"Please join us Sunday, December 13th at 6 p.m." wrote Alicia, our future daughter-in-law.

"In true holiday cocktail fashion, formal attire is requested."

Party invitations, understandably, have been flowing like glue this season, and given that the guest list was small and its invitees safely in the bubble, we were a "Yes" before the ink was dry and a wreath hung on the door.

Requests to wear formal attire can chafe at the metaphorical collar like an over-starched shirt but this was refreshing. "Refreshing" because we've spent a lot of time alone this year. A lot of time in our sweats, shorts, T-shirts and our inside, we're-not-going to-see-anybody-anyway-clothes. Dressing up sounded like a life we once had that we appreciate in a way we had not before.

I like to look good, too, and I look good looking good. I sent a subliminal message to the other men who planned to be at the party: "When I walk in, you might as well go home, hide under the covers and hope that Punxsutawney Phil makes a call on an early spring."

Put this outfit in your Christmas pipe and smoke it: Start with a crisp white cotton button-down shirt, a blue blazer tailored in Hong Kong, a tried-and-true 25-year-old pair of gray, wool Armani pants, some shiny black dress shoes and top it off with a soft, blue newsboy hat. Bang, bang, bang, he went. I was lobbing heavy fashion artillery.

Setting it off would be a close shave and 20 minutes before the party, I lathered up and readied the Harry's razor blade made with good German steel, the only kind of steel I use. I am especially fond of the small blade at the end of the razor that allows a veteran shaving machine to get to the hard-to-reach area between the upper lip and the part of one's anatomy that can smell fashion victory at a Christmas party 10 minutes and two blocks away.

When I placed the small blade in the aforementioned area, it caught, grabbed and before it started bleeding, I smelled blood and felt the sensation of blood before its actual arrival.

Maybe it wasn't that bad, shaving cuts sometimes aren't and can be corralled before leaving the house if not the bathroom mirror. I dabbed at it with a tissue and it left a spot of blood no bigger than the head of a nail one might use to hang a small photograph.

I dabbed again but rather than diminishing the flow, the pressure seemed to encourage it until the spot was less like the head of a small nail and more like the circumference of an Argentine peso.

I ran the cold water and applied a few drops with the tip of my right index finger but that seemed to excite the wound and make the blood flow even more freely as if I had removed my finger from a dike. Now, I was concerned about dressing and spraying blood all over my formal attire unless I pulled a clear plastic bag over my head prior to doing so.

Wasn't blood supposed to coagulate? Rather than coagulating, the cut seemed to be metastasizing and at its present rate would soon outrun the slash on the Joker's face.

We walked to Thomas and Alicia's house. Sue looked good in her red Chinese jacket with her stylishly dressed dinner companion in tow sporting a tumorous mass in the part of his anatomy that could have used a mask either from the Phantom of the Opera or the Lone Ranger.

At least one, or both of my two sons who were there avoided me and at one point a young woman to whom I was talking declined to sit down next to me claiming she had back problems and sitting made them worse.

Who could blame them? Shrimp with cocktail sauce does not taste better sitting next to a man who looked as if he had brought his own.

I could imagine what they were thinking. "What happened?" "You had to bring that to this?" "Perhaps he's gotten to the stage where he doesn't know any better."

He does, he did and after staying for an hour went home to await the call from Punxsutawney Phil. Take your time. No one's in a hurry to poke their head out of a hole until the healing rays of spring.

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.