So, I shaved my face this past week.
Not my usual set-the-trimmer-to-its-lowest-setting-and-still-retain-some-scruff shave, but a full-on "lather the face, grab the razor, and go to town" style shave. I figured that what with the change of the season, it might be time. Besides, it's always good for your skin to be able to breathe a little bit.
This was the first time since moving to South Carolina that I have fully shaved my face clean. Every other time, I opt to just go for that scruffy look so popular with the kids these days. It's been my style of choice for the last four years or so, and the look works on me (the lack of hair on my head helps).
But once I was done, once the shaving cream was washed off, and once the mirror unfogged...I was so not ready for what I saw.
Whose face was this staring back at me? When did my cheeks start to sag like that? When did I develop lines on my face? Are those wrinkles under my eyes? Are those bags? When did I get so...old...?
It's amazing once we clear away the old growth what stands revealed...
Maybe I was shocked because I was expecting my reflection to look a little different. For the longest time, my unshaven face looked very young - boyish, or childlike even - and one of the reasons I started keeping a perpetual 5:00 shadow was that I wanted to look a little more like my biological age. Once I shaved off the stubble, I was expecting the me of just a few years ago to still be waiting there under the scruff.
But the naked, true me staring back from the mirror wasn't the person I remembered. He had aged. He showed signs of the battles. The tears, the laughs, the days and nights of struggles...there they all were, etched into my flesh. I had accepted the increasing number of hairs that showed up in my beard that made me think I should invest in a bottle of Just For Men, but these...permanent...signs of my age...they rocked me. And not in the good way.
I could not face myself and deny that I was - I am - getting older. I could no longer literally face myself with a facade imprinted in my mind of how I was supposed to look. The real decimated the fake.
What was both astonishing comforting was that Kai, who has rarely if ever seen me shaved completely, didn't even blink. There was never a moment where he couldn't figure out why I might have looked strange to him. He knew the real me.
He recognized his father and knew his voice. No matter what I looked like.
Oh, to have that faith...