Teach me to shave.

When I was 14 years old and in my first year of High School I remember trying really hard to avoid the teachers. There was a particular reason for my attempts at avoidance.

I remember my friends and classmates being told that their facial hair was getting to a point where they needed to start shaving and I was noticing that there was a little more substance to the hair on my face than there had been in the past. I knew that the day was coming when a teacher would pick me out and tell me what the other guys were being told. I dreaded it.

Fortunately I am blonde so my need to shave was a lot less noticable than a lot of the other guys – that would give me a few extra weeks, maybe months, of being able to lay low.

I knew I’d be told I have to start shaving and then I’d have to go home and tell my mom and she’d go and buy me a razor and some shaving cream and then I’d have nobody to teach me how to shave. It seems really trivial now that I know how to do it and, like most guys I’m sure, it’s pretty much second nature to me, but at the time it was a big deal and really had me worried because I had no clue what I was going to do.

I still remember one of my teachers taking me aside and telling me I needed get the hair off my face. His name was Mr Coetzee and he was a really nice guy. He told me in a mellow way and didn’t get too harsh with me. I think he knew it might be something that could be an issue for me so he went easy on me.

So anyway, I went home and told my mom and she went and bought me what I needed like I knew she would. I had all the stuff and I had a vague idea of what I needed to do, but I really wasn’t sure. Now I don’t even know if guys who’s dads were around got them to show them how to shave or not, but I know that at that moment, in the bathroom, I wished that my dad was there to show me. I stood there clueless and lonely. I figured asking my mom would be futile since she had never shaved her face (or ever needed to- thank goodness!). I have a cousin who is three years older than me, and who I looked up to a lot, who had been shaving for a while so I thought I could talk to him, but I thought it would be really embarrassing so I gave it a skip. I didn’t want to ask the guys at school because I was scared they would ask why I didn’t just ask my dad.

I felt really alone at that time. Like a lot of things in my life I taught myself how to shave by trial and error.

What’s the point of this story? Well, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only guy who didn’t have dad around to teach him stuff. I know there are girls who didn’t have dads around to teach them that they are beautiful and how to respect themselves.
Maybe one of my memories is teaching myself to shave and yours is something else, or a bunch of other things, but there is a whole generation of us whose dads just weren’t around for us. We have taught ourselves how to do a lot of things. We are the fatherless.

My question is this: ‘What can we learn from our dads?’

What my dad did hasn’t shown me how to be a good dad, but what he didn’t do has shown me what I need to do to be a good dad.
If I have a son (or more than one) I will teach him to shave, how to pass a rugby ball, how to catch a wave, how to treat girls with respect, how to be a good, strong, kind person and how to be a good dad to his children. I will give him a sense of worth and help him find his identity. And If I have a daughter I will teach her that she is beautiful and captivating, that she is loved and that she should expect to be treated well and respected by boys and that her dad will always do what he can to protect her.

We may be the fatherless, but we are also the ones that can make sure that the next generation – our children – are not fatherless! We know what not to do. We know how not to be. We are the fathers!

Let’s not make the same mistakes our parents did.

If you’d like to chat you can leave a comment or send me an email.

6 replies
  1. Mary-Anne Rabe
    Mary-Anne Rabe says:

    Hey Shane, this is really beautiful.
    The greatest thing we can teach our children is their true identity and true origin…born of God. So that, like you, they can return to the Rock from which they were hewn and discover a source of wisdom and strength that is not born of this of this earth.

  2. N
    N says:


    Thank you so much for sharing of yourself and your thoughts on fatherlessness here. I stumbled on your site via Fcebook and your posts have affected me profoundly, especially this one. Profoundly enough to write a comment, when I am generally apathetic about these sorts of things.

    We used to be very close in high school, but we drifted apart. You will know who I am. I shudder now at my insensitivity towards you then – I had no idea how fatherlessness affected you. Perhaps you would not have admitted it then. One particular incident I remember and think about often. We were at our friend Daniel’s house and someone passed a cruel comment (as cruel as only teenage boys can be) about your father. You went quiet and retreated into a corner and started bashing your head against a wall. You then disappeared up the road and it took us a while to get you to come back. I am sure you will remember that. That was the only time I ever saw you physically affected by fatherlessness, but it must have been eating you up the whole time. For my insensitivity, I apologise.

    But this is not a sad story. There are two heroes in this story. The first is your mom, who selflessly and tirelessly worked to bring you and you sister up, performing the role of both mom and dad – and a damn fine job she did. I will never forget the 4am lifts to Yellows. She deserves an award. The second hero is you. To overcome your loss, and to be a father figure to your sister as well, shows your strength of character.

    And your posts make me very grateful for my own father. He died exactly a year ago. And for him I am grateful.

    Thank you for making yourself vulnerable in your posts, for reaching out to other people, and to making us think.

  3. Shane
    Shane says:

    Hey man,

    Thanks for the comment! It’s good to hear from you and I appreciate what you’ve said. The stuff about mom is particular pertinent and I must agree that she does deserve an award. I feel bad thinking about how hard she worked and that she still made the effort to get me and my friends to all sorts of far away beaches.

    I’m really sorry to hear that your dad passed away! I mostly remember him being in his garage working on the Jag whenever we’d get back to your place from a surf, but he was always welcoming and friendly to me and I felt welcome in your home.

    I often tell stories to people about the stuff we got up to in our Nahoon days and I always get stoked remembering those days. Some of the crazy lifts we got whilst hitch-hicking and one particular night when Andrew got a face full of lipstick are some of my favourites 🙂

    I hope you and Nicola are doing well in the Cape! Hopefully Lindsay and I can make it there sometime soon…

  4. Andy Straight4ward
    Andy Straight4ward says:

    Riles, I appreciate you for your honesty and openness. Truly a testimony to us all.

    Also to N, thanks for your great comments. It takes guts to send out an honest apology.

    Some of my favourite times in life where Nahoon beach days, raiding the Grahams fridge, and spending loads of time messing around in Bunkers Hill, oh yes also the numerous calls made to girls and N’s 25min kiss! Speaking about memories, hows the time you fell asleep in the attic, only to resurface around supper time! Thanks for the great times guys.

    Shane trust that you will continue to be the dad you wish you had. Shot!

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