I have been looking at myself in the mirror, with a view to scraping off my facial hair, for about 50 years now. I developed facial hair that has needed scraping off for just a few years shy of that. You would think there is nothing much new I could learn about shaving. How wrong that would be.
Only avid readers of this column will remember that years ago I wrote a piece concerning the razor blade arms race; how the marginal effectiveness of using a 15-blade razor as opposed to a two-bladder could better be channelled into the search for world peace. To update the analogy, effective storage for intermittently produced electricity. I don’t intend to rant on razors again.
No, this time I’m after shaving cream. Not the kind you stir up with a shaving brush in a bowl; that’s shaving soap. Those who use a shaving soap are recreational shavers. They use straight edged razors as well. They read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” They think nothing of driving to Ottawa to pick up a made in Spain, custom torque, left handed drill bit at Lee Valley Tools, even though there is now a store in Kingston. They’re the ones who will happily immerse themselves in the task of shaving; seeing how well they can shave is a source of pleasure.
No, I’m talking about that can of shaving cream that puffs out and onto your hand, that you then lather into your face and attack with a safety razor, 19-bladed or otherwise. As you might already have gathered, I’m talking about people like me, for whom shaving is strictly a means to an end. Get the job and get away from the sink as fast as you can. Shave approximately every day, because doing it less frequently only compounds the agony.
You tried growing a beard, years ago. Spiders kept finding a home in it. It just made you look like a Marxist, with training wheels.
You also tried electric razors. The cheap ones don’t cut, they just buzz. The more expensive ones collect hair, dust and, well, more spiders. Regular shaving, with a 23-blader, is just a horrible job to be endured.
There are, however, several disadvantages to using a canned shaving cream. One, you are always spreading either too little or too much of the stuff on your hands. If you spread too little, you have messy wet, soapy hands when you press for more. If you spread too much, you’ve disabled your soap hand because you don’t want to waste the extra cream.
Two, the stuff migrates. My wife is always doubling over with laughter about the social faux pas I will create for myself after I have dressed up for a night on the town and emerged from the bathroom clean-shaven, but with white earlobes. I guess all of us who use shaving cream have experienced this problem, right, guys? Guys? I can’t hear you.
Three, the foamy stuff just ends up clogging up your 27-bladed razor. You spend three quarters of your shaving time washing the soap out of your razor.
The other day, I was looking at the man in the mirror, who was making ready to shave and who wore a defeated air about him. I suddenly heard a voice. “Why do you bother to use this canned shaving cream stuff at all?” it said; “Why not just use ordinary soap?”
I had no quick riposte for this voice. I proceeded to heed it. Low and behold, my shave went just as smoothly, more quickly and less messily. I’ve kept at it for, oh, about six or seven days now.
Of course, I was annoyed at myself. Had I become such a ridiculous creature of habit that I would blindly spend all those decades following the same old habit, without thinking to experiment with ways to make the hated procedure more efficient? The next thing I’m going to hear is there are some people who don’t butter their toast on both sides. I need to shake myself out of my lethargy in my everyday habits.
In exchange for my promise never to write about my shaving habits again, perhaps you could do me a favour. My wife is going away for a few days, so I’ll be in town without my emergency warning system. If you do happen to notice soap on my earlobes, even if it’s from ordinary soap and not from shaving cream, let me know, will you; discreetly? I would also be grateful if you saved your burst of laughter until I’m out of earshot.
Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.
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