Friday, February 18, 2011

A Clean-Shaven Start; or, Every Whisker Counts

I fancy shaving was once an exercise in meticulous patience, the daily routine of which set a man at a reasonable pace to start his day. Seems it was a chore that produced or augmented that particular character trait, unless the man had an otherwise indomitable personality that precluded it or was simply a brute.

I shave once a week, and with the utmost expediency (though probably not efficiency). That habit summarily defines me: I loathe the mundane, little-picture duties that carry more weight than I realize; I prefer trying to capture the big picture in one fell swipe of the blade, which is why I often find later that I've missed a few whiskers. I'm not in the daily practice of it.

Perhaps the art of facial cultivation is lost only on me. I see plenty of perfectly clean-shaven men around me. But the point isn't the end result, but the process.

I've seen advertisements for electric shavers where a young, virile looking man is dashing to the office while trimming his strong jaw with said product. It's dandy if it works, but shaving has been reduced to just another helpless object of our breathless culture.

I recall a scene from one of my favorite movies, "Glory," where an officer is staring into a dirty mirror outside his tent, carefully running a large blade over his face. A war was on, and perhaps his morning grooming was done while weightier matters filled his mind, but he nevertheless could not continue his day until the painstaking process was finished.

Mind you, this is not some indirect criticism of beards. Far from it. Beard cultivation can be an art form and can require more time than a simple shave. Others allow their beards to grow like ivy, which while it might not point to patience (although the beard-wearer may be a patient man), it signifies another trait: Unbeholden to conformity.

So, yes, I believe a man's shaving habits can provide a portal to part of his character, though certainly not the whole. The act also reminds one of his humanity when those little trickles of lifeblood seep from the neck. It reminds us that life is best lived at a clean, deliberate pace.