The Truth, Mainly - 08/15/1994

It's not easy living life on the Cutting Edge
by Leon Satterfield

"I suppose I've made you very happy," I tell my wife. "I suppose it's lots of fun living with the cutting edge."

"How would I know?" she says, eyeing her crossword puzzle. "I live with a 1984 Toyota, a one-eyed beagle, and you. Whee."

She has to talk that way to preserve her standing in the American Association of Tart-Tongued Women.

"But just between you and me," I say, "you must be very proud to live with someone who has hip hair and a cutting-edge chin."

"You don't have any more hair on your hips than you have on your head," she says, "and you don't have a chin at all. Remember? That's why you grew your little beard in the first place—to cover up the chin you don't have. So what are you talking about?"

"This," I say, handing her a story headlined "Hip Hair" that I've just clipped out of the newspaper. "Says here that goatees are 'the growth of choice on cutting-edge chins.'"

She guffaws.

"Says Bruce Willis has a goatee," I say. "And John Mellencamp and Bret Saberhagen and Bruce Springsteen and Spike Lee and PeeWee Herman and just about everyone else who's with it."

"Let's see," she says. "I think saying 'with it' was hip in about 1968. Which as I remember is about the time you grew your little beard. That's a long time on the cutting edge. Doesn't it hurt after a while?"

"I've always been ahead of my time," I say. "My high school English teacher said my themes were sophomoric when I was only a freshman. And you know how you've always told me I dress funny? Just look at this."

I hand her another newspaper clipping about how they just found out that efficiency goes up when companies let their employees dress down.

"I've known that for years," I say. "I haven't worn a necktie since 1964 and look at my efficiency. What do you say to that?"

"That's why you dress like every day is Hobo Day at school?" she says. "Because it makes you more efficient? And I thought all this time it was because you're such a tightwad."

"Hah!" I say, digging into my file of clippings and pulling out one headlined "Frugality has become popular again." I read aloud: "The national mood has shifted. Conspicuous consumption is unfashionable. Frugality is the latest craze sweeping the nation. Suddenly, it's trendy to be cheap."

She snorts.

"I was there a long time ago," I say. "Ahead of the curve. On the cutting edge. Hip. With it."

"You know what I think?" she says. "I think you spend all your time looking for stories that you think make you look good. It's a tough job. No wonder you don't get much else done around here."

"Research," I say, tapping my brow. "It's how all of us gurus get our material. Don't you ever listen to Rush Limbaugh?"

"But clipping just the stuff that makes you look good isn't research," she says. "It's massaging your own ego."

"Is not," I say.

"I don't suppose," she says, "you've got any clippings in your little box that suggest goatees are pretentious or that sloppy clothes make sloppy thinking or that frugality might be a miserly form of materialism. Any more than Limberger has clippings showing that 59% of Canadians and only 43% of Americans are very satisfied with their health care."

"Play fair," I whimper.

"You know what you and Limberger are doing?" she says. "You're closing down your minds. You're inducing your own premature senility."

"Oh, yeah?" I say, sure of myself again because I've got a clipping on the subject. "Look at this."

It's a story headlined "Small-headed people at risk for dementia."

"Says if you've got a little head you're likely to have fewer brain cells," I say. "Says if you've got a big head, you've got more brain cells and you're less likely to go prematurely senile."

"So?" she says.

"So my hat size is seven and seven-eighths," I say. "When they measured us for mortar boards, I had the biggest head in the senior class. And Rush has a head at least as big as mine."

"You didn't hear anything I said, did you?" she says. "You only listen to what you want to hear."

"Not me," I say. "I'm not a Republican. Read this."

I give her a one-sentence clipping that says "Every time Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill, got up to speak during the Senate Banking Committee's Whitewater hearings, fellow senator and foe Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., took out both his hearing aids."

"You're doing it again," she says, handing me back the clipping.

"Hah?" I say, cupping my ear like the Gipper. "Doing what again?"


Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.

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