Achilles had his heel. I’ve got my chin.
Achilles was the famous warrior in Greek mythology who became invulnerable after his momma dipped him as an infant in the river Styx. (Don’t try this with just any river.)
He was invincible except for the two tiny spots where Mom’s thumb and forefinger were as she dipped the babe into the water. And you can probably guess how that story ends.
We’ve come to use “Achilles’ heel” as a reference to a personal weakness or flaw that can lead to downfall. And I’ve come to accept my weak spot is my chin.
I certainly am not a great warrior like Achilles, but my story does involve blood and violence. Yes, violence, because a knife blade and stabbing are involved.
Hey, relax. I’m talking about shaving. But don’t think for a second that it’s not a dangerous process.
This involves dragging an extremely sharp razor (knife) blade across the contours and around obstructions on my face.
I know, it looks simple enough. And frankly, it is. For many, many years I shaved every day. All part of my prep for work. Zip-zip-zip and it was done.
Easy ... until your mind wanders and you forget about the little weapon in your hand. That zip-zip can suddenly become a zap. A little nip. On my chin. Always on the chin.
The slice can be so subtle. You feel it, sort of. There’s a second when you wonder, “Did I?” Then you see the blood.
I think the chin bleeds more than any other part of the face. Just saying.
“How can so much blood pour from such a tiny slice?” you wonder, and wonder and wonder. (There’s a lengthy dabbing, dabbing, dabbing process to stop the bleeding. Leaving a highly visible red spot that you’re afraid to touch.)
Shaving definitely is a skill. Some might say an art. And there’s all kinds of advice offered on how to shave. Go with the grain. Go against the grain. I have to do both.
Like most guys, I learned my face, what works, and I do it the same way each time.
When I shaved every day, it was easier. Not much hair to remove. I’m not a 5-o’clock-shadow guy. My stubble is hard to see even after two or three days because it’s reddish-blond.
But after I retired I was free to shave whenever. Or never. (The few times I tried beards I think I frightened strangers, especially children.)
I avoid shaving now, but if I let that stubble turn into little stumps the process becomes a bit harsher. And the chin more vulnerable.
Yes, always the chin. The same little spot every time.
The shaving industry keeps trying to convince me that razors should have multiple blades. I’ve tried most of them.
And don’t get me started on electric razors. (Think: tug-of war or wood chipper.) The blade is best.
In the end, it comes down to a deft (and cautious) hand. I make sure the blade does a gentle slide over my Achilles’ chin. Scary indeed.
Despite the perpetual, horrendous danger, however, I expect to survive my weak spot.
Sad to say, Achilles did not.
• Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His Paperwork email is email@example.com. Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.