Something Really Old VII: Shaving

From the AOL years (1996 – 1998).


After months of using my razor when she thought I wasn’t looking, my wife finally gave in and got one of her own. I saw it today when I opened the medicine cabinet. It was all swoops and bumps and utterly lacked sharp edges, which struck me as mildly odd. On a razor, sharp edges are kind of the point. If my wife wanted to run a smooth, rounded object over her legs, she could have just as well used my bald spot.

I finally located the razor cartridge (it was on the smaller of the two egg-like structures) and found another weird thing: little crossbars over the blades. I have no earthly idea what that’s all about. I suppose the idea here is to keep the blades from getting too close to the skin, thereby avoiding nicks and cuts. Which would be fine, if leg hair levitated an eighth of an inch from the surface of the skin. But it doesn’t. My wife may be avoiding nicks, but the trade-off may be permanent, Don Johnson-like stubble.

“Why are you staring at my razor?” my wife asked.

“Because it looks like a tricorder,” I said.

“Oh,” she waved her hand dismissively. “They’re just trying to make it feminine.”

I looked at it again. It is feminine, to the extent that looks absolutely nothing like my razor. Her razor is playful, swooping, postmodernist. My razor is a metal stick with two blades on the end. Walter Gropius or one of his Bauhaus “Machines for Living” baddies whomped up my razor one day when they needed beer money.

The only things vaguely ergodynamic about it are little rubber bumps on the shaft, that serve to strengthen your grip on the thing as you swipe it across your face at high speeds, just like they do in the commercials. Of course, in the commercials, they’re already shaved under the foam. There’s no razor in the cartridge, either. Try swinging a razor across your neck like that in real life, and the last thing you’ll see are your toes as your head rolls by them, stopped only by a final clunk against the toilet porcelain.

Other than the bumps, it’s a lean and mean shaving machine. The razor manufacturers make token bows to the gods of comfort and safety in their ads, but at the end of the day, you know that the feeling at the razor factory is: you’re a man. Deal with the pain. No little crossbeams for you, you hear them say. You tear off your own head, it’s your own damn fault. If you can’t handle the blade, don’t dare to shave. Oh, stop crying. Here. We’ll give you a moisturizing strip, you big baby. Shaving is the last stand of the buff macho stud.

Mind you, I don’t want my razor to be all swoopy and curvy. I prefer it the way it is. Shaving can be a painful experience, and I don’t want my razor pretending to be my friend. It’s a mercenary, barging onto my face every few days, wreaking havoc, taking no prisoners. It might as well be ugly. My wife’s razor does all the horrifying things mine does, but hides it beneath a pretty, sweet exterior. It’s the Heather Locklear of hygiene products, and my wife’s legs are Melrose Place.

I’ve noticed that a lot of painful things relating to women have had curves added to them, as a sort of protective camouflage. I see those commercials for what we men (when we are somehow barred from running from the room, screaming, at their first appearance) like to euphemistically term “feminine products.” At one point or another, the very attractive and enthusiastic woman in the ad says “now with a rounded applicator!” with a tone that implies that this is the height of several thousand years of human engineering.

I have no direct experience with this (thank God), but I have to say I am skeptical; maybe if she said “now with a topical anesthetic!” I could see getting excited. Thing is, just because something is rounded off doesn’t mean it can’t hurt. Babies are rounded off, but they don’t give epidurals just for fun.

Ultimately, what bugs me about my wife’s new razor is now that she has it, I can’t blame my own painful shaving experiences on the possibility that my wife used my razor without switching the cartridge. Before, I could always rationalize a bad shaving experience on the idea that the blades were exhausted from the workout my wife gave them (excepting Jay Leno, most men’s chins have less surface area than a woman’s two legs). Maybe I’ll borrow hers from time to time. The little crossbeams might be useful after all.

24 Comments on “Something Really Old VII: Shaving”

  1. I had to chuckle at the mention of a razor with two blades. The monstrosity that I use a few times a week has five. Combining all those sharp edges with a good shaving oil produces the best, smoothest shave I’ve ever had.

  2. I am really enjoying these old columns – this one also had me laughing out loud (tho fortunately not at work). My husband’s electric shaver is a solid, no-nonsense, jobbie; mine is indeed all curves and swoops. But not pink. I so draw the line at a pink razor…

  3. Second the straight razor recommendation.

    Learning to use one made me much better at the 2-4 bladed shaving. My skin is much happier now, plus I get the butch cachet without actually having to suffer any of the indignities you associate with mens razors.

