This morning I have decided to tackle a subject designed to appeal to a wide audience – explicating my personal, rather idiosyncratic, stance on facial hair removal.
First, some background. As I child, I remember watching my father lather up with soap and a shaving brush and carefully work over his face with what would now be considered an antique safety razor (a replaceable two-sided blade housed in a metal apparatus.) I remember being fascinated. I tracked his facial gestures as he traversed the always difficult mustache area or stropped under his chin. I memorized the process by which he converted, in a few minutes, a face covered with white soap to one with smooth skin. I think that I viewed shaving as an elemental activity that connected me to generations of male ancestors.
I also distinctly remember my sister’s reaction when it came time for me to start shaving -- “Hee, hee, hee.” I interpreted her words to mean that the adolescent changes that were taking place with her older brother were embarrassing.
For years I failed to contend gracefully with the necessity to slice the hair off my face. I was not static, however. I moved from soap to gel; I followed Gillette down its well-intentioned attempts to provide me suitable products: Trac II, Atra, Atra Plus, Sensor, Sensor Excel, and so on. But I was never consistent enough to be a good patient for their experiments. Too often I would go a week or so without shaving, waiting until itchiness would drive me back to razor. And then I inevitably had an ordeal on my hands; those fancy disposable razors, with their multiple blades and pivoting heads, fill up with long hairs and you are left with a time-consuming and dangerous job.
At times I really tried to have fun with shaving. I experimented a few times, briefly, with the mustache and goatee look, which I thought would limit the shaving area. I also tried stopping mid-shave in a variety of ways, leaving patches on my cheeks, for example. I sought feedback from my girlfriend, but that never went over well. All in all, I facial hair thing was a pain -- I could never get myself past the itchiness of longer hair, or the look of a full beard. (I suppose that vanity can not fully disassociated with the act of shaving, but it has not really been the driving force in my adventures, except that I have concluded that a really ragged beard is not particularly becoming.
But I have solved the facial hair problem for myself, and my wife has been commendably tolerant of that solution. I have not shaved for years; neither have I grown a beard. Instead, I make a pass with a professional quality beard-trimmer from time to time. By doing so, I avoid the itchy phase and the daily lather, the hard work when the beard has gotten long, not to mention the cost in time and money of buying blades. I avoid as well the imperfections of electric shavers and their laughable claims to shave as close as a blade. Furthermore, I dodge the expectations of daily smoothness, difficult for me with my tendency to avoid routine.