Many of you may have heard that I am fascinated by becoming, what our society refers to as, a "man."
I love the manly arts. Rare books, leather club chairs, and those activities and rituals that have been gradually forgotten as time goes on. Things like going to the barber for a shave.
I got my first shave when I was about 17. While I don't really remember what the impetus was behind the shave, I do know it was back when i was still going to my GreekTalian barber.
Most likely it was before a prom. I decided I would put a couple of extra bucks into getting cleaned up. I went under the spinning barber pole for a traditional shave that I had never engaged in before. And I had high hopes.
This barber shop was probably unchanged since its opening. It probably didn't bode well for me that I was getting a shave in a chair next to a jar of fading 1 penny Chiclets that had most likely been there since Burt Chiclet dropped off his original batch.
I don't remember too much about the experience. But I know it was more painful than I expected it to be. In fact, it was probably such a not great experience that I waited almost 10 years before I got my next one.
So I went in there and it started out well enough. The hot towel on the face, fantastic. Hot shaving cream lather on the face, very nice.
Despite my burly, rugged exterior, I really do have baby soft skin, so a degree of care is needed when shaving my face. But that didn't seem to matter if you were 104 years old yielding a blade that was probably handed out to everyone who fought in the Great War.
The barber started running the blade over my face like he was scraping butter off of toast. I'm not sure if he could notice my wincing but I certainly felt every time he slipped. Now, you ladies may say something like;
Oh suck it up, we shave our legs every day.
And you are right. I am not jealous of you. But I would rather shave my legs every day. Because you what you don't have on your legs?
If you screw up shaving your legs, you get a cut, you get a scar, not a huge problem. You screw up shaving your face, you lose a lip!
I don't know how long it took, but when my shave was finally over I remember being quite surprised at the amount of tiny red slashes I had on my face. And the great things about an ancient barber is he repairs those little red slashes with an ointment that seemed to be made of liquid fire and battery acid.
When the barber was done I probably lied and told him it was great because I have no spine and apparently I would rather be polite than honest.
When someone asks you how an activity went, "bleedy" is never a word you should have to use. It honestly felt like the barber was shaving my face with the jagged edge of a hubcap or something he had found in a tomb.
So fast forward 10 years later and my sister, darling wonderful human that she is, bought me a gift certificate to a fancy men's spa for what they call the "Royal Shave." I felt like I needed a Shakespearean accent and an ability to roll my Rs just to pronounce it.
I was very excited to get my fancy shave since I knew this experience would be much better than the one of my teenage years. I'm not saying the barber of my youth didn't do his best, but I am OK with paying more than the price of a DVD for someone to rub knives against my face, which is essentially what is happening.
It amazes me the things I did when I was younger that didn't phase me at all. Yes the more I learn and the more experiences I have, the more a general paranoia of all things becomes apparent.
Like when I was a kid I used to eat candy almost every day. Nearly every week I blew my entire allowance on treats from the store around the corner. Now every time I eat candy I am thinking: Will I get a new cavity? Am I going to get diabetes? Will this make me addicted and obese?
But as I went in to redeem my gift certificate, I started to worry. Holy crap. I am about to lay down in the chair of a complete stranger who may or may not have already had a bad day and some kind of undiscovered twitch who is going to drag a Ginsu sharpened piece of steel across my fragile epidermis.
This was also not helped by the fact that once I laid down in his cushy chair with my eyes closed and the hot towel on my face, I started to doze off. I was worried that I was going to do that awful sleep twitch right before you lose consciousness where your whole body convulses and snap back into coherence. Because if I did do that, it would allow my Uzbekistani barber to slice my neck in half like an overcooked eggplant.
But as it turns out, this guy was a Zen master. Nothing could break his focus. His phone rang mid-shave. But he didn't just have a normal ring tone. No his phone rang so obnoxiously outrageously loud that I was positive there was an entire Uzbekistani dance party in his pants. I mean I was kind of surprised he didn't jump, but I was also I amazed I didn't either. This was really just an experiment in seeing how close I could come to cheating death.
The shave proceeded pretty much without incident. I managed to (barely) stay awake the entire time. Once the shaving was over he gave me a bit of a facial, painting something that felt like cold glue on my face and placing what appeared to be chilled plantains on my eyes.
That part was definitely my favorite, and something that was certainly missing from my first shave. Granted I now looked 10 years younger, but it was a handsomish 10 years younger.
And best of all when I left the shop, some European tourists who had been peeking in the window took note of me when I walked out. They tried not to be obvious as they stared at my super smooth face but I smiled at them and asked, "What do you think?"
They smiled in return and gave me thumbs up. Perhaps because they didn't know much english. But at least they didn't say "bleedy."