Tag Archives: ties

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?