Here’s something I wrote in the 90s. It’s about the trials and folly of shaving. To put this into context – I was single, balding and hateful of the ritual of shaving.
Shaving In Warminster
Outside it’s as hot as molten fat.
Warminster is neither the Serengeti nor the Sahara but, just for today, the sun has hitch-hiked its way over to this portion of nature’s green Earth to burn the tarmac off the roads outside my flat. My face is tender at the best of times, but today it feels as if I’ve bathed in acid. It’s tinged red and glows like the end of one of my mum’s fags. Problem is, I need to shave today which means I might as well be pouring salt on open wounds.
Has to be done, though. I’m out tonight with my brother, and considering I haven’t got any female interest in my life – and I want some – then I’d better make some sort of effort to look half-decent.
First things first, I pour myself a sink of hot water. It’s almost unbearable to touch but I want it that way. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I feel that the hotter the water, the hotter the blade, the easier the cut. Not that you’d believe it if you saw my face after I’d dragged a blunt razor over it. Freddy Krueger would be proud.
Splashing hot water stings my skin, but it wakes me up, jolting me for the journey ahead – the journey into frustration and pain. It also serves the second purpose of softening the five o’clock shadow, which, in my case, is really an all-day shadow. Sometimes I think that when I shave it’s like how they paint the Forth Bridge – the minute I finish one side burn the other has grown back again.
I put enough shaving gel on for people to mistake me for Father Christmas. A weird, hybrid, bald Father Christmas – but Father Christmas nevertheless. It’s a sensitive gel, which means it’s about as sensitive as using a chainsaw to chop the head off your breakfast egg. What does that mean anyway? Sensitive? Is my gel going to break down and start crying after a couple of minutes heavy duty face shearing, begging me to stop and think of the children? How can gel be sensitive? If it’s sensitive why is it stinging the hell out of my face? If I want anything to be sensitive it’s my six-month old razor blade.
Gel applied, I begin the monotonous activity of inadvertently slicing the skin from my face. Gently, slowly, boringly, despite which I still manage to get cut. No matter how slow I am I still get cuts. Sometimes it seems the slower I go the more the water turns pink with pints of my finest.
Despite the unnerving sight staring back at me from the mirror – this Night Of The Living Dead extra – I console myself with the thought that it’s not as bad as putting on the aftershave. That comes later. Oh yes.
When I’ve finished it’s not exaggerating to say I look like I’ve forced Edward Scissorhands to shave me. While drunk.
Forget bits of tissue paper, I need a couple of bed sheets to staunch the blood flow. If a forensic scientist were to check my drains, he’d think I was the next Jeffrey Dahmer.
After half an hour of dipping my face in boiling water the blood loss has slowed enough for me to think about drying my face and splashing on some aftershave. The towel is dotted with splats of blood as I dab away the water, preparing myself for the smelly stuff.
Aftershave bottle open.
Drips on one hand, then the other.
Rub hands together.
Hold my breath… then quickly clasp my hands to my face, in the style of an old lady that’s been frightened by a naturist.
They say the scream could be heard all the way up to Copheap Hill. Half the dogs in George Street replied.
Blessed relief came when I broke out the moisturiser. Moisturiser for men, that is.
Of course, women have been able to use moisturiser for decades, but men would cough, and stare intently at the nearest wall at the slightest mention of the ‘M’ word. Moisturiser is for girls. Well, put me in a dress and call me Maureen, because moisturiser – men’s moisturiser – has changed my life. No longer do I have to suffer the pain and embarrassment of blotchy, luminous skin. No more ‘staying in for a week cos my face would scare small children’.
Moisturiser – shock of shocks – moisturises. My skin is cool and relieved.
And so, once the blood and hair has been steam-cleaned off the sink, it’s time to get ready to go out.
My brother and I get to the pub which is packed with a lot of women, some nice, some… not. And what do we see? All the best ladies are clamped firmly to the side of a creature from Animal Hospital. The men are covered in hair. I’m sure if I blew a whistle and said ‘Come By!’ they’d get down on their haunches and start herding. Come to think of it isn’t that what they’re doing anyway?
Why do we put ourselves through so much pain and effort to deny our very manhood? Men are hairy. Fact. So why not just accept it? Things would be so much easier.
The reason, of course, is we want to pull the laydeez, and society has dictated that looking like Neanderthal man isn’t particularly desirable. Some women may think so – but not the ones I’ve met. Not that I look like a caveman, you understand. It’s just that the slightest imperfection is considered slightly too imperfect for your perfect woman. So we try to hide those little problems. Women cake on make-up like it’s modelling clay, men shave, cut their hair, wear socks down their pants – all in an effort to trick the other side into believing we’re something we’re not.
Darwin was right. The world is all about the survival of the fittest looking.