I often wonder why I submit myself to the daily ordeal known as shaving, especially since stubble and 5 o’clock shadow are socially acceptable — actually socially preferable. All the young bucks have facial hair, and the geezers are growing goatees to look like 1960s hipsters. Yet fool that I am, I struggle every morning to get a clean shave with a razor that has no fewer than five blades.
They call it the “art of shaving,” which is probably why so few men can master it. You have to be Jackson Pollock to get a close shave, and your face ends up looking like one of his paintings.
Shaving isn’t an art. It’s nothing more than a punishment inflicted on man at the dawn of creation after Adam ate the apple. It was worse for Eve because she had to shave her legs … and her underarms.
The first time I shaved I caught hell from my father. I was 12 and there was a sheen of peach fuzz on my face, which to my thinking meant I had entered the state of mind and body known as manhood. My father immediately knew I shaved because my face went from looking like a peach orchard to a strawberry patch.
He was outraged because shaving was one of those initiation rites you weren’t supposed to do without paternal guidance, like your first stag party. Plus, you weren’t supposed to use Dad’s razor, which was tantamount to raiding his liquor cabinet or wearing his tighty-whities.
On that day, I proudly proclaimed, “Today, I am a man,” nicks and all. However, once you start shaving, you can’t stop because it’s like putting Scotts fertilizer on your face.
Back then, men shaved with double-edge safety razors, which always seemed a bit death defying to me. I eventually bought my own utensils, starting with a Trac II, which had a twin-blade razor. Since then, I’ve tried everything from Sensor to Excel, Hydro, Quattro, Mach 3, Mach 3 Turbo and Fusion. My shaving skills never improved although the technology purportedly did.
I’m like a right-fielder stuck in the minor leagues. I make the same mistakes I made when I was 13. There are whiskers under my nostrils that I can never reach, and I always nick the left side of my jaw, and it’s impossible to get a close shave around my Adam’s Apple. That’s more detail than you need to know, but the point I’m trying to make is that despite all the modern advancements, shaving is still a struggle.
That doesn’t stop me from trying. I even went to the Art of Shaving store at Grand Central, where I paid a small fortune for an ornate straight razor — the kind your great-great-grandfather used, along with General Custer, Wyatt Earp and Annie Oakley.
Someday I hope to take lessons so I don’t gouge out a piece of my chin and I can entertain my grandsons by demonstrating how to use that implement of self-torture. A couple of years ago, I even came upon a straight razor manufactured in the 1800s by Challenge Cutlery in Bridgeport and sold by W. Hermes Cutlery Grinding and Repair Shop. Those were the days when men were men and not afraid of a little blood. Their own blood.
I recently decided to step out of my comfort zone, or more appropriately my discomfort zone, and bought one of those much ballyhooed shavers with five blades made in Germany. I wanted to see how many blades I could maneuver around my nose, not to mention my neck and chin.
I’m so obsessive about getting a clean shave that after I’m done with the razor, I switch on the electric shaver and fine-tune the job. My face looks as red and chafed from razor burn as it did when I was 13. Dad was right. I should have let it grow. I would have saved a fortune on blades, and by now I would have looked like Abe Lincoln or ZZ Top.
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.