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On Shaving

There are many apparently straightforward things that seem like they will forever be beyond my abilities: putting up shelving; driving; not going for that third helping of barbecue.

But maybe the simplest thing that I struggle with is the basic shaving of the face. It’s not hard. We have all kinds of tools to help us, but even now I struggle. I spend too long…and miss large patches. My wife thinks I have a beard – really I’ve just continued to miss the bits around my mouth consistently enough to have something that resembles deliberate facial hair.

I have an electric razor for two reasons: I’ve tried dragging a blade across my face before and it did not go well. There were rashes, there was pain, there was a little blood. It’s been 15 years since I’ve tried a safety razor and the memories remain fresh, like a scar across the neck.

Second, if a task can be done by something that plugs in, that makes it immediately preferable to anything hand-held. Gadgets are the solution for everything. Don’t unpack that philosophy too far; it could take you to places that neither of us want you to go.

So, for all that time, I’ve been an electric razor man. And areas of my neck, or just below my ear, or on my cheekbones, have sported defiant little bushes of stubbly bristles. Occasionally, my wife will take matters into her own hands and politely suggest she helps me out, and I let her because being shaved by a woman who loves you is a special thing.

But, really, this is my cross to bear. I need to get better at shaving.

The next best thing to a gadget is an advertisement that promises to solve your problem – and so, Plan B became to sign on to what the Internet was telling me was cool: The Dollar Shave Club. They promised I would “look, feel, and shave like a million bucks” and who doesn’t want that? All I had to do was sign up to the monthly plan, they send me razor blades and a (free!) handle, and my face would retain its once-legendary smoothness (from about 40 years ago, obviously).

There are three plans – the first seemed like I was just being cheap, the third seemed like it was for people who cared more than I do, so I opted for Plan 2 – $6 for 4 blades, every month. I felt like my face was worth that level of commitment. And then of course, I ordered some shaving cream because the picture was nice and the words persuasive. If you have a London Bridge to sell, send me the information and I’ll see if I’m interested (I will be).

The DSC system is as well oiled as my face was about to be. I get emails welcoming me to the club, then acknowledging my order, then telling me that my order has shipped – and how I can track it in real time. Maybe they were expecting me to organize a welcoming party for my blades, cream, and (free!) handle. As soon as I thought of that, it seemed like a good idea. Maybe something for the future.

Everything arrives packaged in a neat little box:

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They have that cute online business marketing thing going. It feels like a small group of cool guys are doing me a favor by sharing their favorite things, and maybe they are.

Or maybe they’re just really good at marketing to men like me.

So, it turns out that shaving with the cool kid shaving kit is pretty much like shaving with anyone else’s – in that, if you’re a complete incompetent when it comes to scraping the hair off your face, it doesn’t matter if you’re using the highest tech or the rustiest scissor blade. The result is the same – the same itchy neck, the same rebellious fluffy bushes on the cheekbones. And how do you shape your sideburns? Is that a job that can only be done by another pricey gadget?

Of course it is. Gadgets solve anything.

But, like the followers of the Cult of the Mac, I found that using the blades felt better, even if the results were almost exactly the same. The shave was smooth on the parts of my face I remembered to cover, and it took about 25% of the time to do an equally bad job as I would have done with my electric razor.

So, for the time being, I’m now a manual shaving guy. And maybe, with a little practice and a little bit of taking my time, I might actually get good at it.

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