The Final Analysis

In my third and fourth years of wet shaving, I was determined to solve the mystery of serendipitous days when my beard seemed especially soft under the razor. A sharp blade would sometimes sever hair opposed by no skin tension at all; an effect I called "hairy-kari," because the stubs seemed to throw themselves on the blade. Sweaty yard work was the first suspect seeming to have something to do with it, but the effect could not be reliably reproduced. Sometimes I praised a particular razor or blade, only to find myself feeling betrayed when the wire returned.

Through an endless series of N=1 experiments, I discovered several "perfect shave" formulas, or rather, procedures, using cosmetic commodities. Yet even my best preps with oil cleansing, baking soda and pumpkin juice, based on diligent bathroom research (and some novel theory), which did reliably soften the hair, usually fell short of the magical effortlessness that I knew was possible, and indeed continued to experience on occasion.

I was particularly haunted by the memory of something odd that happened to me one summer day, when I was swimming in the ocean at Portsmouth, NH. My waterlogged skin felt itchy, and when I scratched at it, I found what looked like iron filaments on my fingertips. I examined the sand... no match. Peering more closely, I could see a tubular structure. OMG, is some sea creature attacking? No -- it was my beard! Normally tougher than metal wire, when exploded by seawater, it could be removed without even a blade, as if the ocean were depilatory cream. (Unfortunately, I didn't think to pick up a clam shell and groom, at the time. I probably hadn't even regressed to DE yet.)

Frustrated in my research, and facing another hard-skinned winter, I resorted to a more evil science, using highly active, glycerin-based preshaves. Emulating people with dry skin and coarser hair, I deliberately tried to push water from the surface inward. All the while, fully realizing that the modern cosmetic approach just wasn't natural, or good for my skin. Recklessly, I cursed my genetic inheritance.

Ironically, the spirit of my ancestors redeemed me then. You see, I've always had a kind of special recall ability, now accentuated by being middle aged. I won't say photographic. It's hard to access sometimes, needing rational pointers, but self-analysis is the essence of my personality. So, with only shreds of first-hand instruction from childhood, glued to large swaths of generic information from the internet, I am able to piece together something like the lost manuscript of what the elders knew, in my mind. Sometimes this approach yields details which today's shaving culture has long forgotten.

"Tell me about your lather."

Or repressed (sliding strokes). You might say, cultural reclamation is what this whole blog has been about. But around Halloween, 2016, the crowning achievement was attained, the ultimate breakthrough. The mysterious beard-softening factor? Soluble dietary fiber: apples, oatmeal, flaxseed. That day at the beach, I had snacked on fruit; just eating infuses an oily beard with natural, healthful emulsifier, from within! You don't have to make a gel of shaving oil and pectin, like I did. But my great aunt taught me about jelly-making, so that's where I was coming from in my research. Which, in turn, allowed me to remember my paternal grandfather rubbing apple scraps on his face, when I was four. (Applying both fiber and fruit acid.)

I prefer eating my cores before shaving, and applying a little essence of the ocean to my face instead, encapsulating the natural order. Potassium bicarbonate opens hair to the shaving medium and mass transfer, bringing the oil in, and the fiber out. Those days after yard work, my own plasma, the ocean within, played the part. If I have "alkalized" sufficiently, raising my blood pressure with ten push-ups before shaving makes a difference. Pumpkin juice might then help the cuticle expand.

But of these three -- fiber, salt, and acid -- fiber is the greatest. In contemporary terms, it is the cure for wiry hair. Without any other treatment, bristle feels softer, and skin soothed, even before the first splash of water is applied.

Gentlemen... ladies. I congratulate you, more than myself. Frederick Douglass said, "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." Let history record that I was but a fool and a slave, shaving every wrong way suggested to me, learning everything the hard way. I don't know if what I've done could add up to a book (The Life of Launderville?) or what the market is for such a thing; but, I believe that with this disquisition, I have at least finally documented it all. The mission of this blogulific institution is thus fulfilled. To the future leaders of shaving: I wish you better luck.

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