If you are looking for a last-minute Father's Day gift, I suggest razor blades -- ones that will fit his old razor.
That is not as easy as it sounds. The other day, as I prepared for the daily ritual of shaving, four different razors came out of the bathroom cabinet. Three were made by Gillette: an Atra Plus, a Sensor and a MACH3. The other was a multi-blade operation known as the Schick Quattro, I think.
I say I think because the model names of razors often elude me. Like PIN numbers and passwords, the names of razors are, I think, contrived barriers to pleasant living, stuff we really shouldn't have to know to get along in life.
However, if you think you can avoid the name and just eyeball your way through a razor blade purchase, chances are good you will end with an abundance of razor bodies and an abundance of blades. Rarely will the twain meet.
The razor engineers or maybe the marketers, or perhaps both, have limited the opportunities for intermarriage between blades and bodies. An Atra blade will not hook up with a Sensor body and will certainly not connect with a Schick Quattro. The engineers put different fastening systems on various razor bodies -- some slide, some pinch in the middle, some pinch from the sides.
When a new model of razor is introduced, the marketers give it away. They plan to make money when customers have to refill these "free" razors with costly new blades.
In keeping with generational stereotypes, my sons, both in their 20s, have been more open to shaving innovations than I have. They have tried out new razors, some sporting three or more blades.
These newcomers, to my eyes, are like SUVs. They are big, powerful, loaded with gizmos, but expensive to maintain and have trouble in tight quarters. The kids come and go from our home, but somehow their razors remain behind in the bathroom cabinets, where I find them.
I stick with what one of my sons calls "Dad's old-school razor." It is an Atra Plus. It supports no more than two blades but accommodates the less-expensive store brands of replacement blades. Its metal body has some heft. Like a well-balanced tool, it feels good in my hand.
Truth be told, I didn't know the name of this razor until I found a picture of it up the other day on the Internet. There on a Web site, (ebarbershop.com) I saw a variety of razors and blades for sale, most them "old-school."
Scrolling through these photos was like strolling through a shaving museum. There in all its glory was the image of the classic, chrome-finished razor with butterfly doors. Near it were dispensers of double-edge blades from Gillette, Schick, Wilkinson Sword . And there was my Atra Plus, which the Web site said was "no longer made."
My old-school shaving days could be numbered.
Reading about old razors reminded me of my father, who died in 1998 just short of his 83rd birthday. A mention, for instance, of Gillette Blue Blades reminded me both of the mornings I used to watch him put Blue Blades in his razor and of televised Friday-night fights, the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, that my brothers and I used to sit and watch with him.
My dad was a pro-razor-blade guy. He disparaged electric razors as being not strong enough to handle the wiry beards of our clan. It is a belief I cling to.
My views on fatherhood and shaving mingle easily. Both fatherhood and shaving, for instance, require daily duty, although the occasional escapes can be joyful. Like much of what a dad does, shaving is not noticed by his family until he stops doing it. And both enterprises, shaving and being a father, seem to attract advice.
I let my sons pick their own razors, but hope they see the wisdom of my choice. The only shaving advice I have given them is to take their time, to let the shaving cream sit on their face for a few minutes before they start plowing ahead. The wait both softens your beard, I tell them, and lets you take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror.