One of the things I’m doing new this year is I started going old school for my shaves. You know, the boar bristle brush, shaving soap that you’ve got to whisk with the brush to create lather, straight razor, the whole nine. I don’t know where the thought originated from, but I know my wife fully blessed the transaction, hooking me up with the full kit and most of the caboodle for Christmas. She even tried to get me an alum block, but since I didn’t even know what the hell that was, I resisted until she finally “bought herself” some alum powder to cook with and just so happened to leave it in the bathroom next to my shaving array.
Me, being me, just got around to full on embracing it about two weeks ago. I maintain a low beard, but I give my head the shearing treatment. Some dudes out there may be thinking, “Why go this tedious route?” Simple Answer: Cause it’s awesome. I was thinking maybe it’s just me that thought it reeked of cool, but here’s what artofmanliness.com had to say as their number four reason to shave classic style:
You’ll feel like a bad ass. It’s nice taking part in a ritual that great men like your grandfather, John F. Kennedy, and Teddy Roosevelt took part in.
Indeed, while I was shaving my head with my straight razor I felt like this:
Since I’m a novice, I don’t have a designer blade yet, something with a cool name like The Bismarck or Carpe Diem (these are real names). Instead, I have a starter razor, one where you can change out the blade. Crawl before you walk and all that, which is what I was doing, going from really, really sloppy with the razor, giving myself little cuts to nicks to being more and more self assured every next time I shaved.
Anyway, I’m doing my thing yesterday, walking as it was with decent competency, and my wife comes into the bathroom in the middle of my newly forming manly ritual. She makes me nervous. I’m not sure why. Am I breaking an unstated section of the male code, letting the fairer sex not see me thoroughly competent with a straight razor? Or is it because I’m holding a deadly instrument up to my head and somehow think she’s here now just like ancient Romans showed up at the arena to see some bloodletting?
She hangs out. “When’d you change the razor last?” she asks casually as she gazes at my half shaved head.
I don’t let her see me sweat. I’m a man doing manly shit. “Never,” I reply.
Confusion reigns on her face. “What do you mean never?”
“I mean since I started using this blade a couple weeks ago, I have yet to change it out.” It seemed reasonable to me. I only shave every other day and skip weekends, so that was like six times. I was shaving a head, not sawing through leather. But I’m new at this, too. Was I wrong? I’m used to technology, not old school, and I was still learning to use it properly, forget about being able to look at it and tell if it needed replacing. There’s no “change me” indicator strips on it when it wears out…
“Oh no!” my wife exclaims. “You’ve gotta change those out. You can’t go that long with the same razor.”
Her words presented a few problems. One, she shouldn’t know more than me about the time honored tradition of old school shaving. Two, even if she does, I shouldn’t let on that she does. Three, I got this.
“I’m almost done,” is what I said. It was the equivalent of “whatever,” but more respectful, as if I had listened to her input and valued it. Anyway, sufficiently bored with all the manly activities happening in the bathroom, she went about something else. Me, I was like two, maybe three swipes away from a finishing my hardcore style shave. I rushed to finish.
That’s when the razor sliced into the back of my head. I like seriously carved off a piece of scalp. So now I’m bleeding out the back of my head, it stings with that raw fire. It was a lot of blood, and I wanted to scream for help, but damn that… I had already failed one of the core tenants of my newly defined manliness. Instead I clean off the lather and blood by splashing water, which felt like acid in the wound.
I gotta clean this up. Patch up the wound, walk out of the bathroom and pretend I didn’t turn her white towel into a crime scene and that’s all I’m gonna do. OK, so first I gotta stop the bleeding. But I don’t have an alum block, all I got is that damn alum powder that’s built for cooking. So I’m sprinkling alum powder on my head and that was like pouring salt over it. Why didn’t I get an alum block despite not knowing what it was?!
Note to those out there still using normal products: Alum does not grow new skin back where before there was naught. It will keep you from bleeding on your shirt and furniture with its purging fire, but that’s about it. Needless to say, she saw what happened. She blamed the razor. I figure if it was dull, it wouldn’t have cut me so effortlessly… but I’ll let it be that. It beats confessing that I still haven’t learned to run with the razor of yesteryear.
Just when I thought it was safer in the States versus being deployed, I go and start losing blood.