Bwog respects our heritage/amorous affair by posting each issue of The Blue & White. The latest issue, available this week, is a cornucopia of delights: an exploration of Columbia’s graffiti sub-culture, a foray into our Facebook pasts, and an introduction to Morton Williams’s ticker, among other delights. At Two Swords’ Length” is a feature presenting opposing opinions on an issue. This month, Mark Hay and Hannah L. face off on one of the biggest decisions a college student faces … to shave, or not to shave?
I am a heavily forested man and damn proud of it. When a boy starts pushing up foliage, that is when he knows he has become a man, all other activities of the pituitary gland be damned. No offense to those with alopecia areata, of course.
The fact that you could skin me and turn me into a carpet is how I know I am not just a man, but a strong, beautiful beast. But if Disney taught me nothing else, it is that every beast must groom away some of his coarse nature to snag his belle. (That was the point of that movie, right?)
Six months is exactly enough time to see everything you can in another human being and form a rationale for never, ever wanting to see her snaggle-toothed, over-made-up, vacant-eyed face ever again. Sure, I see flaws in my current entanglement, but Buddha knows why, I’ve come to like Hannah’s snaggleteeth. And I know she does not appreciate coming away from an encounter with thick, curly black hairs stuck in her smile.
Maybe there was an allure to my fuzz at first. Running her hands through something with the texture of a Persian rug—that is a luxurious experience you don’t get with most men. Hair, and lots of it, gives you an air of rugged virility and mystery. A grizzled mane with a healthy sheen is the choicest of aphrodisiacs.
But, if that novelty passes, what then? I can admit that hair, everywhere may have some downsides.
The natural bouquet of my skin is a potent pheromonal snare, worthy of inclusion in that Ben Whishaw movie Perfume. Yet I’ll admit hair has a habit of trapping the aroma of anything that enters, exits, or just passes by. It pushes down my musk and mingles it with the basest of odors. And in the heat of passion, all of the stewing scents by my roots boil and bubble, and as her face approaches my flesh I can only imagine that I must sometimes smell like a sewage treatment plant in the dead of summer.
Sure, shearing away my wooly coat will leave my pink, soft underskin vulnerable to predators. It’s also still a bit nippy, and I’m not looking forward to a frigid breeze blowing over my newly exposed delicate self. But a shave can change the way one looks, highlight attractive features, make minor attributes look more impressive. And I aim to impress.
All right, I am a schlub. I am a lazy man. I love that about me, and I love my relationship with me and with the hair a slovenly life produces. But for Hannah, I can change. I can be a better man. I can be virile without being vile. And it’s not like I’m giving up everything—I can keep some rugged stubble. She will like that, because who doesn’t think stubble is sexy? And add a dab of cologne, put a new layer on top of my musk, maybe remind her of her father’s aftershave, trigger some daddy issues and play on those. Yes—keep the stubble, clear the forest! Be dashing and clean, not untamed and unkempt. Good plan. Shave the face, bring the sexy back, keep the girl.
I like to think that I try reasonably hard. When all the popular girls in middle school started shaving under their arms I followed—it was that or become the hairy outcast, a monster in the girls’ locker room. Since those tender preteen days my hair removal techniques have run the gamut, from shaving (always acceptable) to Nair (disgusting) to the pre-beach vacation wax (ouch). But as I stand in the check-out line at Duane Reade, ready to ask the woman behind the counter for a six-pack of Venus Embrace razors ($20 literally down the drain), I suddenly pause.
Seriously, why shave? It’s barely March, and regardless of the over-enthusiastic Californians on display on College Walk, a rare 40-degree day does not mean you can wear shorts yet. And furthermore, Mark and I have been dating for six months. That’s long enough to start forgiving certain hygiene lapses, right?
What really makes me change my mind about daily shaving is Mark. I’ll be far from the only stubbly member of our couple—his flowing hair, erupting from every patch of skin—is one of the things that first drew me to him. His scratchy kisses remind me that there is no love pain (or at least mild discomfort). And sure, maybe I’m attracted to his beard because it reminds me of my absent father, bearded in those faded photos by my bedside, but Mark wouldn’t know that.
If I’m honest, Mark’s hirsutism is probably the main reason we’re still together. Now that we’re at the six-month mark, my weekly pro-con lists evaluating the state of our relationship are leaning more towards the con side. In fact, something’s been weird with Mark lately. He’s…shaving. And okay yeah, he’s shaving with a dull razor, which he admits will totally wreck his skin later, but his stubble now resembles that of a freshman freaked out during exams, not a rugged, manly, possibly-graduate student. And his lips without a cover of mustache are thin, sickly—how did I not notice that before? Most importantly, why is he doing this now? Why the sudden effort to groom himself, just as I slip comfortably into the unshaven realm of relationship-hood?
He must be trying to impress another girl. That’s it. He knows I don’t mind his prickliness, but he’s after another lady who would. I knew it; I knew I’d miscalculated my list of pros and cons; I knew he was just a manipulative womanizer under all that hair! And I can’t believe that I myself considered not shaving—if I’m starting to let hygiene slide, maybe I need to take some time to just focus on me. My pro-con list is spinning out of control. It would if lists could spin. Shit, I’m even confusing my figures of speech.
I reflected on these tangled thoughts as I walked back towards my room, but suddenly I made an about face and turned in the direction of Mark’s building. Time seemed to speed up. Moments later I’m peering at him from behind his bathroom door—he’s whistling and … shaving. With shaving cream! This is not good. The first words that come to my mind are, “Mark, we need to talk.”