Robert & Lionel Circa 1977Robert Hughes and Lionel Hughes doing a bizarre twist on American Gothic circa 1977.
On rare occasions, shaving is not routine.
About two weeks ago, my 16-year-old son started shaving. It was one of those conscious moments of sharing my experience with my boy. I actually had to stop and think about how I shave.
I told him to start with his sideburns and work inward. With a bit of guffawing awkwardness, I guided the razor down his cheek and over his jawline to show him how to keep the blade angle consistent. He got the notion of making whatever goofy faces necessary to clean up around his mouth without slashing his lips.
Not a drop of blood was spilled.
I realized in those moments how good I have it as a father. We have a joke about our family that wherever we go, we make a pile of Hughes’s. We always sit so close to each other it looks like we all want the same chair. Physical touch and closeness comes pretty easy for us. So showing my son how to shave wasn’t impeded by any discomfort with being in each other’s physical space.
Gary Chapman, the author of The Five Love Languages of Teenagers and other books on the same subject, says that healthy, normal physical touch between parents and children is essential for emotional and mental well-being during the teen years and all the way through adulthood.
Like a lot of guys my age (48) I never had that with my dad. By the time I got to my teens we rarely saw each other and we sure weren’t huggy.
But there are moments of grace in this life.
A few months before my dad died he called me up and said he needed a favour. I asked him what I could do. “I need a shave,” he said. “I can’t do it. Can you?”
Even after all the hours he and I spent in emergency rooms, hospital wards, ambulances, and doctor’s offices we’d never really got comfortable with physical closeness. It seems silly now, but shaving the man’s face was off the charts.
He sat in his recliner for the duration of the shave and I think he fell asleep once. We managed a pretty good job but anyone who’s tried to take off a 3/8-inch beard with a disposable knows we had some work to do. It wasn’t the best shave Robert ever had, but he smiled big when it was done. I kinda chuckled at the finished product.
It’s a great thing—and very necessary—that we are raising awareness and funds to improve men’s mental health. I just can’t forget that I have a lot to offer the men in my life in the simplest ways.
Check out my Movember profile page here.