Once home I was safe to begin my experiment. I lowered all the shades in the house and read the instructions out loud to myself, or rather skimmed over them, such as one does. A “patch test” was recommended much in the same way as with stain or glue. Never in my life had I heeded such advice, and never had I ended up not liking the final results, call it male intuition if you will. As men we shoot from the hip, built for action are we, we rush in with guns a blazing and sort things out in the aftermath, or during clean-up. Such is the nature of our sex, and for this we will always learn things the hard way…if ever at all. This being said, take my learned advice and do the patch test.
But you won’t.
So, the whole operation seemed easy enough. Other than the “patch test,” I followed the directions note for note. I trimmed my beard first, taking care in shaping it into a rather dramatic Van Dyke until finally I felt ready for some chemistry.
The kit consisted of a convenient mixing tray, an applicator brush, and two tubes of product to be mixed together before applying; one was the color base and the other the developer. After mixing the two parts together I applied it with the ever so handy little brush. I worked it in good and thorough as the instructions advised. I was to coat every hair with the concoction, and wait till the three minutes were up…easy enough.
I made the decision to keep it in a little longer and allow the bristles enough time to really drink up the stuff. And drink they did, like Vikings. I flipped through the New Yorker looking for the comics. Then I moved onto Rolling Stone. Two articles later, about bands I never heard of, I felt it was time. I hopped into the shower and began rinsing out the 3 minute potion. Catching a glance of myself in my extendable shaving mirror, I pulled it closer and flipped it over to the magnified side for a thorough inspection. Amazing, simply amazing! I looked ten years younger, or at the very least five. I flipped the mirror around to the other side to get the complete picture. What I saw was me in the parading garb of a Spanish Conquistador, Ponce de Leon in fact, and I had discovered the lost fountain of youth. Thus began my secret affair with Just For Men.
The box I chose to hide in an old antique coffee can on the top of the shelf in my bathroom, where no one would ever find it. Again, I felt like a teenager hiding my stash as opposed to dye for my stache…whoa. I would repeat the ritual every two weeks or whenever my whiskers looked to have lost their chemical induced sheen. I was Dr. Jekyll and my facial fur was Mr. Hyde. This would go on for about five months, until that fateful day when the chemical burn started to manifest into what I first mistook to be poison sumac.
I was at a loss, for strangely enough this appeared only a day apart from me noticing poison ivy on my ankle. The “rash” was under my beard so no one would be the wiser…unless they noticed the strange facial twitch I started to adopt in a lame attempt at fingerless scratching, which I hoped they would confuse for the early warning signs of a stroke or heart attack instead. The discomfort was immense. My skin was scabby and oozing much like the allergic reaction typically brought on by exposure to a certain aforementioned caustic fauna.
[pullquote]You never get to pick the tune that will be playing at that moment of clarity, but you embrace it, for you must, or be forever drooling, unemployed, and generally not well liked, and hardly ever invited to a swinging party.[/pullquote]
I immediately scheduled an appointment with my doctor. When I finally was let in to see him I over excitedly showed him pictures on my IPhone that I had looked up while sitting and fingerlessly scratching in the waiting room trying to self-diagnose, such as one does while sitting and fingerlessly scratching in the waiting room of one’s doctor. Male intuition. This was a bad idea. For now I planted it in his head that it was in fact poison ivy or sumac, thus never giving Doctor Easily Convinced a chance to properly diagnose my issue. Instead he wrote me a prescription, a bill, gave me a fist bump, and sent me out into the world twitching ,itchy, miserable, and falsely self-satisfied.
I stopped by the pharmacy on route home to fill my prescription, and while there I thought I might as well pick up another box of dye for I was almost out…and that’s when it hit me.There is nothing like a whole world of illusion that you carefully constructed in your mind out of mental glue, Popsicle sticks, and glitter crashing in on you while standing in the center aisle of a CVS, mid-day, as Miami Sound Machine is being pumped through the speaker system. All my sensations were heightened as Gloria Estefan breathed into every fiber of my being.
“Cuts both ways, our love is like a knife that cuts both ways…”
[You never get to pick the tune that will be playing at that moment of clarity, but you embrace it, for you must, or be forever drooling, unemployed, and generally not well liked, and hardly ever invited to a swinging party.]
In the very next moment I caught the eye of the cute cashier. There was a moment of recognition and slight bemusement in her expression. SUSAN (!)…she was the only one who knew my dirty little secret, the very same dirty little secret that was currently eating away at me in a very real way…I had only one thought, “Susan must die before she breeds.” Seething, I was about to lunge for her throat in a bout of displaced blame and aggression when…
…my itchy burning beard snapped me back to my senses, or at the very least what was left of my ammonia seared senses. Defeated, I grabbed a bottle of aloe vera gel from the shelf, and made my way towards the register operated by that cunning little vixen without further incident, aside from an uncontrollable facial twitch or two. Damn.
The chemical burn took quite some time to heal, about seven weeks, and in that time the dye began to fade until it was gone completely. The jig was up. I channeled my anger and disappointment into a phone call to the manufacturer. It felt good chewing out the operator without letting her get a word in…until she did, while I was taking a much needed breath. She mentioned something about the “patch test.” She had me, she was good, might she be related to Susan?
After far too long of a pause, which was the same length of time it takes to look up the definition for nonplussed in the dictionary, I came back with: “Of course I did the patch test.” Then I mumbled something about glue and wood stain. After what I thought was a giggle I slammed down the phone…well not really, for it’s a cell phone. How unsatisfying it is these days hanging up on someone in the heat of an argument without the sound of a good crash of phone on receiver, like rock upon skull. Somebody should really work on an app for this.
When I calmed down and my breathing returned to normal, normal for me those days was somewhere in between lite hyperventilation and a child’s gasping sob, I turned to Google, for in Google we trust.
Online, I quickly learned that I was not alone. This very same thing seemed to happen quite frequently with Just For Men products. There I was again back at square one with a ringing in my ears that tintinnabulated its way into a reprise of…
“cuts both ways…”
By Douglas Smythe
Contact Douglas: firstname.lastname@example.org