as stuck into this mindset as almost anybody. I want ‘things’ I do. I want stuff and I want clothes and I also too, want the world around me to take notice and see what nice items I have acquired. Too bad, the spoils of my wars, are puny compared to many.

I have lived however without some stuff. We also are in the richest country in the world. We aren’t talking about basic human needs here. In America, we are blessed with safe drinking water, available food and a solid roof over our heads.

I know that going without some little extras is okay. I have decided to pass on many of today’s consumer creature comforts. A tingly-fresh aftershave is just one. I suppose that I could have had at least a bigger house, or nicer cars or maybe even a lake view with an above-ground pool. Maybe I could have had the best stuff too. Maybe that ocean-view mansion is still in my future…

These days I tell myself that whatever the stuff of our lives is… It really isn’t anything at all… I mean it just isn’t.  The stuff has nothing to do with our worth, or our contributions to the collective consciousness. The self-pleasing pile of plastic we obtain, from the first page of our life, to the last, is soo irrelevant in the big picture.

Just like the bottle of aftershave I didn’t buy this week. It makes no difference to you. My wife may have noticed another odor on my neck, but even then, probably not.

I can use it. I can skip it. I can decide what works well for me, completely apart from the cultural consumer conversation. I don’t need commercials to tell me what these little moments of life should look like.
I can decide. I can be happy with. I can be happy without.

Usually, I find that I fall between. I want the things I don’t have. I take for granted the stuff I do.

But that’s just me. That’s just a guy who doesn’t even use aftershave… And who could listen to anything this guy has to say J


Until Next Week.

With Love,

Aaron Nichols

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