Time to Face Up



There should come a point in a man’s life where he finally becomes comfortable with himself. I find myself at an age — 41 — where this has still not happened. I am 100% confident that there is a segment of men out there who have intuited what I am talking about: facial hair.

I am certain that I, and other facially follicle impaired men, are the victims of some undetermined genetic condition. This condition prevents the ability to grow attractive facial hair, instead we are cursed with what appears to be splotches of hair randomly placed on our faces by crazed facial hair technicians.

My testimony begins the year I turned 13. I was in grade 9 at Nepean High School. I was a year younger than most of my fellow students — a boy genius if you will (Actually I skipped a grade in elementary school).

So there I was, a short fresh-faced teenager — free of even the earliest advances of peach fuzz on my chin — wandering the same high school corridors as seniors who had been shaving with actual razors since before I was born.

At Christmas that year, my two older brothers purchased for me a gift. This particular gift was a gift of immense importance — a gift that I am sure in my brothers’ minds was meant to impart upon me the wisdom of their elder years. This gift was a Ronco electric razor.

I was stunned and curiously gratified that my older brothers thought I, an insignificant dweeb of a younger brother, was worthy of an electronic appliance designed to remove facial hair from my face. Did they not remember that the closest my face had gotten to a facial hair up until that time was when I was six years old watching my father’s reflection in the bathroom mirror as he shaved with a straight edge razor blade? I guess not.

Upon opening this gift, I ran my right hand across my young face in search of some hairs that were in desperate need of being removed by a razor blade, agitating in a side-to-side motion at a high rate of speed. I didn’t find any. So I placed my new electric razor carefully next to my socks in the top drawer of my dresser in anticipation of the day when it would be called into duty. The socks were called into duty several times a day in case you were wondering.

The day that I turned 17 years old was the day that I finally placed my four-year old electric razor to my face. My intent was to remove the few soft hairs that had become to be noticeable, and embarrassing, from my chin. At first, I was disappointed with the performance of my razor. Then I plugged it in and turned it in on.

I believe that every dictionary should include a reference to shaving for the first time under the word “pain.” After my first electric razor ripped the soft hairs out of my chin, I hurled my first electric razor into my trash basket and curled up on my bed with a box of Kleenex to stem the flow of blood from my chin.

I did not attempt to shave again until I was dating the person who was to become my wife. I was 19 and my appearance was, to put it equitably, “rough.” Since it had been two years since my last shaving, I had accumulated enough facial hair such that, if it were all shaved off and collected together, it might fill a small thimble.

So when the time came to meet my then girlfriend's parents, she impressed upon me that if I wished to continue our courtship, I had better show up at their house at least clean-shaven. Then she gave me a gift, my first give from my beloved, a gift I could treasure as a keepsake and heirloom; a Philco electric razor. This was the kind with the three rotating heads of sharp razor blades. There’s something oddly masochistic about placing an object that has three circles of whirling razor blades on your face. Anyway, I successfully used this appliance for the next few years as I won over my wife, and more importantly, got into the good graces of my mother-in-law.

The day I got married (I was now 22), I treated myself to a real shave at a barber shop, the kind of shave where he takes a razor the size of a machete and whaps it back and forth along a leather strap before applying it to your face. I was greatly impressed by the closeness of my shave and decided that henceforth I shall use a straight edge.

And I have been doing so ever since. So you would think that after shaving pretty regularly for almost 20 years that I would be able to grow a decent beard. But tragically, this is not so. My wife’s youngest brother has been able to go from “smooth as a baby’s bottom” facial hair status to full “Grizzly Adams” mode in less than two weeks since he was a teen. I still can’t muster anything better than a weedy moustache after two weeks.

So perhaps I’ve reached an age where I should accept my facial hair lot in life, get over it, move on and replace the blade in my razor.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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