  4. “Machines for Living”
    Actually, that was Le Corbusier, if I remember my art history classes. French, not Bauhaus, but of the same “the architect is always right, deal with it” mentality.

  5. When twin-blade razors first came out I used to make fun of them. They were so unmanly! Just twice as much chance to cut myself. However, I came to my senses after a while.
    My current razor cartridges have 4 blades. About 4 years ago I began using a good shaving brush and good quality shave cream designed to be used with a brush. The shave cream has “essential oils”, whatever that means. My shaves are closer and my skin is much happier. I also use an aloe vera after-shave gel for my face after shaving – talk about nice. No astringent, just nice smooth aloe gel.

  6. John was prescient with the tricorder comment. The Jedi comlinks in the Star Wars prequels were made from women’s razors, specifically the Gillette Sensor-Excel for Women.

  7. I don’t really feel an improvement in the result from using the four and five blades over the old single injector razor. Which I still have, but I haven’t been able to buy blades for it for over a decade. Ladies’ shaving task is different than mine, I know there’s a use to them because Spice has stopped borrowing my non-crossbar blades.

  8. If you’re a woman who doesn’t like pink, you buy men’s razors (I’m talking about disposables here). Like many things, the non-pink versions cost less.

    Wouldn’t know, the husband and I use electric. No grabbing, no pain, no blood loss — but we do have to use different ones. My mother hailed the invention of the electric shaver after years of having to use blades. She felt it was a small price to pay for never having her ankles bleed again. It was one of her favorite post-war products.

  9. The uber-feminine razors just don’t seem to work as well, I think they’re difficult to grasp (ow, cut ankles!) and the cartridges are ridiculously expensive. Been using a men’s razor for 15 years, see no need to change now.

    I actually happen to use the same razor as my husband (we were independently using the same brand/model when we met). So now we buy cartridges in bulk – he keeps his razor in the medicine cabinet, I keep mine in the shower, and never the two shall be mixed up.

  10. As I recall, those really cheap single-blade disposables that came in a big bag weren’t very comfortable, but once I started using a razor with two-bladed cartridges it was much easier. Three blades were easier yet, but there seemed to be diminishing marginal return. I haven’t been willing to spring for a four-bladed model to find out since they cost considerably more the last time I checked.

    Is shaving really as painful as this article makes it out to be? I don’t usually find it so, though I note that John mentions shaving every few days. It is true that I don’t always shave every day on weekends or when I’m on vacation, and if I go too long, it can be uncomfortable. It can also be uncomfortable if I don’t change the cartridge frequently enough. During the week, I find that I can shave fairly quickly without any real difficulty. Cleaning the sink is the biggest speed bump.

  11. I’m 45 and yeah, my first experience with a razor was with one of those plastic cartridge things in basic training. Been using some version ever since up until last year. Thought shaving bumps were just part of it. Finally started looking around and switched to a safety razor. Not too many are made anymore and had to go German. Still, smooth shaves and no bumps=win!

  12. Not too many are made anymore and had to go German.

    I suppose this means that way more razor blades go into box cutters and the like than get used for shaving these days. “Daddy, why are these things called razor blades?”

  13. I use a shavette, or Barber’s Razor. It looks like a straight edge but takes 1/2 of a double safety razer blade. I pay 5 cents a blade and half a box lasts me one year. It does take me longer to shave but the results are so worth it. No bumps, no burn, skin silky soft and smooth.

  14. If you use a disposable razor, keep the blade part in a little cup of olive oil Your blade will last about 6 months if you shave daily. Blades don’t get dull, small particles of the whiskers adhere to the blade after they dry out. The olive oil allows the whiskers to fall off. You have to change the oil about every 2 weeks. About 1/3 of an inch in cup will do.

  15. When I started to shave, my mother gave me one of those electric razors, which work fine as long as you shave every day… which I do, because I hate beards. I guess she thought, one less mortal danger to navigate.

    I used a regular razor to shave my legs before a swim meet once. Blood everywhere. I don’t know how they do it.

  16. I taught myself to shave with a disposable razor I stole from a friend’s trash can (it was his dad’s). The results ended up about as bad as you’d expect. I now wear a full beard.

  17. You should never mess with a man’s razor or his watch.

    In my case that would be 10 watches.

    Yes, I have a problem, I love finely-made watches.

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