Shaving Dangerously

I don’t know if buying the blade rests in the mid-life crisis category.  At least it’s not the first thing that comes to mind.  A sports car is a more obvious idea, but that’s out of my price range.  And I’ve never had much interest in a motorcycle.  A hot girlfriend half my age is a thought, but that falls into the “can’t afford” category, too.

But something finally coaxed me into buying the blade.  More specifically, a straight razor.  Yes, the kind of razor you may have seen in old movies, particularly westerns, when the hard, rugged cowboy makes himself presentable by running the blade across his face.

This was not exactly an impulse buy.  The thought of trying out the straight razor had been a persistent idea for some time.  As I saw it, there were three reasons to try it.

The first was economical:  as any guy knows, disposable blades are pretty goddamned expensive.  By my estimation, I’ve spent about $180 to $200 a year on them.  Admittedly, my economic reason for going to the straight razor might be a rationalization, given that a well-made straight razor will cost at least $150.  But I like rationalizations, and I’m sticking with this one.

The second reason may be a bit more eccentric.  Disposable razor blades are not exactly environmentally friendly.  They can’t be recycled, and though they are small, after five years of shaving–even if not every day–any man would amass quite the pile of dulled, whisker-filled razors.  For those who don’t know me, a bit of clarification is in order.  I’m not the biggest environmentalist around.  Sure, I recycle.  And I try to buy environmentally friendly products, but those are easy things.  I don’t have an in-home compost bin or drive a motor-scooter to work.  But I’m just odd enough to be bothered by the steady rate of discarded disposables just because … well, just because it bothers me.

The third reason is where we get into mid-life crisis territory.  Stated simply, shaving with a straight razor is just bad-ass.

Now, the fist time taking blade to face doesn’t guarantee the onset of bad-assness.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  It’s pretty terrifying.  The thing is, that blade is sharp.  Really.  Fucking.  Sharp.  This is learned quickly, since cuts (not just nicks) are a certainty early on.  Less than two weeks into my experiment with the blade I was hit with questions that went something like “What happened to your face?”  Frankly, I was surprised it took that long, since I was feeling more than a little self-conscious about my very visible wounds after only a few shaves.

The guesses of what happened to me ranged from a fight to a car accident to falling into a rose-bush.  Those that didn’t ask about the state of my face were probably afraid I’d tell them I was a cutter.  The gashes were everywhere.  Suffice it to say taking up the straight razor is not a good idea if you’ve got something coming up where you’re supposed to be photogenic, like a family portrait or your wedding.

While we’re on this thought, keep in mind that cuts on the face tend to bleed.  A lot.  A cut on any part of the ear is particularly messy.  Yes, I know, cutting the ear shouldn’t happen while shaving.  I get it.

The oddly positioned cuts did not stop at the ear.  They even spread to the fingers.  How is that possible, you ask?  Let me try to explain.  I’d use my free hand to pull and stretch a part of my face I was shaving, so my fingers would be near that area.  And just one careless move, and … SHIT!!! Like a paper cut on steroids.  Fingers bleed a lot, too, by the way.

Should a sane person stop this madness?  Maybe.  But even early on, regardless of the mistakes–the bloody, scarring mistakes–the is a certain satisfaction in the ceremony of it all.  It begins with the stropping of the blade, which consists of smooth, back and forth strokes of the blade over a piece of leather.  This is a shave that takes preparation and care.  There’s an oddly pleasant sound made by the blade running over the leather.

Then there’s the lather.  No palm full of foam or gel is involved in this process.  A proper shave includes not only a different kind of shaving cream, but a badger-hair brush, as well.  If you’re picturing a brush that somewhat resembles a mushroom being stirred about inside a mug, then you’re on the right track.  Again, it’s the ceremony.

Then it’s time to take the blade and begin, and here’s where it gets a little weird.  Running that blade over the skin does something to a man.  It could be the unnaturalness of the act.  It’s not exactly normal to take something that’s literally razor-sharp and voluntarily put it to your face and neck.  It’s a little unnerving, but also a little exciting.  But as the realization kicks in that it is, indeed, possible to run the blade over the skin without cutting oneself to holy hell, a new feeling starts taking over.  There’s tradition and timelessness to it, and the masculinity of it is undeniable.  The feeling of the blade against the skin becomes a good one.  Dare I say pleasurable?

Perhaps weird isn’t the right word.  Maybe it’s a little perverted.  Regardless, it’s just … bad ass.  The learning curve–regardless of a little slicing and dicing–is worth it.  Trust me.

Besides, aren’t chicks supposed to dig scars, anyway?