Shaving: The Manliest of Father-Son Moments


Certain rites of passage into adulthood involve bloody episodes in the bathroom. I’m talking about shaving, of course.

It’s a bittersweet thing, teaching your son how to shave. It’s a great bonding opportunity, but it also signals a big step away from childhood. And as all parents know, every one of these steps leads away from home.

Rusty had been fooling around with a disposable razor for a while, but after watching him shave one morning I thought I’d provide some gentle guidance. His approach was similar to the one he uses when mowing the yard: a random series of swipes with no apparent logic or plan. At least in the bathroom he didn’t run over a sprinkler.

I cracked open a can of Edge and handed him a cheap disposable razor. We lathered up.

“Son,” I said to his image in the mirror, “I remember when I was your age I couldn’t wait to start shaving. It just looked like so much fun. But now that I’m a grown man and have to shave five or six times a month, it’s a regular pain in the ass.”

Lesson One was shaving against the grain. Lesson One-B was the use of a styptic pencil to slow down the bleeding. “Always shave with cold water, even though it’s uncomfortable,” I told him. “Promotes coagulation.”

After showing him how to maneuver the razor over the various facial geography, I watched him carefully drag the razor across his young mug, moving with the deliberation of a bomb squad. When he was finished he splashed water all over his face like they do in the TV commercials. Our bathroom now looked like the front row at Sea World.

EdnorHudShaving (2)

Uh, Dad, I think you missed a spot.

“That’s why people don’t do that in real life,” I said, handing him a towel. I also handed him a bottle of Old Spice aftershave, but he demurred.

“No offense, dad, but I don’t want to smell like a math teacher.” Point taken.

Soon after this manly milestone, Rusty got hooked on the idea of shaving with a safety razor. Wet shaving. I’m kind of old school, I guess, because I do like to use a brush and a shaving mug with a cake of math teacher-scented soap. But when it comes to scraping my face with a deadly implement, I’m strictly modern. I probably lost enough blood in my younger days to a double-edge “safety” razor to earn a one-gallon pin from the Red Cross Bloodmobile.

Like many kinds of old technology, wet shaving has been rediscovered by a new generation. Wet shaving websites abound, where DE (double edge) enthusiasts swap opinions, gear reviews and shaving tips. The lengths to which these guys will discuss the minutiae of something as mundane as shaving is kind of mind-boggling. They show off pictures of their rigs. They post blow-by-blow accounts of their “daily shave.” Rusty haunts a few discussion threads, and sometimes he’ll hit me with some arcane fact about whisker behavior or blade manufacturing techniques. It strikes me as odd, but I also love seeing him delve so deeply into something that’s basically harmless and healthy.

For my birthday last fall he presented me with a small ceramic bowl and a cake of some kind of organic shaving soap. Bay Rum flavor. I thanked him, and mentioned that I already have a shaving mug.

“Yeah, that’s for your soap. This is to make lather in.” Of course we had to have a shave session after that. He started by filling the bathroom sink with hot water. Then he laid the new bowl and my shaving brush into the water.

“Let this soak while you take your shower,” he told me. “Then it’ll keep the lather warm while you whip it up.”

I humored him, and after my shower we stood at the sink, ready to make some lather. Just a little water, he said, touching his new badger-hair shaving brush to the surface of the water. Then he rubbed it on the soap cake to “load” the brush, and he started whipping it around in his own ceramic bowl. I followed suit, wondering why I couldn’t just make lather in the same mug that held the soap. I asked Rusty and he looked at me like I’d just told him we were going back to dial-up.

“Okay,” I said after a minute. “Looks ready.”

“Oh, no,” he said with an air of authority. “You’re just getting started.” He touched his brush to the water again, loaded it with a bit more soap, and kept whipping. I followed suit. Soon, the lather turned creamy and started to fill the bowl. It looked like meringue.

“Whoa,” I said. “That’s cool. Okay, can I lather my face now?” He shook his head, still stirring. I was getting impatient. “Look, if this takes any longer I’m going to need another shave.”

Finally, we painted the thick, creamy lather onto our faces. It felt like frosting a face-shaped cake. He instructed me to massage it in with the brush, which would get the whiskers to stand up. I rinsed my three-blade cartridge razor and started shaving.

“What are you doing?” he asked, turning his palms up.

“Uh, shaving?”

“No, dad, you’re doing it all wrong. First you go with the grain, then against the grain, then across the grain.”

“I have to shave three times?”

He just shrugged and started pulling the big safety razor across his throat. “If you want a close shave, that’s what you do.”

We finished up, toweled our faces off, and admired our gleaming jaws in the mirror. Barb came into the bathroom and caressed my cheek. “Mmm, smooth!” she said.

Rusty smiled, obviously filled with pride that he had taught his dad to shave. Ah, dads. They grow up so fast.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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