Little Bill is 15 now, and on top of havin’ a voice that cracks at the funniest times, this little peach-fuzz moustache started growin’ in between his nose and his lips.
Did ya see that? Minnie whispered to me after supper one night. He got a moustache that’s startin’ to come in! Ya gotta teach him how to shave!
But see, I think it’s different for women than it is for men. When a little girl goes through a rite of passage like this, women practically sing it from the rooftops and in about five seconds flat every woman in the world knows what’s goin’ on.
I remember when Minnie took Rosie shoppin’ to buy her first bra last year. I was kind of awkward about it because I didn’t know whether it was OK even to admit I knew what was happenin’, let alone say anything about it. But I didn’t have to worry about it, because they came back from the mall with Joan and Cathy and the four of them sat at the table gigglin’ and talkin’ about brassieres for the next hour. So when I came out to get a cup of tea, it was like I walked into a teenage girl’s slumber party or somethin’.
Joan was goin’ into great detail about exactly what happens when your underwire digs into you and Cathy was talkin’ about how padded cups are great, especially if it’s cold outside.
Holy cripes, I said to myself and gumbooted ‘er back in front of the TV as fast as I could.
So I guess Minnie figured it worked the same way with men. I dunno, maybe she expected I’d round up Cyril and Murph and Timmy and Tommy and we’d all go to Shopper’s Drug Mart together to pick out a razor and then we’d come back home and all cram in the bathroom while we filled the sink with water and lathered up our faces or somethin’.
That’s not really how it works with men, I said to her. We don’t make a big deal out of things. He just needs me to hand him a razor, nod, give him a pat on the back and leave him be. That’s a much more manly way of sayin’ welcome to manhood than actually sayin’ anything.
G’way, Minnie said. A father’s supposed to teach his son how to shave. I remember when Cyril was old enough, my father took him in the bathroom and they both stood there with their faces lathered up while he taught him how the razor worked.
Yes, Minnie, I said. But see, back in them days we used the old safety razors – which was a funny name, considerin’ ya had to open the top of the razor to put in and take out the blades and there was nothin’ safe about them. Back then ya had to be shown how the razor worked or you’d lop your finger off handlin’ the blades. Nowadays they got disposable razors with four, five, ten friggin’ blades right in them. “The first blade gently lifts the hair while the next ten blades scrape your face down to the bone.” You don’t need a big lesson on how to do it anymore. No, just a nod and maybe a handshake, that’s all.
I could tell she didn’t like that answer, so the next day when I was Tim Horton’s with the usual crew, I asked them what they thought.
No way, Tommy said (and Tommy don’t got any kids, I should add). The schools fill kids’ heads with all kinds of crazy ideas nowadays, he says. You try to have a nice father-son moment teachin’ him how to shave and the next day you’ll get a call from the school sayin’ – we just heard last night you and your son were both in the bathroom together with your shirts off. The cops will be there to arrest you in a few minutes.
G’waaay, everybody said.
Kids today got that Kids Help Phone number memorized, Tommy says. And if they can outlaw peanut butter sandwiches because one or two kids in the whole school got a peanut allergy, I don’t put nothin’ past them! (Tommy loves peanut butter, eh.)
But everybody else said I should do somethin’ – even if it’s not about teachin’ him how to use the razor, there needs to be a little acknowledgement.
That night at supper, I kept gettin’ distracted from Minnie’s meatloaf because I kept lookin’ at Little Bill’s fuzzy little moustache. It really was time for him to start shavin’ – there was no doubt at that.
After supper, Minnie leans over and whispers again. It’s gettin’ thicker, don’tchya think? Somethin’s gotta be done, she said.
And this time, I nodded and said yes. And what I meant was – I’ll handle it.
So the next day was Saturday and I was over Cyril’s helpin’ him frig around with his transmission, but on the way home I stopped and picked up a good razor and blade cartridges for Little Bill and then I even went to the dollar store because I remembered seein’ they had cakes of old fashioned shavin’ soap and old fashioned brushes. I figured for two bucks, it would be pretty funny, and maybe somethin’ he could keep for himself to remember the occasion.
So I got home and shoved the bag of stuff down beside my chair when I sat down to have supper.
That’s when Little Bill came in and sat down – completely clean-shaven.
What the – you shaved?! I said to him.
Yeah, he said. Ma showed me how this afternoon.
I looked over at Minnie and she shrugs and says, My pink Lady Bic razors aren’t much different than your blue ones.
Oh, for cripessake, I said. He’ll be callin’ Kids Help Phone now for sure.