It’s late Monday morning when I finally hit the shower. After the usual battle of soap versus stink, I towel off and start shaving.
Ever since I switched to an old-fashioned double edged razor, I’ve developed a bit of a shaving fetish (Not that kind, you perverts.) and now the bathroom shelf my wife installed for her stuff is lined with a varied collection of shaving soaps, creams, aftershaves and a stand for my razor and silver tipped badger hair brush. Marriage is compromise.
I whip some shaving soap into a lather and use the brush to rub it into my beard. Once I’m satisfied the lather’s not too runny or dry, I start shaving. Assuming a normal life span, I will spend approximately six months of my life performing this task. One website said a man will shave 20,000 times before he drops dead. I started shaving when I was sixteen so, discounting the time I sported a beard, I’ve shaved about 10,000 times. I’m halfway there.
While I’m afraid of pain, I’ve never been very afraid of death. Once I shuffle off my mortal coil I’ll either be singing with the seraphim or reduced to an oblivious pile of atoms. Any way you cut it, my problems will be over. But now, as I watch my wife burgeoning with new life, I have a new fear. How many shaves do I have left?
If I make it to the 20K average, my child will be almost thirty when I die. That bothers me because I’m 45 and still have my parents. I’d have made it to ninety to see my child reach the age I am now. That probably won’t happen. What’s worse, I could die while my child still needs me. Standing in my bathroom, I can hear the ticking of life’s clock.
As I remove the whiskers under my nose, I remember that this could be my last shave. That’d be a disaster. Looking at recent fatalities among people I’ve known, I could might get eaten up by cancer at forty-seven, felled by a heart attack at fifty-five or stroke out at sixty. If those fates befall me, I’d leave my child too soon. I guess it’s time to buy life insurance.
I reapply shaving lather and set my face up for a second pass. The area under my jawbone is problematic and requires a steady hand. Last night I found out a deranged man I recently dealt with had hidden a razor blade under his tongue. He could have whipped it out and cut my throat before I had time to react. Forget natural causes of death – there might be a knife, bullet, car, fist, iron-pipe or bomb out there with my name on it.
As I listen to my whiskers scrape off, I tell myself I’d take living to eighty. My child will be thirty-five then. Family longevity suggests I can make that number. C’mon. Let me live an extra 1800 shaves; let me be with my child 1800 more mornings. Great, now I’m bargaining with the cosmos over the bathroom sink.
Now I’m working on my third pass, when I shave against the grain for a baby smooth finish. My wife likes that. As the last of my whiskers fall beneath my blade, I think of Death’s scythe mowing down everything that ever existed. If I have a son, will I get to teach him how to shave? If I have a girl, will I get to warn her about boys who do? I might be a lump of matter moldering in a grave by then. Or maybe I shall watch this kid grow up from my perch in Elysium.
I rinse off my face with cold water, pat it dry and then splash on some bay rum – an old masculine scent. My possible daughter might fall for a guy who wears bay rum one day. Odds are good she’d fall in love with an older man. Freud wasn’t always wrong.
As I look at myself in the mirror, I see the grey threatening to overtake my hair. My children will know me in the autumn and winter of my life. If I spend my days anxiously looking at diminishing pages of the calendar, I will screw them up. That’s one of the challenges I will face. How will I handle it? I have no fucking clue. I’ll just have to deal with life as it comes. I just hope who I am will be enough. It had better be.
I rinse out my brush and razor and put them in their stand to dry, praying my baby gets to see me shave ten-thousand more times.