Shaving and other manly rituals

It’s been a awhile since I’ve posted.

I’ve been faithfully attending my writing group and working on my memoir, even though a little voice inside me says things like:

“You can’t do it.”

“You’re not that funny”

“Who would want to read that?”

My inner critic can be a real jackass.

But I’m plugging away.

I’ve been writing a lot about me as a kid — middle-age butch in the making — and gender roles and norms and expectations.

I asked W the other day if she ever wanted to shave when she was a little kid.  I know it’s a weird question.  I’ve never wanted to be a real boy like Pinocchio or even look like a boy.  I just favor masculine things like Old Spice, menswear, short haircuts and professional wrestling.

I love ties and suspenders and baseball caps.  I always have. 

Ties and suspenders

In the 80s, ties are trendy and deemed appropriate for women.  I have two that I wear on a regular basis with button-down oxford shirts.

Here’s a rough-draft excerpt from my memoir:

My dad teaches me how to tie a Windsor knot.  One morning before school, he slips into my bedroom and stands behind me while I am facing the mirror attached to my dresser.  He shows me how to wrap the material around and around, up and through.  It is a skill that I learn with pride, a right of passage like learning to drive or registering to vote.

Shaving creamI wonder what it would have been like to learn how to shave.  I imagine him standing behind me in front of the bathroom mirror showing me how to lather my face and pull the razor down in long, straight strokes.  

Even though I will never grow a beard, shaving seems like a useful skill unlike makeup application and hairstyling.

I am seduced by the ritual.  My dad’s shaving cream smells clean and earthy like fresh laundry and pine needles.  His aftershave is stored in a small green glass bottle like a magic potion.  I sit quietly on the bathroom counter as he shakes out three small splashes into a single cupped palm, rubs both hands together and slaps his face twice on each cheek.  I can feel the cool sting just by smelling the air. 

I think it’s unfair that such majestic behind-the-scenes pageantry is reserved for boys.

My mother wears makeup that she buys from the Clinique counter and Chanel No. 5 on special occasions.  I can’t recall the color of her lipstick or the face that she makes in the mirror when she applies her blush.  I am certain that she has her rituals, too, but they hold no allure.

* * *

Even now, I’m jealous.  Upscale men’s haircutting establishments modeled after old-fashioned barber shops are popping up all over the place.  Something about getting a short haircut and a shave appeals to me.  The smell of the shaving cream, the feel of a straight razor on my face, the luxury of a hot towel.

What about you?  What rituals were you fascinated with as a kid?  Did you favor things typically associated with the opposite sex?

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9 responses to “Shaving and other manly rituals

  1. Excellent – I think your inner critic deserves a slow, painful death – or a muzzle at the very least.

  2. Baseball. When I was younger girls had to play softball and boys had to play baseball if they wanted to play ball. It annoyed me because sign up sheets would come around for baseball but none for softball. I convinced my dad to let me sign up. I played for two weeks on an all boys baseball team. Those guys told me that I was one of the toughest girls they knew after being hit with a fly ball thrown by the couch and not crying. I didn’t get to play out the season because I switched to softball. I played softball for three years and was continually the best player on my team because of the baseball practices. I’m not sure if that answers your question, but I was obsessed with being one of the guys when I was younger. I had to be the tough girl that never cried so I could fit in.

  3. this is an interesting question. The only ritual that I can remember was smoking. As a kid I couldn’t wait to grow up and be old enough to start smoking. Something about holding a cigarette and blowing smoke.

    I do not smoke but that ritual still fascinates me.

  4. I would read your memoir. Keep going. Love the description of shaving cream.

  5. Sounds wonderful. Looking forward to reading it.

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