by J.D. Roth

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.

Updated: 30 October 2009

Do what's right. Do your best. Accept the outcome.
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