Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Close Shave

Its advertisements are everywhere. Right in the middle of my daily afternoon update from The New York Times. On the sports radio channels WFAN and ESPN. On CBS AM 880 News. Harry’s—the place to go for quality blades at affordable prices, or so its ads tout.

You might think looking at my picture that I don’t shave a lot. After all, except for one month back in 1973 I’ve had a beard since November 1969. The truth is, when I was a working stiff I shaved a minimum of five or six times a week, always when trudging off to work and at least once every weekend.

Nowadays, I shave maybe two or three times a week.

I shaved with a razor, usually a Gillette disposable. Or a Bic. A couple of months ago I started alternatively using an electric shaver, a plug in Norelco that used to be my father’s.

As a youngster I would watch him shave. Back then he had a Remington. He would prep his face with some pre-shave talc that came in a round stick. Or he’d splash on some Mennen pre-shave lotion. Often as not, he’d pass the shaver over my peach fuzz face to tickle or scare me.

The first time I used a blade I was 16. It was a Saturday night. I was home alone. My parents were playing cards, one of their monthly floating poker games at friends from my father’s Old World society. My brother was out on a date. My sister was in Israel attending Hebrew University.

I had traces of stubble from an electric shave several days before, an outline barely visible. Feeling a little adventurous, on a whim I decided to try out my brother’s double-edged safety razor. I lathered up and effortlessly glided the razor across my cheeks, down my neck. This shaving was a piece of cake, I said to myself.

And then I looked in the mirror. Red splotches everywhere. No pain no stinging, but lots of crimson.

I washed the blood away, along with any remaining shaving cream. The bleeding seemed to stop everywhere but one persistent spot under my chin. I applied pressure. Blood kept oozing out. I put on a band-aid. Soon it was all red. Tissue after tissue stained red. An hour went by. No relief.

With no one home to share my predicament with, I sat down at the dining room table and wrote my sister, using one of those lightweight, folding aerogram letter forms. To illustrate my misfortune I dabbed the paper to my cut. When I finished writing it was nearly two hours after the dripping began. I finally stopped bleeding.

Over the next 50 years I rarely have cut myself shaving. No cut has bled for more than a few minutes. I’ve never used a styptic pencil or walked around with pieces of tissue covering mishaps across my face. Perhaps I bled my life’s quota that Saturday night five decades ago.