Apr 20, 2006

Introducing shaving geeks

Who knew there was a movement afoot to return to the halcyon days of "wet shaving?"
There are two ways to look at this moment. You can say that no one in his right mind should wield a double-edged razor half-asleep. Or you can say that no one in his right mind can stay half-asleep when he picks up a double-edged razor. Here is what invariably happens: as I swirl the brush in the tub of Trumper's Sandalwood Shaving Cream, as I scrub my face gently with the brush, covering it with fragrant lather, as I apply the razor at an acute angle to my cheek next to my right ear, I suddenly become gloriously awake. Ten minutes into my day, I am paying utmost attention. The sandalwood aroma fills my nostrils, the steam rising from the sink caresses my skin, and most extraordinary of all, as I run the blade down my cheek it makes a tiny and distinct plink with each hair that it encounters, amplified by the tension of the blade held in the steel jaws of the razor. This experience simply doesn't happen with a cartridge razor, let alone a whirring electric shaver. Only a single sharp blade can give you the sound of every one of the hairs on your head being numbered.

In the logic of high technology, the fundamental premise is our incapacity. We are tired, fuzzy (in mind and face), and in need of a simple, safe, efficient solution. Gillette's army of engineers go to work, and place in our hand "the best a man can get." But there is another kind of logic—call it the logic of the blade. The double-edged razor blade, of course, is technology too, of quite an advanced kind. But the blade does not exist to underwrite our fuzzy, lazy, half-asleep lives. It requires something of us—discipline, skill, patience. The fundamental premise of the blade is that we can learn to handle fearsome things in delicate ways.

The cartridge razor is safe, but it is ultimately dull. The double-edged razor, with apologies to Aslan, is not safe, but it is good. It is good to be at risk. It is good for me to face myself and hear the myriad plinks of each hair being numbered and shorn. It is good to wake up.

Via Arts & Letters Daily.

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