A New Razor

As a Christmas gift, Meghan gave me a new razor, one of the “old-fashioned” safety razors, complete with a shaving brush and soap that smells vaguely of tobacco.

I had actually been eyeing this setup for a few months as I’ve been using one of the modern razors with 3-5 blades for years, and I was always disappointed with the quality of the shave, as well as how quickly my coarse facial hair would wear down the blade.

the art of shaving

I watched a few YouTube videos on optimal lathering technique with the brush and soap and the proper angle and direction to pull the razor. (I’m sure our grandfathers learned the same way…) And just like any ritual, there are as many ways to do it as there are are people performing it.

So wanting a possibly better shave was a major reason for wanting (and receiving) this shaving setup, but I’d be lying if I said that was the only reason.

Sure, there’s that slightly Mad-Menish flair of dragging a sharp blade across your throat with a chromed-out razor, but for me, it appealed to my love of little rituals.

Up to a year or so ago, the pieces of my day were mostly the same, many of them spent in front of my computer. Like I’d imagine a lot of people that “live” on the Internet, I divided my chunks of time into roughly 15 second slices: read 1 email, switch to Twitter and read the top few most recent messages, switch to the feed reader and skim a dozen headlines, oh look a new Twitter message, ooh more email, and so on and so on. I knew I needed a reprieve from getting that constant stream of endorphins from making all the numbers go down.

The first little ritual I introduced was brewing a cup of coffee and making oatmeal on the stove every morning. Such a little thing became a real meditation. I could only do one thing at a time and I had to pay attention. This was a complete flip from the non-stop information gluttony I usually participated in and this was good.

So this new shaving process in the morning is a similar thing. (And as a side benefit, I’m getting a better shave!)

Another thought, that might be related:

Over the holidays, Meghan and I went and stayed with her parents in a beach house on the Florida Panhandle. Her brother would turn the TV own after our afternoon walks on the beach and around 6pm, Meghan’s mother would ask for him to to change the channel to the news.

Ten years ago, this would have seemed commonplace, but today, the idea of sitting down with the frame of mind of “now, I will consume the news for 30 minutes” is noteworthy. With an always-on, usually-tuned-in Internet connection, there’s no official news time. It’s all the time, whether you like it or not.

Instead of watching the talking heads, I tried to decide which mode is better. With the Internet, I can know of any world event within seconds of it happening. With the TV, I get a daily condensed version of the highlights.

I think I decided that getting the news, in whatever form, once a day in a solid chunk might be the best way. Beyond living in ignorance for a few hours in the day, not knowing normal news events until later usually has very little direct impact on my life.

It’s also another ritual, a devoted time set aside for one purpose. Do I need to be constantly awash in world news? I’d say no. Getting that dose of information in one chunk probably also lets you digest it better and it also lets others (definitely for better or worse) filter out a lot of the noise.

I also realized that a big reason that I would constantly refresh cnn.com or nytimes.com was that I was bored. Why was I bored? Because there was nothing new on those pages. I realized that’s a pretty harsh cycle to be caught up in.

So that’s why I’m taking solace in what little rituals like shaving with a safety razor, or sitting down to watch the evening news, or grinding and pressing a pot of coffee has on my always plugged-in attitude.

And I’m learning that the old saying is true: sometimes you need to stop and smell roses, or, in this case, the tobacco-scented shaving soap.