One thing new I’ve done while staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic is to take an online course offered free through Yale: The Science of Well-Being. Fantastic experience. Engaging professor. I learned ideas and actions that should improve my well-being, all backed by science. It made me miss college, not that there were online courses then.
One thing I learned was the importance of taking time to savor. I liked the word, savor, and so the concept became meaningful to me. Savor, as a verb: to taste, to experience, to revel in, to enjoy and delight in.
I definitely could use more savor in my life. Who couldn’t? The question is what should I take the time to savor. I can’t savor everything, that would be like savoring nothing. There are sunsets and moments of love and connection. There are the wind chimes to savor. A slice of Harriet’s cake.
You choose. Choose any moment to savor.
Can a Man Savor Shaving?
I chose to savor the experience of shaving, a grooming behavior that many men perform every day of their adult life, or at least most days.
I don’t fall into the regular shaver category. That’s one of the top advantages working from home as a writer. Unshaven is the norm, shaven the occasion. This is actually the reason why I became a writer — because I was never enamored with the act of shaving. Not from day one of my shaving life.
No one ever really taught me how to shave. My father didn’t, although he did tell me when I needed to start shaving. I quickly discovered there was nothing masculine about shusshing a razor blade through mounds of pimples to slice away the errant, annoying, and increasingly plentiful whisker tufts.
As an adult, for my few years holding a job where the expectation was clean-shaven, I resented what for me was a chore. Day after fucking day. What was the point? Side note: I sympathize with women who feel compelled to meet many additional levels of visual expectations.
With blade in hand, I hurried, and often I nicked. I’d feel the quick sting and get pissed off. Almost always the neck. I would have to stick a scrap of toilet paper to staunch the blood. Other times I had to rub a teaspoon of saliva off the ends of my fingers to clean a throat wound. Screw you, Adam’s Apple. Once I bled for so long I got a few drops of blood on the nice collared shirt I wore with complementary tie to an important event. Someone pointed out the stain to me.
Still, I kept shaving. I adhered to expectations. I wanted to look my best. I was never really a beard guy, anyway. Only a few times in my life did I have one.
There are other reasons a man might shave regularly. No man wants to rough up his woman’s inner thighs, so if she prefers you clean-shaven for that reason, or for any other reason, I think a man should seriously consider her wishes.
Today, in the spirit of The Science of Well-Being, and as distraction against the pandemic, I vowed to savor the shaving experience.
I showered first, and so my face was soft and warm and damp. I filled the sink and boy was I generous with the shaving cream, giving the dispenser an extra press. I applied a thick coat of foamy white, rubbing in gentle circles to cover my cheeks, dabs in my moustache and chin area, long strokes down my jaw and neck.
I should have changed to a new blade, and was about to, but then the idea got in my head that I don’t have many blades and what if the stores run out and are never resupplied . . . some of that pandemic thinking.
Back to savoring.
My blade was still sharp, my old Gillette razor trustworthy. I dipped the blade in the hot pond I’d made in the sink and began.
I skated careful, gentle strokes along my cheeks and jawline, rising and carving a neat border for the high sideburn. I rinsed my blade often. I used my left fingers to gently press and pull my skin, to give the blade a flatter landing surface.
I was engaged, I was enjoying. Tiny strokes beneath my nostrils, feathering around my lips. I saved my neck for last. I held my flesh firm near my collarbone and raised my chin, like you might when anticipating victory or certain accomplishment.
I shaved. I rinsed. I shaved off three days of bristles. I paid attention to my technique. I made tiny improvements. I tried my best moves around my throat. I respected my Adam’s Apple. I was totally savoring.
When I finished I felt my cheeks and chin and neck. How smooth. How undamaged. But then I felt a rough patch–a spot I hadn’t gotten completely. Immediately I went after it, but somehow in my haste, I scraped when I should have shaved. The blood welled. The toilet paper got called in, then the saliva. I savored it all.