I remember when I began shaving. Not the exact day--but the year. I was a freshman at Hiram (Ohio) High School (1958-59), and I'd decided: It's time!
But it wasn't. I didn't need to shave; I wanted to. One of my friends had begun doing so a year or so before. And in those days, visible hair in the locker room was a sure sign of virility. (Nuff said.)
In the mid-1950s, my parents did a lot of their general shopping at Sears over at Southgate Mall in Maple Heights--a Cleveland suburb that can claim, among other notable natives, poet Mary Oliver. (I didn't know about that then; I did know that I despised poetry--save those naughty schoolyard rhymes that some of my corrupt--i.e., awesome--friends had taught me.)
Southgate had opened in 1955 (the year before we moved to Hiram from Enid, Oklahoma), and my parents had always enjoyed having a (fairly) nearby Sears: Enid had had one, and in my boyhood those thick Sears catalogs were as much a part of our household decor as a couch or dining room table. Dream fodder, those catalogues.
Years later, of course, I figured out why they did so much general shopping at Sears: a charge account. My parents--both teachers--were not exactly experiencing a gilded lifestyle (and never would, except relatively to much of the rest of the world), and when they had "cash-flow problems" (virtually always), they would go to Sears, whip out the charge plate (that's right, plate, not card. See image of one that recently went on eBay for $14.99.)
So ... on one of our trips to Southgate (a Big Deal for the Dyers in the late 1950s), I announced to Mom (where was Dad? working?) that I "needed" a razor.
In those days, the market king of razors was Gillette--and they, I think, had recently introduced yet another innovation: three "levels" of razor called (creatively): Light, Medium, Heavy. (I can still hear that TV jingle advertising those three levels--a tenor, a baritone, a bass each had solos: "To look sharp and to feel sharp too, / Use the razor that is right for you: / Light, Medium, or Heavy" ... don't remember the rest.) This YouTube video shows that the Heavy was in maroon-red (blood red?!) I don't remember, but I'll say the Light was pink ... I think it was blue, actually. But pink was sort of the male message for Light users, you know?
**Just this second found an image on Google of the three; mine, it seems, was Baby Blue! Fitting.
Anyway, my mom--bless her!--did not say the obvious--You don't need to shave yet!--but went with me over to the men's area at Sears. A young woman came over to wait on us. I was blushing deeply. She asked us what she could do for us, and I, quickly, said, "I'd like to get him a razor." Him?
My mom looked at me and--bless her!--said nothing. The young woman then asked: "What size would ... he ... like? Light? Medium? Heavy?" (Had she paused there? Or had I imagined it?)
And my mom--bless her--while I considered my options, said, "I think he would probably prefer a Light." The slight emphasis on the he annoyed me no end: I saw it as a use of Girl Code. Translation: This razor is for my son, who doesn't really need a razor. As you can see. Ha. Ha.
That he bothered me all the way home--and years afterwards. Even now.
I got the razor (Light). Got an aerosol can of shaving cream (an ozone-layer-destroying product we had no clue about). It was the same brand my dad used, but I can't come up with it right now. (Was it Palmolive?) And some Gillette Blue Blades for replacement.
And so I commenced shaving that year. Did it regularly, even though my barely adolescent cheeks filed a protest every morning. And regularly bled.
To be continued ...