Poetry, musings, reflections, life


Pogonotomy-A Male Rite of Passage

I cut myself shaving the other day. That isn’t too unusual for me. I am old school, in that I still use a shaving cream and a blade to scrape the fuzz from my face. My choice of cream is actually a gel. My razor of choice is (notice the plug here) a “Gillette Mach 3”.

I did my research and discovered that since the first man arrived on the earth, he has had to decide whether to grow a beard or take it off. Cavemen used pieces of sharpened flint, clamshells and even shark’s teeth. It doesn’t say how they acquired the teeth. My decision would have been to grow a beard.

Sometime during the Bronze Age, they began making primitive razors of iron, bronze and even gold. The ancient Greeks used iron blades with a long handle and developed the “cut-throat” razor. In 1900, most men were either shaved by the local barber (your trusted confidante, wielding a cut-throat razor), or periodically at home when required, rather than regularly. (Notice the “when required” bit)

Around 1901, King Camp Gillette invented the safety razor with disposable blades. He gave away the razors to encourage men to purchase the blades. Do you ever notice that the razor blade companies practically give away the razors? Hummmmm…                      So there you have it, a brief history of the razor. I think this piece qualifies as educational, don’t you?

Anyway, all that got me to thinking about the first time I ever shaved. I’m not as old school as my stepfather, who used a Gillette double edge blade with a shaving brush. Seems I recall that he used a type of bar soap and the more he stirred the brush in the mug the more lather he got. However, I was lad of thirteen when he came into my life. I never had the privilege of being tutored in the fine art of shaving. It was a trial and error for me. And that did not come until much later as you shall see below.

I’m also not as old school as my grandfather, who used a straight edge or cut-throat razor (see above) although I do remember the razor strap he used to sharpen his razor, among other things. My grandfather also had a shaving brush and mug. In fact, I have that old mug to this day. I think it must be over a hundred years old.

Now my son is not old school at all. He uses an electric shaver. Mr. Schick invented the electric razor around 1921. I tried them when I was younger but they were too “cutting edge” for me. Just doesn’t have the right feel. Besides, it doesn’t seem right to shave while you are driving down the road.

Shaving is a true manly art. It is a rite of passage into manhood. Many a “little shaver” has stood beside his father with his own “razor” and shaving cream. It was practice. You know, practice makes perfect. I do not recall my son standing beside me as I shaved. I’m sorry about that. It is a memory I missed and regret.

My first shaving experience began when I entered the U.S. Navy at the ripe old age of seventeen. I was the proverbial 108-pound weakling. Barely snuck in, as the minimum weight was 105. Now that I think about it, I believe the recruiter had his foot on the scales. Anyway, I had never shaved a day in my life. There was nothing on my face to scrape off. At least that is what I thought until Chief Petty Officer Amadei, my boot camp drill instructor, told me otherwise. To this day, I can remember his exact words.      “There will no recruit in my Navy with peach fuzz on his face”.                              

He spoke these words on my very first morning inspection. I remember standing at the end of my bunk at attention, in my skivvies. (Underwear for those of you who do not understand navy lingo, they did not fit either, too big). This clearly was meant to embarrass me, which it did.

There was a slight problem. I had not brought a razor with me. However, Chief Amadei fixed me up. He loaned me one. I think it had a used blade and on my tender face, it completely worn out my skin. At the risk of incurring the wrath of Chief Amadei, I practically begged him to allow me to purchase one at the commissary. He finally relented and sent me to the supply store. I was very grateful and my skin thanked him.

To this day, I believe I began shaving at too early of an age. I kinda liked “peach fuzz”. I tried growing a beard once, but not much ever sprouted. I did manage to cultivate a mustache. I kept it. At least I do not have to shave above my lip. Danger lurks  there.

That’s my story of when and how I learned to shave. You probably have some stories of your own. I would be interested in hearing all about them. For you ladies, I’m sure a few of you also have stories about the first time you began scraping your knees or under your arms. I probably maybe would like to hear about them. Maybe. OK, maybe not. Oh, what the heck. Help me out, guys.

In case you are wondering about Pogonotomy, look it up. After all, this is an educational piece.

Have a great day.

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3 thoughts on “Pogonotomy

  1. jackie turner on said:

    So I looked up pogonotomy, and it’s not in my thesaurus or my dictionary. Perhaps it ain’t a word?!
    But the exercise was worth it ~ I cracked open two books on your account. Most work I’ve done all day. Well, not really, but that was a different kind since all my mornings and evenings are always in the watering of plants and animals mode.
    However, I did find a little lizzard that made the mistake of being inside the water hose and clogging up the sprinkler this morning. Didn’t save it when I took the sprinkler head apart but was soooo glad it wasn’t a copperhead as it was coiled up inside there and had a pinkish color the first time I saw it.
    Life on the working farm is quite interesting, don’t you think?
    As for shaving my legs, I don’t even want to remember back to those days right now.
    Dog days for sure now, and I am going to go work a new-fangled puzzle that has pieces that don’t fit flush. God bless and although I am glad you shave, I think I will read some other items of interest.
    Pogonotomy is that ‘hog-wash’? smiles, Jackie

    • *pogonotomy; *Cultivation of a beard; beard-growing; shaving of one’s beard.

      The word originated in the Greek word *pogon*, a beard, and ends in *tomia*, cutting, and so is the word for trimming ones beard, or shaving,

      Never hogwash.

      • jackie turner on said:

        good thing trimming a beard is never hogwash. rolf
        Wonder why it wasn’t in my dictionaries.

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