Last week, my 12 year old step son came to me to ask a favour. He wanted to learn to shave. Sure, there were a couple of hairs growing under his nose, but I didn’t think he was ready for this step into manhood. Maybe I couldn’t accept the fact that he is growing up.
As I stood there and explained the basics of shaving, I thought back to my childhood, and the times where I stood and watched my grandfather shave. He used a straight razor that was nothing short of a beast. The thing looked like it fell right out of a slasher movie. I remember how he drew the blade against a long piece of leather that hung from the edge of the table, and then proceeded to lather up a homemade brush that he made from horse hair; carefully swirling it in a cup that he swiped from Gram’s cupboard.
He took great care in covering ever inch of his lower face, until he closely resembled Santa Clause. Then, with the care of a surgeon, he proceeded to drag the sharp blade over his face, cutting every hair, and thankfully no flesh.
He had a little razor for me too. He fashioned the thing out of a piece of alder wood, whittling the handle so that it matched the one he used. The blade was attached with a small screw, and although the edge was not filed sharp, I thought it was. Standing next to my grandfather, the two of us shared in a special moment together.
When we finished, he took boiling water from the kettle and poured it into the heavily enameled basin, and using a face cloth, he proceeded to wipe his face clean. He cooled the water down to wash my face.
“There, now you are a man!” he said.
I explained to my son just how easy it is to shave nowadays. I gave him the basics of shaving, and began to shave my face. He watched me first and then imitated my actions. He was shocked at how sharp the razor blade was, and how smooth it made his face feel. I explained how today’s razors were so much safer than the ones my grandfather used, and even the one my father uses to this day.
When we finished, he wiped his hand under his nose. “Wow, smoother than a baby’s bum!” he said. Those were the same words I used while my grandfather and I shaved together.
“Welcome to manhood” I told him, and winked my eye.