Wednesday, February 27, 2008


As I was blearily scraping away at my face in her bathroom yesterday morning, Rochelle asked me where I'd learned to shave. I think the best I could come up with is " and there."

Now that I think about it, though, the history of my shaving education is quite an interesting amalgamation of knowledge. I remember only once as a kid being close to a grown man shaving his face, and that was during one brief visit with my Dad. It was at my aunt and uncle's house in Spokane, WA, actually, and he showed up with only a moustache, as opposed to his usual luxurious beard. The next morning, he was in the bathroom shaving, and he invited my sister and I both to "take the wheel" and lightly drag the flimsy plastic razor down his jaw. Both of us giggled nervously, a behavior we rarely indulged in under ordinary circumstances but that became more frequent around him. Anyway, I remember being very nervous that I was going to slice up his face, and I don't think I shave much more than the top edge of the lather, being too afraid to put any pressure on his skin.

Five or so years after that, my mom taught us how to shave our legs and armpits. Plenty of soap, rinse the razor frequently, careful near the shinbone. I have such dark hair that if I really wanted hairless legs, I had to shave at least every other day if not daily, and that really didn't last long. I kept the armpits up longer, but stopped that soon, too, as my willingness to do the upkeep dropped at a rate inversely proportional with my desire to fit in to normal female beauty standards.

The next thing I started shaving was my head, though I really only used an actual razor on it twice. Once my first year of college, when I eliminated my latest mohawk and then decided to go for the gold and "Bic it!" as the saying went. A hallmate told me I looked like "a thumb with glasses" and I decided it probably wasn't the look for me. But a few months later, just before leaving to return to SRC for my sophomore year, I went for another mohawk, and shaved the sides again. Again, I felt the strange too-smooth warmth of totally naked skin on my head, and let it grow back as quickly as possible.

Long before I started T, I used to have long dark hairs growing on my neck, around my Adam's apple area. I tweezed them for a while, but there were a lot of them and, wistful as I was about the thought of someday growing facial hair, scruffy neck patches weren't exactly what I had in mind. I used a little clipper marketed to women called a 'magic touch for unwanted body hair!' or something like that, and buzzed my neck once a week or so.

When I moved to NYC and decided to get my transition rolling, I decided to start shaving those hairs in a more manly fashion- I was grasping for as many straw to bolster my masculinity as I could, in those days. I bought a can of Barbasol and a 3 pack of Bic disposables, and felt pretty damn butch. I used it for months (since I never needed much at a time) to shave my straggly neck hairs, and sometimes also to shave off the 'peach fuzz' on my cheeks, I think partly as a feel-good ritual, and partly because I'd read that "women and children have peach fuzz-men don't! if you want to be seen as male, shave off the peach fuzz!"

Once I started T and really needed to start actually shaving, I decided to read up a bit on the subject. I found a few GQ articles in passing, and got some tips from this exceptionally useful FTM focused website. I also found and read this website, which gave some great tips and also instilled in me an as-yet-unfullfilled desire for my own double-edged safety razor and boar bristle brush.

Though I do actually have a brush- my aunt gave me a brush-and-cup set that she'd found at an antique store, and she and my mom both confirmed that it looks almost identical to the one their grandfather used to use. Apparently, he also had a ritual where he would finish shaving and then go around and kiss every woman in the house- wife, child, grandchild, neighbor over to borrow a cup of tea, whoever.

If and when I get myself a nicer razor and start using nice soap and brushes, I might have to pick up that family tradition.

In the meantime, I use Target brand mach-3 knock-offs, and use a new razor about once every 5-7 shaves. I got a few cans of shaving cream as presents for my manniversary party two years ago, and I'm still working my way through those. When I'm finished, I'll probably try to find something with a lower environmental impact- maybe something that isn't blue? I get some razor burn and irritation on my neck, too, and I'm thinking a nicer shave set up might help that situation. It's just another one of those things that I could probably do for myself right now, but have set away in my mind as Something to Do When I Grow Up. and who knows when that will be?

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