Look Sharp, Feel Sharp, Be Sharp

“Of the Seven Dwarfs, the only one who shaved was Dopey. That should tell us something about the wisdom of shaving.” ― Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All

The opening to NBC’s “Cavalcade of Sports” is playing in my head. If you have forgotten it or are too young to remember fear not, I’ll share it later.

It plays as I’m standing in front of a display of Gillette razors. In a moment I’ll move down the aisle and peruse the choices of shaving soap, lathers, and gels. I’m not sure why I’m contemplating shaving, something I haven’t done since I began to take blood thinning drugs. I’m afraid I’ll nick my turkey neck and bleed to death. I do use electric clippers to tame my beard and clear the skin I choose to leave bare.

I’ve worn some form of facial hair for fifty years. Mustache, beard, goat tee, even a brief period with mutton chops ala Civil War General Ambrose Burnside. Yes, it is from his odd choice of beard styles that we get the name ‘Sideburns.’ It comes from a corruption of his name. Burnside is also remembered for his slow reactions at the Battle of Antietam and his costly failure at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He joins the Earl of Sandwich and Lords Cardigan and Raglan in the ‘anals’ of history.

Off topic history lesson: The 4th Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich to spend more time gambling. Crimean War vets Cardigan and Raglan are remembered for a sweater style Cardigan forced his men to wear and a sleeve style adopted by Raglan after losing his arm to a wound received at the Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon. Both Cardigan and Raglan, along with others, share the blame for the ill-fated ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ at Balaclava during the Crimean War.

Back to topic.

My first attempt at growing a beard didn’t go well. My freshman year in college I decided to join the ‘hippie’ culture. Not really, from the second week of attending eight o’clock classes I decided to forego shaving in favor of an extra five minutes of sleep. By Christmas break I had a scraggly beard going.

To get home for Christmas break from Newberry College, I caught a ride to Chester, SC to meet my father and the first words from his mouth were, “Son, when you get home, you’re going to shave that beard.” No “Hey son, it is good to see you” or even a simple, “Hi.”

Having lived on my own for a whole four months I answered, “No, I’m not.” He put the car in gear and drove off with me running after him, waving frantically and yelling, “I’ll shave, I’ll shave, I’ll shave!” I did, too. “If you put your feet under my table you will abide by my rules!!!!” At that time, I was still putting my feet under his table even if it was from long distance.

I don’t quite know why I am contemplating picking up a razor again. I also don’t know why The Gillette March is playing in my head. Okay here it is. Just click on the link below.

NBC’s “Gillette’s Cavalcade of Sports” was a mainstay on Friday night TV from the middle Fifties until I began playing sports or dating on Friday nights. It primarily featured a boxing match, two burly men trying to beat themselves senseless and Gillette Razor or Blue Blade commercials. “Look Sharp…Feel Sharp…Be Sharp.” Somehow it translated to “Look Sharp and you’ll Feel Sharp, too!”, whether you were beaten black or blue or not.

As far as I know, my father shaved every day, even on his rare days off. My family was big on hygiene. He would never consider leaving work and running errands until first going home to bathe, shave, and don fresh clothes.  I, on the other hand, once wore the same pair of jeans twenty days in a row. I would have worn them on day twenty-one, but they walked out of my dorm room on their own. For those wondering, “I bathed often and changed my underwear.”

As a child, I remember watching him lather up using Barbasol or Burma Shave. A Gillette safety razor or Schick Injector Razor would be tested against his neck and if needed, a fresh blade exchanged, the old blade deposited in a slot in the medicine cabinet, the new one seated in the razor. Then scraping would commence.

An early Schick Injector style razor

As a child I couldn’t wait to begin shaving and as a septuagenarian, I wonder why? Over fifty plus years shaving age, five or ten minutes per day adds up. Not to mention those days when a styptic pencil was needed but unavailable and I exited my bath with bits of tissue paper stuck to bloody nicks when I didn’t take enough care or should have changed blades.

Yet, here I am, contemplating the un-contemplatable. Shaving my beard…or at least parts of it.

I bought a can of Barbasol and a package of Gillette’s newest technology. They are resting comfortably and unused under my bathroom sink. I did get as far as using the electric clippers on my turkey neck. I just couldn’t take the next step. I’m retired and my wife likes the “Grizzly Adam’s” look. She even liked my attempt at growing a ponytail and lamented when I chose to clip it off.

So. Do I really need to “Look Sharp?” Well, I’d like to “Feel Sharp.” Maybe I’ll just “Be Sharp” and shave my neck and see how that goes…or not.

Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach turned writer who self publishes at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1584wnM_B2zqveCoez2z0rXxysYi4JNkZRXwETiYsGSzxmsd4TjClfq5o