One summer day when I was 12 years old, my dad, passing by me in the hallway, stopped, grabbed hold of me, and stared intently at my face. Then he moistened his thumb with his tongue and rubbed it against my upper lip. “Nope,” he said, “it’s not dirt. Come with me.”
He dragged me down the hall to the bathroom, standing me in front of the mirror. He rummaged around in the bathroom closet until he found a can of shaving cream, which he tossed to me.
“Shake the can,” he commanded. I did as he ordered.
“Now put some in your hand.” Again, I obeyed.
“Rub it on your face.”
When I had done all that, he handed me a razor – one of the single-blade injector types which were what passed for ‘high-tech’ in those days.
“Now scrape the shaving cream off your face.” I made a few tentative strokes. “You’ve got to press hard enough to actually get it off your face,” he pointed out, helpfully. I scraped more vigorously. “But not so hard that you cut your face to ribbons.” Okay, I could see that there was a fine line to be walked here, between ‘hard enough’ and ‘not too hard’. Anyway, I managed to finish my first shave without too many self-inflicted lacerations, and the shadow on my upper lip was gone.
And, boy, did my chest stick out after that! I had crossed the threshold, and I was now to be counted among the elite corps of Shavers. Not a little boy any more, not this fella! No, sirree! I was so excited, I took a whole hard-earned dollar down to the store and purchased a bottle of some cheap aftershave that I’d seen advertised during a baseball game. And I used that bottle up in about my first five shaves – you couldn’t leave something so important as letting the world know that you were Shaving, to chance.
I was recalling this story from my own life this weekend. I was sitting at the dining room table with the newspaper spread out in front of me, and Molly was in the kitchen, when 6F, who is eleven, came roaring through the house.
“I can shave now!”
What the heck is that about, I wondered.
She ran right past me to Molly in the kitchen. “You said I couldn’t shave until I had hair in my armpits!” she declared. Whereupon, she peeled back her shirtsleeve to show Molly her armpit. “See!” she declared triumphantly. “I’ve got hair in my armpits! So now I can shave!”
Molly leaned in for a closer look. “Well, so you do!” she said, admiringly.
6F began to bounce excitedly up and down. “So I can shave?”
“I guess you can,” Molly said, and she whisked her down the hall to the bathroom for some pit-shaving lessons. . .