Recently, my youngest son looked at me, rubbed his face and said, "I need to start shaving." I tried not to snicker, but then he’s only 11 years old. While he might have a whisker or two hiding on his face, there’s no way he’s ready for a sharp blade and a handful of foam. Besides, I remember all too well what it was like when I took up shaving at the ancient age of 14. He’s way too young for that kind of carnage and blood loss.
Like most male children of the ’60s, I had a toy plastic razor that came with cardboard blades, but as for real-world razor training, I had none. When I was fourteen, I decided it was time to clear out a few imaginary whiskers. I had access to shaving cream, but back then, households didn’t have big bags of disposable razors just sitting around for anyone to grab. Typically, a family had just one razor: dad’s metal-jawed monstrosity. So, I decided to borrow his razor handle. I loaded up a clean, fresh blade just like I used to do with my cardboard ones, lathered my face, took a few strokes, and pretty much ripped my cheeks to shreds in a painful and brightly-colored welcome to adulthood.
After I stopped most of the serious bleeding, I asked my dad if it was normal to remove chunks of flesh along with the whiskers. He looked at me and then at his razor. Then he looked at his razor again. He told me that a metal blade — unlike a cardboard one — has to be curved by the razor’s jaws. Had I tightened it properly, I would’ve had a clean, safe shave instead of a dance with Death. Lesson learned. In fact, I learned several other lessons that day. I learned to keep other people’s sharp metal objects away from my body. I learned that dried blood is hard to get off Formica counter tops. And most importantly, I learned that I hated shaving. I still hate shaving, and every time I slice my ear or lip or eyelid with an errant razor stroke, I remember the pain of that first brutal hatchet job. And when my son is truly ready to shave, I’ll teach him what I know, including a healthy respect for sharp metal blades. It’s good to pass on fatherly advice, especially where blood and Formica are involved.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.