Find Your Back Scratcher
Like me, you’ve probably decided it’s time to own a back scratcher. I’d been thinking about the bamboo model that cost 25 coupons, painstakingly earned playing Skee-ball over the summer vacation, a fistful of cardboard token strips hoarded and finally cashed in at the Prize Redemption Counter, the dazzling boardwalk jewel in the Family Fun Center crown.
I longed for the AM/FM/cassette boombox that cost 12,500 coupons, but after sinking all I’d wheedled from my father on Skee-ball, with only 31 coupons to show for the effort, the back scratcher caught my eye. At least it was attainable.
I entered toddlerhood scratching my mother’s back, while my younger or older sister stood behind our mother and scratched her back, all of us watching Bilko or some other nearly forgotten show on the console TV set, one kid sitting on the floor in front of the mother hoping the show might distract everyone and lengthen the duration of being scratched, another kid behind the mother always on the verge of complaining it was time to switch. The mother was always scratching, and always being scratched, which seemed like the best deal, and her long nails and light touch instructed her children in the ways of back scratching. How would a child otherwise learn to do this properly?
I’ve spent my long life tormenting girlfriends and wives to scratch my back. I’ve always been willing to return the favor. My early childhood imprinting has leant powerful emotional meaning to the experience, and when my most recent and final wife tires of my requests at bedtime, it feels like a terrible rejection of the person I truly am deep within my soul. Still and all, I suppose it’s like having a dog that whines to be taken out just as one clambers into bed, night after night, why did we get this dog, I never signed up for this, kind of thing.
It’s in those quiet, dark moments after the nightly request has been rejected that I think, fine, I’ll get a back scratcher and do it myself. I know this will be a disappointing alternative, but what else can I do? Not have my back scratched? My wife has more than once asked me if I have a skin condition, but has she offered to rub balm into my back after scratching it? No, she has not.
Imagine my surprise to discover the global industry devoted to back scratching! Fabricated of materials ancient and modern, sold individually and in bulk (for barracks? fishing camps?), some models are featured in lavishly illustrated sales pitches that demonstrate how a particular model (The Telescopic Bear Claw) goes easily from bedroom to study to living room, pleasing people of all ages, and pets, too!
It gets better — because customers want to share their back scratcher insights with novices like me! “This bear claw is a life-saver!” says one, and “Cons: none so far,” another. “Very well made,” “nice presentation box,” “doesn’t hurt or break skin or anything — “ Well, problem solved, right?
Not so fast. If it seems too good to be true, keep reading the reviews. It telescopes, sure — but it does not lock. “The telescoping handle tends to collapse…” “…was expecting the handle to be longer…” and finally, “an awful excuse for a back-scratcher.”
More heart-breaking is the vulnerability of the scratchers willing to bear their souls. “I have very dry, itchy skin as well as allergies that make me itch all over. It is absolutely maddening when you’re all alone…” and “… I feel dirty when my wife is gone and I pull this out, it’s like I’m doing something wrong…” and “I was afraid it would rip me to shreds.”
Perhaps the saddest thing I encountered in my journey was this citizen’s admission: “This might be the best purchase I’ve ever made. I’m not joking.” If that doesn’t reduce you to tears, you’re a monster. Get help.
It’s a world of people like me, backs itching, tormenting loved ones for relief and human contact, finally forced to turn to a device that as often as not lets you down. Just like people do. But I’m going forward, I’m generating some positivity, putting on a brave face and I going to take a chance! Not a chance on love or humanity or common decency, but on a back scratcher that, while it may not be my mother, will certainly not be rip me to shreds, and that may, as one verified buyer confirms, “ allow me to keep my dignity while scratching.”