By Joe Rector

Amy bought me one of those micro-shavers that trims and shaves and cuts. It’s a neat little gadget that gives me a break from the shaving ritual that I’ve followed for decades. This new razor would be nicer if I used it to cut the scraggily parts of a beard, but my wife told me years ago that I needed to shave off the beard I’d grown and that I should never grow another. The fact is this one daily activity is not much fun anymore.

Not long after puberty arrived, I got excited about being able to be a real man and shave. As soon as a bit of fuzz appeared on my cheeks, I loaded an old razor with a double-sided blade and proceeded to scrape the areas. The fuzz disappeared but was replaced by a dozen small red rivers caused by the nicks from a razor crossing skin at awkward angles. I exited the bathroom with small wads of toilet paper plastered to the wounds, and, yes, there was much laughter from family members.

Sideburns were fashionable my high school senior year, and I grew a pair that reached half-way down the sides of my face. I’ve never been good making things like that match, and on occasion, one strip of hair was longer than the other, and my whole head looked cock-eyed.

My first year in college, I thought I’d look great with long hair, a moustache, and chin whiskers. Those areas weren’t shaved and remained “rough.” Before long, I shaved my chin, but I kept the moustache and kept my upper lip covered for years.

During my early years as a teacher, I also grew a beard. It was spotty and had two gray streaks on my chin. My students nicknamed me “Skunkie.” With that name and a bit of more-than-gentle persuasion from Amy, I made the decision to shave that beard. Doing so unleashed a whole lot of ugly, and my skin suffered from a severe case of razor burn.

The moustache stayed for several more years. It eventually came in solid gray, and I whacked it away. When people asked why I’d shave it, I told them that when it couldn’t be seen any more the time had come to get rid of it. The stares from family and friends ended before long.

For the last 20+ years, I’ve shaved this mug and kept it free of hair. To me, it’s looked the same during that time. However, sometimes, I wake up enough to see the face looking back at me and wonder who the old man is. I look at the top of my head and see that it is too quickly becoming as bare as my face.

Since I’m retired and only substitute a few days each week, shaving is no longer something I have to do every day. In fact, during the summer, I only break out the razor when I my face is covered with white stubble or I must be in public. The excitement of shaving that came in my teens has long since disappeared. I complete the task as quickly as possible and hope too many places haven’t been missed.

The luckiest men are those who have little or no beard. They can skip one daily chore or perform it only a couple of times each week. The rest of us will have deal with the cold steel against our faces or go “grubby.” I, for one, am thankful that I’m not expected to shave my legs and armpits.