Shaving in the time of COVID-19
By David Klein
One new thing I’ve done while staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic is to take an online course offered free through Yale: The Science of Well-Being.
Fantastic experience. Engaging professor. I learned research-backed strategies of thinking and acting that will improve my well-being.
One of the course themes was how important it is to take the time to savor. I liked that word, savor, and so the concept became meaningful to me. Savor, as a verb: to taste, to experience, to revel in, to enjoy and delight in.
I definitely could use more savor in my life. Who doesn’t want more savor? The question became: what specifically should I take the time to savor?
I can’t savor everything, because then nothing stands out as special. There are sunsets and moments of love and connection worth savoring. There are the wind chimes to savor. A slice of Harriet’s cake.
You choose. Choose any moment to savor, any activity.
Can a Man Savor Shaving?
I chose to savor the experience of shaving, a grooming behavior many men perform every day of their adult life.
I don’t fall into the “regular shaver” category. That’s one of the advantages working from home as a writer. Unshaven is the norm, clean-shaven the occasion. Good thing, because I was never enamored with the act of shaving, not from day one of my shaving life.
No one taught me how to shave. My father didn’t, although he did buy me a razor and tell me it was time to start. I quickly discovered there was nothing savor-worthy about schussing a razor blade through moguls of pimples to slice away the errant, annoying, and increasingly plentiful whisker tufts.
As an adult, for my few years holding a job where the expectation was clean-shaven, I resented what for me was an annoying chore. Every morning, with blade in hand, I hurried, and often I nicked. I’d feel the quick sting of a cut and get pissed off. Almost always the neck. Screw you, Adam’s Apple. I’d spit on my fingertips and wash the wound with saliva. I used a scrap of toilet paper to staunch the flow of blood. Once I bled for so long I didn’t realize I got a few drops on the nice collared shirt I wore to an important event. Someone pointed out the stain to me.
Still, I kept shaving. I adhered to expectations, I wanted to look my best. I was never really a beard guy, anyway. Only a few times in my life did I have one.
There are other reasons a man might shave regularly. No man wants to rough up his woman’s inner thighs, so if she prefers you clean-shaven for that reason, or for almost any other reason, I think a man should seriously consider her wishes. Side note: I sympathize with women who feel compelled to meet cultural shaving expectations.
Today, in the spirit of The Science of Well-Being, and as distraction against the pandemic, I vowed to savor the shaving experience.
I showered first, and my face was soft and warm and damp. I filled the sink with hot water and boy was I generous with the shaving cream, giving the dispenser an extra press. I applied a thick coat of foamy white, savoring the minty scent, rubbing in gentle circles to cover my cheeks, dabs in my moustache and chin area, long strokes along my jaw and neck.
I should have changed to a new blade, and was about to, but then realized I don’t have many blades and what if the stores run out and are never resupplied . . . some of that pandemic thinking.
Back to savoring.
My blade was still sharp enough, my old Gillette razor trustworthy. I dipped the blade and began.
I skated careful, gentle strokes along my cheeks and jawline, gliding upward and sculpting a neat border at my high sideburn. I rinsed my blade often. I used my left fingers to gently press and pull my skin, to give the blade a flatter landing surface.
I was engaged, I was enjoying. Tiny strokes beneath my nostrils, feathering around my lips. I saved the neck challenge for last. I held my flesh firm near my collarbone and raised my chin, like you might when anticipating victory or accomplishment.
I shaved off three days of bristles. As I worked, I made incremental improvements in my technique. The way I held my razor. How much of stroke to take. How much pressure to apply. I saved my best moves for around my throat, my hand steady as a surgeon’s. I respected my Adam’s Apple.
I was totally savoring.
When finished, I caressed my cheeks and chin and neck. How smooth. How undamaged.
But then, I felt a rough patch—a spot I hadn’t gotten completely. Immediately I went after the offending whiskers, but somehow, in my haste, I scraped when I should have shaved. I stumbled instead of glided. The blood welled. I licked my fingertips and wiped. I dipped into my precious toilet paper supply to staunch the flow. I savored it all.
David Klein is a freelance writer and the author of the novels Stash and Clean Break. On his blog at www.bydavidklein.com he writes about contemporary issues, his experience as an author, novels and films, and other personal passions.