learning man stuff, step 2.

19 September 2013 § 2 Comments

Last night, between the purple pureed Peruvian potatoes and the Spanish coffee (which I ordered thinking was made from Basque coffee beans), Nick pulled me aside, figuratively, and the table went quiet. I could barely hear his hushed voice, but I got the idea. In intimate tones, he said what a turning point in his Burn it was, the day he taught me how to shave. That up to then he thought our connection might have been friendly, or even sexual, but no, it wasn’t those things. It was a moment, he kept saying, about role models and fatherhood, and how we could learn from each other.

Before this emotional exchange during which the three women at the table are sitting silently, and I’m acutely aware of the awwws in Heather’s throat; I could see from the eye in my ear the happyproud look in her eye she makes when her man has learned something new about being a man, much as I imagine she would look at our child – at this point a someday far-off possibility, and yet feels like palpable, like a persistent daydream.

Nick went on in a quiet you-can-tell-he’s-saying-something-but-what tone, the heavy restaurant noise behind him. Tears form somewhere between his nose and eyelid and I hear but not see them. My hands fit flat together, mantis, thanking the universe for this experience.

In front of me a man my father’s age, whom I consider a friend and peer, who was just laid off his Top 5% job and feeling great about it, telling me how a moment with me was so meaningful for him that he called it, with witnesses, the shining moment of his Burning Man 2013 experience. Shaving. Which at Burning Man likely isn’t a terribly common occurrence BUT I did, for the first time, do it correctly.

I poured boiling water into the large silver mixing bowl and carried it to El Trucko Sancho, Nick and Aieda’s 70s lovetruck, where we used the dusty side mirror because there wasn’t another around. He showed me how much shaving gel to use. A half-dollar. Rub to foam it up, then lather your face. Everywhere.

“Use as much lubricant as you can,” he said, “like in others parts of life.”

27 years old, and it was the first time I’d used anything other than water to shave my face. Nick flipped when he found that out. That’s ludicrous, he said. You can’t dry shave! Why would you do that?

I learned to shave from a movie when I was 12 years old, I said. There was a man and son in the mirror, and, while the dad used shaving cream, the kid didn’t have any hair on his face, so I figured I didn’t need it. Apparently, when I did start growing hair there, I didn’t watch the movie as a reminder, and water just seemed to work. I thought Macullay Culkin screamed in Home Alone because shaving hurt.

“Never go sideways,” said Nick. “You’ll get ingrown hairs. Just down the face, and up the neck. That’s it.” Maybe some men do it differently. That’s okay. This was the first lesson in being a man I could remember wanting when I was in Boy Scouts – at eleven – and not having the courage to ask my Scoutmaster, hey, I know there’s no merit badge for it, but can you teach me how to properly shave? It’s a lesson I think I might need sooner than fifteen years from now.

During the lesson itself, Heather and Aieda made a point to not come over to check my progress. They figured it was an important male bonding moment, and held space for what was happening. I appreciated that.

At the restaurant, Nick seemed like he wasn’t really crying anymore, and went into more of a thankful tone. I still couldn’t hear all of what he was saying, but I thanked him some more, and he thanked me, and there in the fancy Papa Haydn’s we stood up and hugged, his utilikilt and pink flying pig socks on display.

Like the angels they are, the ladies said little of Nick’s profession of his Shining Burn Moment, and let it pass, warm and significant.

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