Luckily, I spent my puberty in an all-male boarding school in New Hampshire. I began to shave there, only because my father had given me a razor and a pack of five double-edge razor blades for my 13th birthday. It felt like getting my first car.
My hormones, however, let me down. Even at sixteen, I only needed to shave once a month and the elaborate ritual of shaving was overkill for removing the single blond hair that sprouted erratically from my chin. It looked a lot like that fake tree on I-89 in New Hampshire that’s really a cell tower in drag.
My simian roommate, however — a mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging proof of evolution — had to shave after each meal. In those days, a pack of five double-edge razor blades cost 89 cents and lasted two months with regular use. I got by on a pack a year and that only because they rusted.
Yesterday, I went into our local IGA to buy replacement blades, having just run out. My daughter teases me about my stingy reluctance to replace worn out blades, but she’s never had to buy them. To make matters worse, my wife asked me the other morning if I had used the brush hog or the lawn trimmer to shave and, later that same day, my garage mechanic warned me that a colony of deer ticks had apparently settled on my chin. I do use the blades well beyond their useful life, but there’s a reason.
So I’m in the IGA, staring at wall of shaving technologies. A decade ago, when I bought my first shaving handle, it included five replaceable blades for under five bucks. Each snap-in replacement had a single blade embedded in its plastic frame. I still only shave every few days and, like anyone, try to get my money’s worth. Unless you’ve personally tried to buy replacement blades, don’t make fun.
I scan the blister packs looking for my brand. All I can remember is Atra because that is a common puzzle word. But it’s not an Atra. I’ve made that mistake twice.
Without warning or any notice to me, cutting edges went from one to two blades per replacement and doubled in price. Then, suddenly with great marketing fanfare, they went to three blades, and now they are trying to sell me five, yes five razor edges in each snap-in replacement blade. It looks more like a miniature Venetian blind than a razor blade. Of course, I’d need to buy a new handle as well.
I search in vain for the old two-blade replacements. They’re gone. My only choice on the pegboard is an entirely new handle with five, five-blade, disposable replacements. This commits me to the five-edge technology for eternity or at least until the ten-blade replacement comes out.
The helpful clerk, however, informs me the manufacturer offers “razor financing,” online at only 12 percent APR. I leave empty-handed and decide to grow a beard like many other old Vermonters.