Friday, December 6, 2013

On Shaving: Problem Solved, Maybe

Really. There are some good reasons for men to shave. A bad cold is one. So is corn on the cob. Ice cream cones also come to mind. Imagine any of these excreting their essence on a mustache, and shaving seems like a reasonable alternative.

On the whole, stubble-chic notwithstanding, shaving is awful. Men know this, but most of us do it anyway, facial hirsuteness or not. Why? I'll tell you why.

I don't know. I've been doing it for more than fifty years, and I still don't know. Moreover, this is my third post in ten years on shaving. You'd think I'd have the answer by now.

As a young lad with baby-butt skin, I recall forcing the pitch of my mid-adolescent voice downward as much as I could in the hopes of forcing out some whiskers whose atavistic seeds lurked in the upper layers of my facial epidermis. It was a joyful moment indeed when the first one peeked through the ubiquitous zits. Breathlessly, I hurried to the nearest drug store, bought a can of Gillette shaving cream and a two-sided safety razor, returned to the mirror and whacked off the whisker, along with a zit or two.

No longer a boy, I. My nascent Sean Connery-ness was at hand.

Which lasted until I went to college. A clean-shaven face did not compliment tie-dyed shirts and faded jeans. And beards really pissed off the cranky old VFW guys we did our best to piss off.

Over the years, daily shaving was a time of firsts. Of course, there was the first shave, but after that came the first date, first love, first heartbreak, and so on. As I became older, there was marriage (heading into its 43rd year), first business success, first failure, first miscue, first publication, first child, and so on. You saw your life as a continuum of possibilities.

The first child was followed by a couple more, and the best I can say about parenthood is that it's a time of daily discovery, something you don't control but just sort of roll with, marvel over and learn. The kids move out about the time they get really interesting, but that's as it should be so you can later accept them as peers.

When I'd look into the mirror, the face looking back at me was pretty much the same one it had always been, and life seemed to be a succession of endless tomorrows. Gillette's newly-released double-edged razor should have been the dead giveaway that this supposition wasn't true. While it was marginally better than the old two-sided safety razor, your face still pretty much felt as though it had suffered a sparrow stampede.

It was sometime after the introduction of the triple-edged razor that the face in the mirror no longer looked like the one I'd come to know and be comfortable with. Who was that old fart, anyway? Discomfort with aging begins when you lose control over the gray in your hair and whiskers, followed by the receipt of junk mail from the AARP, which you angrily throw away. When you actually begin reading the AARP junk mail, you begin to sense the fight is over.

And, I have to say, I've been contemplating lasts instead of firsts. Is this the last house we'll ever live in. Is this the last dog we'll ever own. Is this the last car. Have I had my last job. So it goes.

"What do you do when the Grim Reaper is knocking' on the door and you're not quite ready to go?" my father said, once. He was in his mid-eighties and had obviously been thinking about it. Old age, a good friend quipped, is when you finally have all the answers, but no one asks the questions. Point taken, however. My gig with death appears to be something I'll not be able to bug out on.

Not long ago, I read someplace that human beings might be evolution's most successful example. We are born, we produce, and then stay alive long enough to pass a certain wisdom off the the next generation. I, for one, am most grateful for the opportunities to have mentored a few young people. They know who they are, and I'm putting them on notice right now that I had way more fun than they did. They not only helped liberate my Muse, such as it is, but they confirmed my right to exist despite nagging inner voices arguing to the contrary. Chalk one up for Darwin.
People with their mouths open look dumb

As it turns out, young people were the inspiration for the shaving solution, namely, to just not do it very often. These days, I pretty much let it go for two or three days, my inner self-vision something between Hugh Jackman and Edward Snowden, but the reality being closer to a wino.

When I finally get around to it, I use an electric, a device I've pretty much eschewed over the course of my shaving career. They always made my face feel as though the whiskers had been sanded off. But the product has improved, as of late. Either that, or I just don't really give a damn. And I follow up with as good razor shave at east once a week.

All of which is to say, what's the point? I was pretty sure there was one when I started this post out, although for the life of me, I can't recall what it was. Maybe there isn't one. More and more these days, that's pretty much how it's all turning out.

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