Dad tried to grow a mustache once. It was in the early 70's, and was less than successful. Dad had fine, dark red hair that resulted in a mustache that came in thin and sparse. I remember my Mom looking at the final outcome and trying her darnedest not to giggle and failing. Dad looked at with a wry smile and shrugged and went back to the bathroom and shaved it off. Mom wasn't trying to belittle his efforts, her love fluttered over all of us like small wings, whisking away tears, and brushing aside fears. She treated Dad the same way, but oh dear Lord, was that a sorry looking mustache and even Dad, realized it.
I remember my Dad's ritual which remains to this day. After he does his morning work-out (which he has done six days a week for 80 years), he'd go shave. He never uses an electric razor or any of the shave creams in a can. No, Dad always has a mug of fine soap, a high-quality brush and a regular razor, with a straight razor when he wanted an extra close shave for a special occasion.
I remember vividly those winter mornings, all of us dressing quickly, not so much that the house was cold but hearts and blood and minds weren't quite awake yet and movement was with willful purpose until such time as the chocolate milk or the caffeine kicked in. Dad would come through the kitchen from where he worked out, giving my Mom a kiss, the morning sun highlighting the freckles on her face, then a kiss for each of us, still in our pajamas, our faces innocent of either guile or water.
When he was done, he'd finish as he started, with a clean washcloth doused in extra hot water, laid on his face to steam it. Then he'd finish with a splash of aftershave. There were only a few that he would wear.
Then there was the Hai Karate. My Dad had some of that and was supremely disappointed and used to tease my Mom that his bottle must have been a dud as he didn't have to fend of any supermodels with karate chops like on the commercials. I don't remember what it smelled like but I don't think he ever had to fend off Mom wearing it, though, come to think of it, once, when he put on too much, she drove a golf ball from the back yard through the back kitchen window with a Five Iron.
Dad gave that up for Old Spice which he has worn ever since, though once in a while he'd put on "Stetson" and give Mom this look and she'd giggle and we'd go stay with our beloved Aunt and Uncle for a couple of days.
Now, there's not just aftershave, there is cologne, shampoo, body washes, shampoo/body washes (and the difference is?)
Most advertise themselves to smell like "fresh glacier extinguishing a giant forest fire full of deer in heat" or such things. I think the perfect man natural scent would be some sort of mysterious combination of gun cleaning fluid, coffee, bacon, woodsmoke, and dark beer (with a slight undertone of 20-year-old British Motor Car Wheel Bearing Grease.) But I love Dad's Old Spice and the sandalwood scent my husband wears.
and cut a piece big enough for his mug, leaving a little chunk for hand soap. It smells incredible and lasts such a long time, with a soft, creamy lather.
The bottom of the mug can be filled with hot water, so that the suds above stay warm, which makes a straight razor more effective. As yes, my engineer husband often uses one, so it's a closer shave.
He shaves at night after I've had my bubble bath, and as I curl up on the sofa with a splash of Scotch, he'll begin that ritual. He's shaved in hundreds of hotels, in countries all over the world, the ritual much the same yet, there's something almost peaceful about the act performed in one's own bathroom, in one's own home, small rituals of sameness.
When he is done, he'll join me on the couch in his bathrobe, his measure of Scotch already poured, the house quiet but for hundred-year-old sconces on the walls that lend the room an aura of timelessness. We won't talk much but of family, of things in our home that need repair, or simply our day as we sit and stroke the flanks of an old black dog that lies beside us. Such rituals are as fine as a blade, as comforting as stone. Shared, they are as bright and uplifting as the flash of sparks as dulled blade and stone meet.
Soon, I will leave my husband again, to make another trip to see my Dad in Assisted Living, my childhood home now only a memory. I dread the changes I will see in his physicality and changes in his world. But in going home, when my frail Dad takes me in his arms in a big bear hug, he still smells like Old Spice, and I'm six years old again.