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Archive for July, 2011

Shaving my dad’s way

Last month I was inducted into the Rotary Club. I’ve started going to bed much earlier and waking up much earlier. I talk to people about the weather and the lawn. I worry about our economy and my child’s education. I enjoy woodworking and peace and quiet. I’m getting old, and with that, I think I’m letting myself become more refined. And now I shave like a refined man.

I bought myself a safety razor for Father’s Day this year. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but I’m now the owner of a beautiful, German-crafted, stainless steel and chrome shaving razor. I remember watching my dad carefully and meticulously shave his face in front of the bathroom mirror when I was a little boy. He always used his safety razor and if memory serves me, it had a black handle and stainless steel top. That image of him shaving is forever with me as part of who my dad was – he was always well-groomed and clean shaven.

I went on a “date” on a Saturday night back in my junior high days. My parents were taking my girlfriend and me to see a movie. As I was preparing for my date, I thought it would be manly of me if I shaved my upper lip. I probably didn’t need to shave, but I did it anyhow. And ever since, I’ve had to shave. I hated shaving back then because I was probably the only one among my peers who needed to shave. And as I embarked upon the manly rite of passage known as shaving, I learned to do so with cheap, disposable razors. I don’t know why my dad didn’t teach me to shave with a safety razor; in hindsight, I guess the disposable variety were mainstay and accessible.

I remember one particular morning in my early teen years after I hadn’t shaved in a couple days and my dad said, “Come here. You look like the devil.” I followed him out to the driveway where my dad positioned me where my face was directly in the sun and he shaved my face for me with his electric razor. I was probably going for some kind of “look” that week, and I hated the fact that my dad was shaving my face, but that was one of the smoothest shaves I’d ever had – probably because my dad was anal about keeping his electric razor in top-notch condition and he raked it over my face a couple dozen times. I think he only used the electric razor at that phase of his life because my mom and I probably bought it for him for a birthday or a Father’s day. He probably would’ve still used his trusty safety razor.

In later years the commercials told us men that we need two blades – one for lifting, one for cutting, for the smoothest shave ever. Then they pushed the envelope with three blades. Then four. The blade I threw away this morning had four blades and an “aloe strip” that left a film on my face after the blade passed over it like a slug leaving a trail of goo. Schick and Gillette have done a fine job of manufacturing demand, making millions of dollars and leaving men with stubble and razor burn. We’ve been taught to press hard to get as close of a shave as possible and hurry through the process, which should be an art, of shaving in a feeble attempt to make ourselves look presentable and distinguished.

A few days after ordering my safety razor, it came in the mail. I hadn’t been that excited about a parcel in as long as I could remember. I immediately opened the box and was fascinated by the razors weight, sturdiness and shine from all the chrome. It was like I was holding a tool, not a piece of plastic manufactured in China and sold at Walmart. I don’t know how it happened, but I somehow lost my brand new safety razor between the mailbox and our house. I slowly retraced my steps twice to no avail. By the time I realized I’d lost the razor, I’m sure someone else had found it and was equally mesmerized by the chrome’s shine at least.

So I had to order myself a new safety razor. It arrived in the mail yesterday and I shaved with a safety razor for the first time this morning. The process was like cutting room-temperature butter with a hot knife. I had to keep touching my face after each pass of the blade to make sure I was actually shaving. After 20-plus years of pressing expensive, poorly-designed, mediocre razors against my face for a shave that still left stubble and burn, today I am changed man with a face as smooth as glass.

After splashing on some Old Spice and feeling that real burn from a real, close shave, I had Maly feel my face. She said, “Whoa! That’s smooth! Except you missed a spot there on your chin.”

It takes some patience and finesse, not unlike using a real tool, but I guess that’s the simple burden of getting that clean, close and smooth shave like dad used to always have.

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