Originally published February 11, 2012
I can’t remember how old I was when I first shaved, but I know it was before I started high school (the early ’60s). I had a lot of “peach fuzz” on my cheeks and neck – certainly nothing resembling a beard – but I wanted to reach that particular milestone in life – and definitely, before any of my friends.
But first – my dad’s razor.
No, it wasn’t electric – it was the kind of razor that had a single, 2-sided blade. Dad kept it in the medicine cabinet, which was behind our small bathroom mirror. We didn’t have a bathroom vanity or even a counter – just a sink, mirror, tub, and toilet. And we only had one bathroom – for eight people!
The razor blades were not stainless steel – they were “bluish-black” colored steel – with no frills such as Teflon.
Dad had a shaving mug – which sort of resembled a coffee mug that had a bar of soap in it. He also had a little brush that he would wet under the tap and then put into the cup and create a soapy lather.
I remember many a time, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, and watching my dad as he shaved. It was evident that there was a very sophisticated technique involved – and my dad would make all kinds of weird “faces,” as he stretched his mouth, cheek, and neck to complete the shave.
He would then take a hand towel and wipe off the small amount of shaving cream left on his face.
A few times, my dad would “nick” himself while shaving – usually accompanied by a few swear words – but I never saw him cry or even whine about it. He would tear off a piece of toilet paper and place it directly on the wound.
I would follow my dad to the kitchen table where he would then have his breakfast and then head out the door to work – often, with the blood-stained piece of toilet paper still stuck to his face.
So when I closed the bathroom door that day – to shave for the first time – I was pretty confident that I had the shaving thing down pat.
The only thing that I had to worry about was using my dad’s shaving stuff without him or my mom ever knowing – they would never understand. And I wasn’t going to ask permission either. I was at least 12 years old – almost a teenager – and old enough to know that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission!
I had little time to worry about developing my shaving technique – we only had one bathroom – for a family of eight. And I just knew that I would have to be in and out in a reasonable amount of time, or snoopy minds would come crashing through the bathroom door!
I decided to skip the shaving mug and just slathered my face with regular bar soap. After I got my face all soapy, I pulled my dad’s razor from the cabinet and stared into the mirror. “It’s easy,” I thought to myself. I would make a bunch of silly faces while gracefully gliding the razor over my soon-to-be-peach-fuzz-less face.
I don’t remember how many pieces of toilet paper I had to use to cover the numerous cuts – but I know that there was a lot of blood all over the sink and floor. And when I finally walked out of the bathroom, there was my mom!
My mom never had what I would call a typical scream – it sounded like wailing banshees.
My two older sisters had it so easy – all they had to worry about was growing boobs big enough to fit in a training bra! And if they didn’t grow fast enough – they could always use toilet paper to stuff them!
I can’t remember when I had my next shave, but I’m pretty sure it was around the time that I got interested in girls (probably Grade 8). But that’s another story, and you’re already yawning.
Dedicated to Rob Kroeker, my barber