The Cops Would Never Think to Look in Burma Shave

I’m really bad at shaving.

I started when I was around, I think, 13 or so. I never had anyone really teach me, but I’d seen enough shaving on TV to get the general gist of it.

Problem was, then as now, my need was kind of… shaky, at best.

You see, I have what we call The World’s Saddest Beard™. It’s a patchy, multicolored mess; if I ever let it grow out, it would be the most ironic beard of all time, especially the long strip under my chin where no hairs grow.

I blame my mixed heritage for my sad beard situation. I’m multicolored like crazy in the beard area because of my Pan-European roots; how the Irish, English, Scottish, Germans, and Spanish ever ended up all mixed in, I could never tell you. As for the pathetic patchiness, well, I’ve got a lot of Cherokee blood, as you can tell from my skin tone. (Native Americans are pale and freckled, right?) The explanation is simple enough: you’ve never seen a photo of a warrior chief with a headdress and a beard, have you? They just don’t really, you know, do beards. So neither do I.

My brother, who shares my sad beard situation, does not share my sense of self-respect, nor my sense of shame. He has repeated gone long periods of time without shaving, growing a “beard” that almost passed for human on a couple of occasions. However, the first and only time I saw him in person with said beard, I told him that I will punch him in the face if it ever happens again. And I mean it.

So far, so good.

(For the record, he promised to break my nose if I ever dunk him under the water while we’re swimming again. I believe him. So, if I come home from the pool or the beach with a broken nose? I probably earned it.)

So: my beard is really sad. Like, hilariously sad. So I go clean shaven. It would follow, since I’ve been doing it my whole life, that I’d have gotten good.

But as I said: nope.

I frequently rake the blade across my skin, leaving small pockets of blood spreading across my chin. I’ll miss spots, places that I should be able to shave by reflex by now, simply because I forgot to contort my face some way or other when passing the blade over the hair.

I’ve improved my methods over the years, going from using whatever was available to buying my own, better blades and shave gel, to realizing the shave gel was murdering my skin, to realizing that I got better results if I used a sharp blade rather than conserving the spent ones as long as I could in the interest of saving money.

It’s never been pleasant for me. I’ve frequently gone a week or more without shaving, right to the point where I start to look like maybe you should keep your kids away from me. Once, I was at work and made a joke to another coworker about our relative scruffiness.

“Sure, but I haven’t shaved in three days,” he said. “You just didn’t shave this morning.”

It had been over two weeks.

That’s my situation. I have, at this point, graduated to a sharp blade, a layer of baby oil (recommended by a friend of mine who shaves his head every day), and a lather applied with a fake badger brush. It’s without a doubt the most effective shaving method I’ve used, as well as the most work intensive and time consuming. It’s a process for me, and one that I don’t necessarily enjoy.

Still, I want to go further. I’ve explored the Art of Shaving, and would like to learn it. I want to shave with a rich lather from a real brush, soothing pre- and post-shave oils over a sink full of steaming hot water. I want the closest shave imaginable.

I want to shave with a straight razor.

I would not shock me if those nearest and dearest to me would rather I never took that step. As mentioned above, I frequently draw blood with blades that are ostensibly safe. I can’t imagine anyone wants to clean up the saddest accidental suicide of all time, then have to arrange the funeral and queue up that Queen song.

The worst part? This would be my eulogy: “I don’t know why he was shaving; he could barely grow a beard.”


  1. Allen Holt

    Interesting…your muttish background matches mine almost exactly, even down to the Cherokee bit. I blame the Cherokee-ness on why my even now, my beard’s not incredibly thick — it’s even and nice enough, but it takes me about a month to go from clean-shaven to bearded. My first few beards, started when I was 25, were kinda thin and patchy; they’ve gotten better with age.

    So, um, keep your chin up. Or something.

  2. Lauren

    Beards are horrible.

  3. Billy Nitro

    You didn’t mention my sweet me-staache!