A bubble of red appears below my knee, surrounded by the foamy white wisps of soap suds. It’s been years since I cut myself shaving.
I blame the cheap new razor. I blame my husband for leaving the shaving cream out of reach on the bathroom counter. I do not blame my mother.
Mom had never demonstrated the art of shaving when, as a middle schooler, I decided it was time. My friend on the other end of the phone line was shaving as we chatted. Wanting to prove my maturity, I grabbed an old razor from under the sink and filled a mug with water. With those tools, I decorated my legs with spots of red.
I blame my mother, but I cover the blame in excuses. Growing up, she did not have a mother to train her in the ways of womanhood. As a result, some motherly things were not on her radar—such as teaching her daughter how to shave, or the idea that a bride may want her mother to join her at the salon on the morning of her wedding.
By the time I was a tween, Mom was forced into the role of breadwinner when my dad’s PhD proved to be detrimental, rather than helpful, when it came to finding full-time work. She was always exhausted. On Saturdays she would ride with us to the mountains with every intention of joining us for a family hike, only to tell us at the last minute that she needed to take a nap in the car instead.
I have forgiven my mother for not teaching me to shave.
Then, a thought hits me that is even more painful than the razor cut. My daughter is older now than I was in the memory I just re-lived—and I have never taught her how to shave.
I check her bathroom. I see the shampoo, conditioner and body wash I bought her. I see the Bath and Body Works products her friend gave her for her 18th birthday. Hanging from her shower rack I see poufs—and, to my relief, a couple of disposable razors. But there is no shaving cream, and the fact that I can’t remember when I bought her the razors bothers me.
I have excuses. My daughter’s childhood first saw me as breadwinner then as disabled parent. Juggling work, illness and parenting has left me with little time for myself. It is only recently that, with my counselor’s help, I’ve learned the value of self care. I make bath bombs, read books and discover joy in my busy life.
Still, I chide myself for neglecting to teach my daughter about shaving. My illness is under control and my work schedule is flexible. I should have time, I tell myself, to ensure my daughter has the tools she needs for a comfortable shave.
But she does not have shaving cream. Two years ago I bought travel-size shaving cream for our exchange student’s welcome basket, but I’ve never bought any for my own daughter.
I add shaving cream and razors to the shopping list. My husband assumes this means I’ve run out of the shaving cream he bought only a few weeks earlier. He teases me about being high maintenance.
“It’s not for me,” I tell him. “It’s for Sierra.”
“Oh, I don’t need shaving cream.” she responds. “Soap works just fine.”
Sierra is not high maintenance. She prefers jeans and men’s T-shirts to dresses. She obsesses over grades while her friends obsess over boys. I wonder if she’ll follow the tradition of growing up to be her family’s breadwinner.
“It works,” I tell her, “but shaving cream is so much better.”
I may not have taught my daughter how to shave, but maybe it’s not too late to teach her about self care.