I don’t remember when I started shaving. I suppose I was in high school, but the possibility exists that it was earlier, perhaps the last year of junior high, AKA middle school. Not that it matters. But the transition to manhood seems to be connected in some way to shaving. Among other things, of course. Yet I don’t recall that transition, at least not with respect to shaving. I remember other things, but only vaguely. Shaving probably doesn’t resonate in my memory because I’ve always had a rather light beard, both in terms of density of whiskers per square inch and with respect to the thickness of individual whiskers. Or their thinness. Some of my whiskers have always been almost wispy. And a few have been thick and strong like stalks of mesquite wood protruding from my skin. Most are somewhere in the middle, leaning toward wispy.
In spite of my poor memory about the timing of my introduction to shaving, I recall some fundamental changes in the practice of shaving over the years. One more thing I don’t recall, though, is the time-frame at which it became a necessary daily habit. But some things I remember.
In my early days of shaving, whenever they were, I shaved in one direction. Down. Down the side of the face. Down the upper lip. Down the lower lip to the chin. Down from the chin to the bottom of my neck. Always down. Those early days lasted for years and years. Sometime in my early thirties, I think, I began to notice that I got a MUCH closer shave if I followed the down stroke with a pull of the razor up my neck, from the base of my neck to my chin. Not too long after that, I realized my shave still wasn’t awfully close; to make it as close as it could be, I had to then pull the razor horizontally from each side of my neck to the middle. Sometime later, I started doing the up stroke on my cheeks, as well. Finally, not so many years ago, I began the side stroke on my cheeks. I realized, along the way, that there’s a place on the left side of my neck that requires an angled top-down stroke after I’ve finished shaving. If I don’t finish my shave with that angled top-down stroke, I can feel an annoying stubble after I’ve rinsed and dried my face.
My shaving practice is actually somewhat more complicated than I described, but the additional complications are not worth describing. (Nor, the reader probably thinks, were and the descriptions of the shaving process and practice.)
Actually, I feel quite fortunate to have a rather thin, slow-growing beard. I can easily go a day without shaving and almost no one will notice. Even at two days, only a relatively few people notice that I have some stubble. Grey hair and a pasty complexion help, too, conceal the fact that I haven’t shaved.
I’d prefer not to have to shave. I suppose I could simply stop, but eventually my face and neck would look awful. Before looking horrible, though, my meager whiskers would drive me crazy. Scratchy whiskers, jutting at odd angles, bother me at the corners of my mouth shortly after a period of not shaving. Shortly thereafter, my entire face protests the growth. I’ve tried. I’ve had almost invisible mustaches on more than one occasion. Even when I allowed the strands of hair to grow to two or three inches in length, they blended with my face. My mustache made my upper lip look like I was sporting an odd camouflage lip garment.
I know men who, if they want their faces to look freshly-shaven, would have to shave every two hours. Given the fact that I do not like to shave (and, by the way, nick myself almost every morning), I can only pity having such fast-growing beards. Especially fast-growing beards flush with the mesquite stalk style of whiskers I mentioned a few paragraphs above.
And that is the saga of shaving as told by a sometimes shavist.