Forever young

6th February 1998 at 00:00
Even boys who shave just want to have fun, writes Victoria Neumark

Kemal is 15, and has just begun to shave. He has had a long discussion with his friends, Erol and Dale, about the merits of dry and wet shaving. "It depends if you've got spots," was their conclusion.

As little boys, they watched their fathers shave, amused at the ritual of foam and scrape. Now shavers are all electric and they are just another of the gadgets whirring round the modern home. Shaving, for them, is less to do with becoming a man than with mastering another gadget.

For, Mustafa, Kemal's uncle, this is not a good thing. Growing up means taking life seriously, he feels. A decision to shave should be looked at within a tradition that emphasises diligence, responsibility, morality. All around them, though, boys see images that stress playfulness, carefree consumption, luck.

Kemal loves the anarchy of the Tango commercial. Its pay-off line declares: "Each clown is reintegrated into society and becomes an estate agent. In five years' time you will be buying a house from one of these pointless little men." The ad closes with a shot of a father holding a child up in the air while in the background a clown stands disconsolately alone. It is not hard to get a message about it being no fun to grow up. With pictures like these, how do boys learn about duty, self-sacrifice and being a real man? worries Mustafa. When do they have to grow up?

Shaving, which not so long ago may have been done for the first time with some ceremony by a village barber, has become a private matter between a male and his mirror as the line between boys and men blurs.

Dale asks his Mum whether he needs to start shaving. "No way, kid," she laughs. Later, Dale's father says, "That boy wants to shave. He wants to be a man." They go to Boots and discuss with the pharmacist which razor would be best. (A Philishave dry: it doesn't hurt the spots.) When they return, Dale shaves, experimentally. Then he and his younger brother fight for the last packet of crisps. Manhood seems some way off, still.

"I don't really feel I am growing up," remarks Kemal. Erol and Dale agree, but Neriman does not. She is 15, too. "Boys are like that," she says. "But me and my friends, we're not."

Girls, it seems, have no choice. They grow up, like it or not. Even Wendy had to go home. Not so, Peter Pan.

An untapped market for Philishave, Never Land.

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