When I met you first, you were living in a men’s hostel, and I would not be allowed to come inside. Most days when I would come to pick you up on my bike, you would still not be ready, and I would wait outside. Your room had a back door that led down to the bath, and you would stand on the landing, wearing a towel and shave yourself, hanging your mirror on the window grill. You would use a double-edged safety razor and lather up with a brush and a round of shaving soap. I would be sitting on my bike on the other side of the wall and watch you as you lathered up a second time and carefully ran your razor along the contours of your scarred jaw, and wait as you disappeared down the stairs to wash your face. I actually looked forward to this quiet, voyeuristic and almost erotic experience. I might have never told you this but it was quite a turn on.
A couple of years later, we set up home in a two room studio apartment, and though we were still hard up, you graduated to shaving cream and a twin-blade. You would gush after each shave about its swivel head while I would rush to get breakfast ready in time for you to leave for work. On evenings when we would have the energy to go out (yes, there was such a time) you would wait till the last moment and then announce that you wanted to shave. You would point out that it was not a female prerogative to keep the man waiting and then purposely adopt a snail’s pace and explain the nuances of shaving to me as you let the razor glide down your throat, spooning up the lather lovingly and into sensuous mounds. I would sulk and pout, but I loved the clean and smooth look that you would wear when we finally went out. When our cheeks would touch, it was magic. I loved the fact that you wanted to look good and attractive when you would be seen with me.
Your mother used to tell me that you were middle-aged by the time you were in your teens. I realized what she had meant as we moved into our present home three years back, and you showed no interest in doing the place up. Minimalism – that is what you called it. Frugality was your standard response to my choices when we went shopping for furniture or upholstery. There I was all excited to do all the things I had dreamed of, and there you were, a boring bum with a book cover for a face.
But that didn’t stop you from dumping your twin blade for a powered five-blade monster. I wondered why anyone would pay so much for a razor and set of four cartridges, but I was happy if it made you happy. Anyway, you explained it away by pointing to your dented and painted facial architecture. As usual, I nodded happily, since it got you to shave in the evening when we went out.
I still remember the childish excitement when you came and showed me the five blades and the deep swivel and the cushioned motion and the microcomb. But all of these became nothing but words when you turned the power on and began to shave. The razor came to life, pulsing like an excited kitten preparing to leap. The smooth round handle sat purring in your hand like a devil, and I felt all tingly watching the clean swathe of skin that the razor left behind. I could see from your hands and your expressions that you were also experiencing a similar happiness as the blades glided effortlessly and needing no coaxing, almost as if they had a mind of their own.
With time, even your powered shave became commonplace, and now you shave only when you have to. You feel fine stepping out for family gatherings and work meetings with a day-old stubble, and if you have shaved in the morning, there is no way you will shave again in the evening. We still do manage to make time to go out in the evenings sometimes, but you just spritz some cologne and pull on a t-shirt over your from-another-lifetime jeans, and nudge me towards the door. I remember how you would groom yourself when we went out earlier, and I satisfy myself with the thought that once I was that important to you. If I say anything, you tell me that you are not a kid trying to impress the girls out there. It is as if you are done with impressing me, and now it doesn’t matter if I am impressed any more. It is as if I could impress myself for all you cared!!
I am writing this to remind you that inside me is that same woman who you would go to any length to impress, the woman for whom you never forgot an anniversary, and the woman for whom you got flowers on the silliest of occasion. Inside me is the woman who likes to go out with you and feel your smooth skin as we dance close to each other or put our heads together in the dark of the movie theater. Inside me is the woman who wants to see the look in the eyes of the other girls (those poor things) as they measure you up and the look in the eyes of the guys as they wonder what you have that they don’t. Inside me is the woman who is ready to be kept waiting while you catch your last minute shave. Inside me is the woman who thinks you are man enough for her.
Will proving me wrong make you feel better?