There's a splinter sect of human males who, because their souls have long since been dropped on the curb, cannot enjoy the simple pleasurable sensuality of shaving. Some of them grow beards, others buy an electric razor and grimace at themselves every morning in the mirror as they tear their faces up before heading off into the working world and injecting the system with their jaded venom. How can they make such hateful faces at themselves in the mirror every morning? Doesn't that affect their whole day? Doesn't it make them acknowledge the nature of their hollow existence? These men are commurists for sure, and they, I can faithfully tell you, are the enemy.

Shaving is one of our first passages, a practice handed down from father to son, unique to every family. Women, insofar as I've been led to believe, get walks in the meadow and lectures on freshness. We get the Ritual of Blades, once a week while we're peachfuzzing, then increasingly often as we are forced to reconcile with the thick hairs that age brings. Grow a beard and you can get away with delaying a few more days between shaves, but it's important in today's world, where everyone is tired of looking at slovenly peacenikking longhair beardos and anxious to represent themselves as stable pillars of bravado, to keep a clean neck and trim whiskers.

To get the most out of shaving, a blade is prefered. I use Mach 3s because the (albeit pricey) cartridges last me a couple weeks each, I can tell if a razor is bad with a glance, it's fun ejecting spent razors into the trash or the candy bowl, and I'm too set in my ways to care if anybody else is making a "better" blade (they are all xtraflexy springmounted sextuplelubricated nowadays anyway. our faces never had it so damn good). Apply occam's razor to the personal care aisle of your grocery store and find yourself some good old fashioned shaving soap. A couple companies still make it, most prominently Burt's Bees. I use a nice sandalwood soap from Geo F. Trumper that is nice on the skin, not too messy, and smells like heaven on a summer afternoon. One bowl costs $25 and lasts me two years. Refills are available for cheaper. Shaving brushes used to be all unicorn hair and mithril handled, then badger hair and ivory. Nowadays we make do with badger and the less exotic ebony or plastic or even steel. A good brush will run you between fifty and a hundred dollars, and will last you long enough to find another badger to pluck.

The best time to shave is immediately after a hot shower. A shower opens up pores and follicles and wet hair is easier to cut. If your shower is broken, throw your wet towel in the dryer (or, for those in a hurry, the microwave) for a few minutes and wrap your face until you feel properly clippable. Trim up your facial hair with an electric trimmer. Conair makes a nice cheap one. You shouldn't have to spend more than thirty dollars. I make a border patrol, then several slow careful passes across the outward frontiers without any attachments for that "cleaned up for the court appearance" look. On the last pass, I fluff my beard against the grain and trim it as evenly as I can freehand. It's a tedious and relaxing practice.

Run the tap hot for a few seconds and wet your brush. Shake superfluous water into sink and press lightly into your soap. Work up a small lather: soap won't foam like cream or slime like gel. Correctly loaded, your brush will mark a clear unquestionable swatch of facial forest for clearcutting. Don't listen to those braindead patchoulismokers, don't worry about the protected habitat of the wally-banded jugular facial louse. Just lay down the law with an even hand. Your implement is indifferent. Your dead must be buried.

Johnny Caspar recommends two wise practices: always put one in the brain, and keep your blades cold. Opponents of cold razors, I explain my reasoning: by preparing and cleaning your razor in cold water, the blades tighten. A sharp frigid razor will shear through the warm soap and leave almost no trace of offending hair in its wake without tearing up the skin. I suffer not from razor burn, nor ingrown hairs, nor constant nicks. Your face might be different. Cold blades may really fuck you up. I may just be badcore.

Post lather application, strategy is solely up to the discretion of the player, and reader experimentation is encouraged. Clean-shaven, I lay waste to my sideburns first, razor tracing a slow path down my jawhinge, cleaning the blade after every vertical downward pass, bladewidth traced thrice. It's like performing nine slash-and-burns at once, and no one at the EPA even gives a dook. Watch the bodies wash down the drain as you rinse your blade and continue with your meditative carnage. You are absolving yourself of your deadwood, your detritus, what you deem unnecessary. You wield your own destiny. You hold all the cards. You are the one answered to.

Nowadays my priority is to keep my neck clean. Neck hair is itchy, unattractive, won't buy you drinks, hates all your favorite movies. I close in on my adam's apple, right, left, right, left. The Seven Brassmen Control Kata is applied: it is said Grandmaster Shadow once demonstrated such complete capacity by dodging an enemy dart aimed at his throat with the mere displacement of his adam's apple. This selfsame half swallow will spare you from further laceration by your own hand.

Shaving soap, brushed lightly into and then washed out of the beard when the shave is finished, is great for keeping beards full looking and soft. Warm olive oil makes both an excellent conditioner and invigorating morning libation. Dab your face and beard dry with a clean washcloth. Apply to your skin either witch hazel or after shave. My mad technique should leave you relatively harm free, but nicks may also be caused by old ragged blades, lateral slicing movements, impetuous razor operation, mania, cat scares, or any other problem ameliorated by care, patience, and keeping the door closed. Bleeding can be staunched by toilet paper or a styptic pencil. Blood will clot and paper can be removed after fifteen minutes. Any dried blood left blemishing the skin can be cleaned with witch hazel.

It is important at the end of a shave to look deep into the mirror and take in one's face. Verify your work. Run the tips of your fingers up your neck, across your cheek. Any stragglers can be quickly made to join their brethren with a swift pass of a wet razor. Look into your pores, make sure everything's in its right and proper place. Clean the sink with a simple rhythmic employment of the shaving brush. Shake your brush out and hang it on its stand. This thing is more about taking stock than personal maintenance. Face yourself one last time: your features bear your definition, your image is to your specification, your spirit is clean, your mind and fancy free. The ritual is complete. You have passed.

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