Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Simple Art of Shaving

My goal is to transform this blog into a vast repository of useful tips for day-to-day living. Thoughts on how to improve ourselves and our surroundings. Insights on how to lead a rich, meaningful life. Educating people on the necessity of using contraceptives not just to avoid having kids at a slightly inconvenient moment in time, or to avoid getting shackled to a slightly inconvenient partner, but also to avoid having them altogether - and if they feel they absolutely must have some, at least impress on them the need to leave the little blighters at home while going to the movies. Someday, I hope to start my own religion.

The topic for today is shaving. (Shaving the face, that is. Your own face.) Guys are expected to shave at least once a day. (Unless, of course, you’re trying to grow a beard. Shaving, oddly enough, it has been noticed, can stunt the growth of beards.) Having done an exhaustive study on the matter (100% of all females contacted refused to take part in my study, though), it emerges that the guys who don’t shave on a regular basis do so due to the activity irritating their skin to the extent that they cannot have a painless shave for another 2 or 3 days. For a guy, given a choice between pain and looking like an extra from “Grizzly Man”, he will always choose the latter. This is what separates us men from the illogical (women, for instance). As Scott Adams pointed out, your appearance mostly bothers only other people, as you rarely see yourself – save for the odd glance into mirrors.

But, let’s not get philosophical here. After all, I titled the post, “The Simple Art of Shaving”. So, rather than debate on the merits of shaving vis-a-vis not shaving, let’s see if there’s some way of eliminating any discomfort shaving causes you. I mean, we can all be considerate towards others if it doesn’t cost us anything, can’t we? On with it… The mistake that people make is, they try to shave before showering. No matter how hard you try, your skin at this point simply isn’t soft enough to get a smooth shave - as it would be if you had just had a shower. Shaving after showering is also a kind of a mistake, as it leaves you with the possibility of shaving cream left unnoticed on parts of your face. The logical conclusion? Shave in between showering.

Of course, this is easier said than done. For one, taking a hot shower (and let’s face it, cold showers are a slap in the face of those noble engineers who invented the geyser) tends to cloud up any mirrors in your bathroom. We all know that shaving without vision is like negotiating Eau Rouge in the rain, drunk and blindfolded. If you have more than one unoccupied bathrooms in your house, what you can do is simply switch to the second bathroom, for the shave. If you have roommates (or a maid cleaning the house), remember to wrap a towel around you, as you switch bathrooms, so as not to cause undue distress. The real problem, though, is that exiting a steamy bathroom while still wet is about as pleasant as Scotty accidentally beaming you from a swamp near the equator to a peak in Finland. Especially in winter, when, as per Murphy’s Law, the laws of Physics and Biology conspire not only to steam up the mirrors even more, but also to drive up the temperature difference between Cozy Bathroom and Cold, Cold Every Other Room even more.

The thing to do here is either wipe the mirror off with a towel, or with your hand. The hand seems to be more effective, as the mirror stays de-steamed for a longer period of time, but, personally, I hate touching a cold, wet mirror with my hand, while I’m showering. And the mirror still isn’t all that clear, leading to blind spots while shaving. The other thing to do is fill a mug with hot water, and splash it onto your mirror from a distance, covering as much of the mirror surface as possible, with the water flowing down the mirror slowly, gracefully, and evenly.

If done right, this ensures the clearest possible de-steamed mirror, of all the techniques discussed above. The mirror tends to stay de-steamed for longer, as well. However, repeating this process, while shaving, is not as easy as the hand \ towel wipe. And repeat you will, especially in winter. Also, it requires a true artist to do the water chucking just right, so that big, ugly spots, that make shaving nigh impossible, are not formed on the mirror. It’s all in the wrist action, and the follow through after the water leaves the mug. Learning to get it right can be a drag. Plus, in this day and age of environmentalism, I’m not sure how ethical this approach is. Make sure you don’t hit any light sockets or electric plug points with the water. I’ve heard that that can cause problems, including death – but not very often.

There you go. A complete, exhaustively researched article on how to shave more often, with less discomfort. For an alternative theory, here’s Johnny Caspar from the Coen Brothers’ “Miller’s Crossing” (a truly spectacular piece of film making, based on a couple of novels by Dashiell Hammett), which (the film, not the books) is a sublime gangster flick about a man and his hat.

"You towel down first with a hot towel, as hot as you can stand. Put the razor in cold water, not hot, because metal does what in cold?"

"I don't know, Johnny."

"That's why I'm telling you! It contracts. That way, you get a first-class shave every time."