This morning I had my first shave. That is, I had my first true shave, with an old-school Derby® safety razor, “CHROMIUM-CERAMIC-PLATINUM-TUNGSTEN and POLYMER COATED EDGES” FOR THE KIND OF MANLY SHAVE YOU’RE LOOKING FOR! With religious reverence and dogmatic exactitude I scraped the hard edge of the fresh blade across my scruff and felt the unruly legions of beard give way beneath it’s reaping. This ritual of masculinity was preceded by a preparatory rite of Barbasol®, lathered into a rich cream and generously applied across my face as a voluptuous foam. The ceremony was closed by the satisfying soft slap of my hands as they charitably applied the incense of ancient Pinaud® aftershave like cool water on the steaming coals of my once-scruffed follicles. I left this morning’s liturgy with sentiments of fullness and bravado, as I knew I had been inducted into the Art of MENLINESS.
MENLINESS. No misspelling here. Although it is a stereotype of machismo that Math is the domain of Man and Spelling that of Woman, I have always been of the realm of Man whose masculinity fights machismo with well-wrought and verbose verbiage In short, the unorthodox spelling of MENLINESS is as deliberate as Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill. It reflects a philosophy of MAN – erm, MEN – that came about after a sudden attack of insecurititis, which happened as follows:
When I was finished with my manshave of my manface, I lovingly set aside my new safety manrazor and reflected on the fortunate circumstance that brought it to me. You see, this razor was a charism of the Nativity, one of those heaven-sent unmerited mystery graces known to Western culture as a Christmas Gift. So too was the after-shave, also a celestial surprise wrapped in paper and left in a sock before the ol’ Yule log. While these gifts were certainly attained by faith and not by works, my faith in them was proved to my domestic gods by a written request. That is, I asked my parents for these gifts and received them accordingly.
I then reflected on my purpose in asking for these glorious hirsute tokens. I was struck with horror at a thought that perhaps I was a practitioner of something false, that these gifts were not talismans (talismen?) of y-chromosomal ceremony but dark amulets of HIPSTERISM! Had I asked for these relics out of a tired love of the past, and thereby succumbed to my generation’s sentiment that the closest we can come to originality is to pastiche the vision of the past? Was I wielding the aluminum safety razor as part of the exhausted and over-repeated cry for originality that many people of my age have resorted to out of despair? Was I reverting to retrograde forms of The Shave in order to assert my hipster individuality?
Then an even more devious thought usurped my hispter-all-too-hipster fears: what if my reason for shaving with these antique instruments was to mask some deep-seated unrootedness in my status as a man? What if the man in me was a creature lost at sea, insecure, without bearing? What if these sharp gestures across my neck and deliberate swipes along my cheek were nothing more than assertions of a manhood that was not fully formed? Perhaps in an age were the differences of the sexes is denied and refuted, I was holding onto outdated modes in reactionary conservatism. Maybe I wasn’t any more a man than Paul Bunyan’s blue cow; maybe I was destined to follow the steersmen of manhood’s past whilst still belonging to the species of the herd.
Both of these thoughts came and went, like St. Seraphim of Sarov’s pet bear during it’s daily feeding at the hand of its ascetic master. Unlike St. Seraphim’s bear, these thoughts did not leave me alone, but most fortunately left me in the company of far more wholesome thinking. As the sweet smell of Pinaud® cleared my mind like Bogart clears a glass of gin, I began to think more honestly and philosophically on the origin of my Derby fetish. What struck me most of all was the fact that my grandfather used to shave with these same razors. Bringing them across my untamed beard also brought me in spectral contact with a whole generation of men before me. The Liturgy of the Shave was truly eucharistic and not gnostic – it did not isolate me as an insecure island among Nietzchean supermen with large egos and small foundations, but rather placed me in a great proud army: the democratic camaraderie of a generation of men who know much better than me who they are and where they are going.
My obscure reverence for Barbasol® and vague delight in Derby® and Pinaud® is nothing more than a participation in the most liturgical pleasures there are: the pleasures of humility and brotherhood. It is not the art of MANLINESS that I pursue – poor, isolated, useless MAN – but MENLINESS, for plurality means brotherhood.