in Personal History


This one is for Mackenzie, by request.

Yesterday on Facebook, one of my former roommates shared an anecdote about when we were living together. Bill and I shared an apartment in Haseldorf, Willamette University’s off-campus housing, when I was a sophomore and he was a junior. (He dated Kris during the first semester, and I dated her during the second semester.)

Anyhow, Bill wrote on my Facebook wall:

With this post I finally get to tell my favorite story of rooming with you years ago. A list I once saw of “things to do” that contained the following items: 1. Write paper for lit class 2. Call brother 3. Shave. 4. Be nicer to people. Something about that combo of things has always seemed sublime to me. You were a fun roomy.

This story made me smile. I don’t remember the list myself, but Kris and I agree that this list is a pretty good summation of who I am. A lot of people read my personal finance blog, and they see one side of me there. But this to-do list that Bill shared captures me very well in just a few words — both the good and the bad!

But the reason I’m writing today is to share another story about razors from when we were rooming together.

Shaving hurts my face
Shaving hurts my face. It always has. I have sensitive skin. During my freshman year of college, I had purchased a fancy electric razor on a charge card at Meier & Frank. (This was actually my first foray into debt, the beginning of a 20-year habit.) I thought it would be great. It wasn’t. It still hurt my face.

When I started rooming with Bill, he convinced me that I should try shaving with an actual razor. I walked a mile to Safeway, looked at their selection, and was utterly confused. Rather than sort through the various razor handle and blade combinations, I just bought a bag of disposable razors.

For one thing, I liked the notion of “disposable”. How convenient! When I was finished with one, I could flush it down the toilet. Because that’s what disposable means, right? Right? Okay, it sounds stupid even to me. But I’m the nearly 41-year-old J.D., not the 18-year-old J.D. My younger self truly believed this.

Anyhow, I began to shave with the disposable razors. It was rough going at first. I didn’t really get it. Eventually, though, I learned how to follow the contours of my face, and how to press lightly instead of firmly so that I wasn’t carving off hunks of flesh. (Though I still nicked and cut myself all the time.)

And, of course, when I had used a disposable razor for one shave (!!!), I disposed of it by flushing it down the toilet.

The inevitable occurs
Time passed.

I had a good time that semester. In fact, that semester was one of the highlights of my life. I had many good friends, dated several young women, and felt myself intellectually challenged. It was a great time. And all the while, I was shaving and flushing my disposable razors down the toilet.

Around Thanksgiving, we began to have problems with the toilet. (You saw this coming, right?) It would clog for no apparent reason. We’d plunge and things would be better. But then one day, plunging didn’t work. We called in the maintenance department.

I was home the day the maintenance guys came to fix the toilet. I was there when the guy came out of the bathroom holding a plastic bag filled with (literally) shitty disposable razors. He gave me a look. “Do you know anything about these?” he asked.

“Uh…” I stammered. What could I say? Actually, I don’t remember what I said. I don’t know if I tried to deny responsibility (highly likely) or whether I fessed up (not so likely). But I do know this: I never again flushed a disposable razor down the toilet.

Lessons learned
Nowadays, I don’t use disposable razors. I don’t use an electric razor, either. No, I use a fancy old-fashioned safety razor. (And I’d like to try a straight razor at some point.) One of my favorite luxuries in life is the $35-per-tub shaving cream I buy from London mail-order outfits. I lather it up with a real badger-hair brush. It’s not as close a shave as you could get with a Fusion five-blade razor, but so what? I love the feeling of using my safety razor and my “limes” shave cream.

And best of all? There’s no danger of me clogging the toilet with disposable razors.

Note: Bill’s bio at the UAH philosophy page intrigues me. He has two subjects of interest. The second is “the relationship between subjectivity, freedom, and the consciousness of time”. !!!!! Could anything be more Proustian? I think Bill and I could have some things to chat about if he ever gets back here — or if I ever get to Alabama.

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  1. Thanks for this posting, J.D. Mac and I have been laughing our asses off since last night (we’re laughing WITH you, of course!) and making all kinds of “flush it down the toilet” jokes for our trash. This post made me laugh even more!

  2. No, Tiffany, I didn’t flush other things. And I didn’t flush these as an alternative to throwing them in the trash. It never really occurred to me to put them in the trash in the first place!

    The key here is the word disposable. To me, at that time, I thought that meant that I could flush them down the toilet. I didn’t have anything else that I bought that was “disposable”. Just the razors. So they’re all I flushed.

  3. Why on earth did you decide to flush them down the toilet instead of putting them in the trash? I am mystified.

    Personally, I’ve mostly opted not to shave at all lately. about once a week, I use the little beard trimmer thing on the back of my electric razor to trim down to about one day’s worth of growth, which is as short as it’ll go. Then I just leave it for a while. I’m not too hairy so it doesn’t get too long in a week.

  4. As I say, Tyler, my older self is just as baffled as you are. But again, the key here is the word disposable. It’s the key to the entire story. It’s why I flushed the razors and why I didn’t flush anything else. If I had own disposable shoes, I might have flushed them, too. No joke.

    Like I said, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me now, either. I’m just telling you what this stranger that was me did 20+ years ago.

  5. I guess maybe if you had looked up the word “disposable”, and noticed the lack of any mention of a toilet in its definition, maybe this story could have been averted, then? It still seems like a strange association for you to have made. 🙂

  6. third read today. It’s like watching a movie where you know all the lines – it just gets funnier!

    Maybe its time for a GRS article on what to do with your disposable income!

  7. Actually, I believe you might not actually have sensitive skin. The secret to not have any skin problem at all with shaving is simple: stopping usage of shaving cream. What shaving cream does is to over-soften the skin. As soft skin is more prone to bruises, cuts and the like. Thus, the best way to not suffer of this anymore is to use only warm water with a small amount of soap (not special soap – the common one you use to wash your hands is more than enough). Or, better yet, to give up on soap too and go for mere warm water.

    The article below explains this in more details, including a procedure that allows one to comfortably move away from shaving cream into mere warm water without suffering the extra damages that would come with suddenly changing habits. After all, your skin still is in a weakened state before it fully recovers, and a transition period is needed. But once it’s completed, you too will be able to say good riddance to that thing:

    All with the added benefit of a fortune saved from all those future $35 tubes you won’t purchase anymore. 😉

    • The shaving cream JD is using is likely more of a soft soap than shaving cream as it is prepared and sold by Gillette. The badger brush helps a great deal as it makes a very, very wet lather which helps to lubricate the blade.

      Something I’ve found very, very helpful is to use a hot washcloth to help soften the hairs (run the cloth under hot water and hold it right to the cheek/neck/wherever for about a minute). There’s more at, specifically the FAQ ( I use a safety razor as well and love it because the blades cost about $0.10 each (and that’s for nice ones).

  8. J.D., you are the only person I’ve ever known who would have such a story to share! And Pam, I love your comment about the disposable income. 🙂

  9. Yep. That’s the JD I knew well around that time… national merit finalist with a full ride to Willamette, but not a lick of common sense!

    And he still needs to work on #2… 😉