He was in his early forties. As he continued to speak I thought, is this the way we want our sons learning how to shave? I remembered watching my own father shaving Sunday mornings before we went to church. He never verbally taught me the techniques but watching him over the years, my brain made mental notes on how to apply shaving cream, and how to make long smooth downstrokes on my face and neck.
I was 16 when my high school girlfriend said she preferred me clean-shaven. I went home that day and went straight to the bathroom looking for my dad’s razor. I remember opening the medicine cabinet finding dad’s double edge safety razor. As I examined it closely my brain pulled out the mental notes from years before. I noticed a rusty blade between the two silver headpieces. I looked back into the medicine cabinet to see if there were any extra ones that were clean and unused. Sure enough, there were a couple of them lying around, thanks dad.
Excitedly, the next morning I got up earlier than usual to embark on a “new me”. I unscrewed the bottom, took off the top piece, removed the rusty blade and inserted the new one, then screwed back the bottom piece and went to work. Sadly, my father passed away before guiding me through my inaugural shave. My mind flashed forward to many years later when my own son asked me how to get a close shave. I felt equipped and knowledgeable to share what I’d learned.
After the keynote speaker’s speech, I was a little disappointed because I thought about the young men who have grown up without a father and did not have the privilege of learning something that I took for granted. Whether we use an electric shaver or a razor, teaching our sons how to shave is one of life’s small essential skills. But this father/son bonding time has been lost especially with black men because there is no frame of reference plus we have become so accustomed to using an electrical grooming device like a T-liner due to lack of education and lack of good products.
We teach our boys how to ride a bike, swing a bat or drive a car. But this forgotten, time-honoured tradition is a rite of passage and one of the few intimate male-specific moments we have left in transitioning them from boyhood to manhood. Let’s spend a few minutes teaching them about grooming. After all, parents are children’s greatest teachers regardless if you’re in their lives or not.