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Staff column: Real men don't wear lotion

Sun Advocate publisher

"Look at those dry elbows," my wife said as she stared at a photo she had taken of me from the back when I was looking over a cliff somewhere in the San Rafael Swell. "You need lotion on those."

"Real men don't wear lotion," I said, knowing by saying that I was on the edge of a virtual precipice much steeper and deeper than the overlook I was hanging over in the photo. "It makes me feel all sticky and then it sinks in and doesn't do any good."

Those last four words were the fateful utterances. I had not just leapt off the cliff by speaking those, I was flung off it like I was being shot out of a circus cannon.

"You know your dad used to put lotion on all the time," said my wife, with a look in her eye like she was watching me fall into the abyss. "He knew that it helped his hands because they always got dry and cracked in the winter."

She had found my weak spot; my father. There were a lot of things in life that my father and I had not agreed on, but he always did the right thing. He was a quiet hero to me. She had me, because what she said was the truth, but I still had to find a way out of that literally sticky situation.

"Yeah, well he had dry hands because he was in water everyday of the week at work and it was particularly bad when the weather got cold and dry," I said. My dad was a dairy farmer for 60 years and he was the guy who took care of all the milkers and utensils in the barn twice a day, cleaning them with very hot water and loads of strong chemicals to be sure they were clean for the next use. I remember times when I was a kid that his hands used to just bleed from the cracks. "He had to do something to protect his hands. Besides he used some kind of lotion that moisturized his hands without making him smell like a bunch of dead roses."

"You need to use lotion," she said once again as she walked away toward the TV room. "But I am not going to force you; you are a grown up and you know what is best for you."

I was steamed. She had not only mentioned my revered father but she had used the "grown up" words. I have found in my life that in general women regard most men to not be much more than 10 year old boys that have put on more fat and a bunch of wrinkles. That grown up comment fit right into that type of thinking.

As she was watching the Ghost Whisperer in the other room I went in the bathroom; the one with the big mirrors. I wanted to examine my elbows. Sure they were dry; but what do you expect of a part of the body that was all wrinkled and funny looking before I could even say my first word. That part of my arm hadn't changed in 56 years so why should they be changed now.

"This is how real elbows should look," I said to myself.

I looked at my hands and saw they were cracked and dry too. I too have my hands in water a lot, but for a different reason. I am one of those people who needs to wash my hands before I wash my hands. And then sometimes I wash them one more time. Consequently the cold, dry air is tough on them.

Later that night I had just gone to bed and was watching Jay Leno when my wife came in and started putting lotion on her hands and arms.

"Want some?" she said. "I noticed this evening while you were watching TV you were squirming around trying to itch your back. Your back is almost as dry as your elbows because you run hot water on it while you are in the shower. It's no wonder it's dry. Lotion could cure that."

I rolled over turning to my side of the bed. She was determined to break the barrier I had put up.

"You know lotion is the potion for that itching motion," she said as she smiled and rubbed the stuff into her skin. Suddenly I felt it; a big glob of cold wet slimy lotion on my back. I lept up.

"I told you not to do that," I yelled.

She looked at me and saw there was lotion dripping on the floor.

"You know I know what is best for you," she said quietly. "Now I am just trying to help but if you don't want to stop itching it is none of my business. But you still need to clean up that pool of lotion on the floor because you are the one that put it there."

I looked down. There from my back dripped a large glob of pinkish colored slimy lotion. My dog was over sniffing it.

"Don't you lick that up Kiley," I told her and stormed off to get some paper towels.

When I got back from the kitchen the television was off and the single lamp on my dresser was the only light in the room. My dog had crawled up next to my wife where I usually sleep. She had her head buried in my pillow so I couldn't see her. I wiped up the lotion, but I could feel there was still more on my back. I tried to reach my back and spread it around, but my arms don't work in that manner after many years of falling off of things I should have never been climbing on in the first place.

"Uh can you reach my back and get this lotion rubbed in?" I asked sheepishly.

"Oh so now you want some lotion rubbed on your back," she said from her muffled position under the covers.

It was kind of like having someone paint half your car and then deciding you don't like the color. Do you have them finish it or do you stop and paint it another color? Somehow women find a way to get their way in the long run, even if it is good for you.

"Yes," I said with exasperation.

She even put on more lotion as she rubbed in the offending substance, to which I objected to no avail.

I felt like the Red Chinese leaders must feel nowadays about capitalism in their country; knowing that everyone thinks it is the best thing, but knowing it will be hard to live with. She rubbed it in my back and then turned me around and rubbed it into my cracked and dry hands.

But like the Red Chinese I was able to hold onto a little dignity of my convictions; I kept my elbows away from the stuff.

Of course the next day came the question after I got home from work.

"I bet your back didn't itch today did it?" she asked the first time I walked in the door.

But I had been planning a comeback all day, because I knew this would come up.

"No it didn't," I said matter of factly in typical smart mouth fashion. "But then neither did my elbows."

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