How to Shave Your Face, and Undo Yourself
How many strokes of a razor, the removing of fuzz, can undo gender’s sometimes heavy weight? Drew Zeiba bares their skin in this map of the struggles of hair removal and dysphoria.
I notice the off-color CVS powder foundation caking on thin wisps of blonde hair. My gut sinks. This is the first time the mirror has thrown this – the faint strip of hair now encroaching on my top lip – at me. I touch the fuzz with one finger and wonder if it’s too much, swallowing the thought. I study the fuzz in the mirror, wondering if anyone can see it without being this close. I swallow the thought. I’m far away from myself, falling from the mirror into my stomach, swelling with vertigo. When the inevitable comments come, I want to vomit. I can’t handle the shock of someone noticing the makeup and then, consequentially, and somehow almost worse, the slivers of hair. I swallow the embarrassment and the sick stuck in my throat.
I don’t ask my father how to shave. I don’t ask my father for advice. I feel shame churn in my stomach at the thought of asking him to see me like this. I imagine swallowing the embarrassment and tonguing an apology. Eventually, I buy a razor. It’s my own little secret, stashed away in a plastic bag in the back of the medicine cabinet, left to fester. At last ready or fed up or maybe both, I finally apply shaving cream in uneven globs across my face. I am not standing side-by-side with my father. I refuse to let this ritual enter myself. My father is likely now watching TV in the other room. Perhaps there is a commercial of a man with a wide chest and strong jaw ceremoniously swiping a razor across his cheeks. Perhaps the razor advertised is supposed to be a technological marvel. Perhaps I saw myself fucking the man shaving but not being him, never. I bleed unceremoniously from my chin, my upper lip, my jaw. I do not let anyone know what I have done. I want to swallow the blood, pink with the residue of shaving cream. I want to mouth hello to someone not yet there.
How to Love Someone Who Shaves Their Face
I watch him as he shaves. I watch him withdraw from me with each swipe of the razor and pulse of my accidental cock. I feel his stubble on my shoulder when I sleep, so much fuller than my own. My mind slices open the difference. I dream of shaving cream. I dream of him spreading the shaving cream on his face in front of a fluorescent-lit sink, open to the whole apartment, while I watch in the mirror from behind. I guzzle up the reflection. I think about shaving cream and easy similes. I give them up. I feel this is what you were supposed to want and watch each descent of the dollar store razor as it opens up sluices of liquefied foam. I give up like and as and swallow the arousal. I feel his chin and think about the impossibility of having a face. I hold the difference. Give it up.