There's nothing worse than shaving, except maybe migraines, waterboarding, Nick Clegg’s blue-grey suits, hypothermia ... loads of things are worse than shaving, but it doesn’t always feel that way when you’re doing it.
The average man spends (approximately) 13,350 hours of his life shaving. I never quiz others on their technique but suspect it’s all much of a muchness – starting at the same point every time, up the neck, down the jawline, looking at your face, blady bla ... the drudgery is nigh-on unbearable.
I shave as infrequently as I can because it leaves me feeling thin and depressed; I just want to curl up under a Captain Caveman beard and cry. Sometimes I get the burn, or pseudofolliculitis barbae as I like to call it. It’s not nice. You emerge from enforced isolation red and raw, bits of loo roll stuck to your chin.
Look at my face, you want to say – no, don’t look, don’t look at me, I hate myself, leave me alone.
Those piddly aloe vera strips don’t work; in my hands every razor becomes a clogged lethal weapon in no time, stuffed with stubble and soap. Are we really meant to get excited that Roger Federer uses the Fusion range for his sensitive skin?
I don’t give a flying monkeys. I once nearly paid £8 for four champion-endorsed razors before realising my mistake. The packet had a like-for-like comparison with the same brand’s older and (slightly) cheaper razors: they scored evenly on everything until it came to “design value”, for which the new one’s ratings went through the roof.
Not the design of the blades, you’ll understand, but the plastic handle, which is clearly an overriding concern when you’re standing in a bathroom alone, stripping layers of dermis from your bleeding puss.
The idea that Gillette is the best a man can get fills me with a kind of despair. I’m not surprised blades are the most stolen item from British supermarkets; there’s even a fail-safe method: you linger by the exit with your pilfered goods until you see a group of young, hairy delinquents heading out; you time your walk to coincide with theirs, then cackle as the alarm sounds and the security man jumps on them, not you.
The sensible long-term option would be to buy an electric shaver, but that would feel like giving in to The Man, saying: “I promise I’ll keep doing this, sir, I’ll do this for the rest of my life.” Which, of course, I will. Even when you die, some plum comes and ￼‘‘ to curl up under a Captain Caveman beard and cry shaves you for the funeral.
According to Nazi razor-marketeers, women don’t like men with hairy faces, but I’d happily agree to a trade-off: ladies, stop shaving your legs (especially with your partner’s blades, as this causes itching and emotional distress); leave your monobrow; grow a beard. I, for one, could live with this. But it’ll never happen.
I recently received an email with the subject line: JULIA ROBERTS’ HAIRY ARMPITS UNLIKELY TO SPARK OFF A NEW TREND, and the message inside: “Thought this might work for your lifestyle pages”.
No, I thought back, it won’t. Stuff your sadomasochistic cultural expectations. Roberts is now part of my shaving rosary ritual. I think about her, about Nena with her red balloons and underarm hair, about David Bellamy, Fidel Castro, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Indoctrination,” I sometimes murmur, then cut my lip and get really angry.
First published in The Sunday Herald.