by Charles Troob

The Harry’s Shave Gel can is a narrow seven-inch-long cylinder. I grasp it with my left hand, into which it fits comfortably, and press the curved dispenser with my index finger. Out oozes a viscous white cream, filling my waiting right hand. The obvious symbolism amuses me. I wonder whether the Harry’s design team was similarly amused when they created this suggestively shaped can.

I smear my face with the gel. I use a finger to fill the cleft in my chin, and think of my mother, who for some reason was delighted by this feature of mine. Then I spread my hand to cover the area under my chin and my neck, gently massaging the sides of my windpipe. This lubricated contact of my warm hand with my face is a mildly erotic and luxurious start to the morning.

I place the bladed side of the razor against my left temple, under the sideburn. I gently pull downward and over the jaw line, removing gel and hair as I go, repeating this until the entire side of the face has been shaved. I shave the chin, spreading the skin to expose the hairs in the cleft. Then I move to the right temple. This side is a little trickier because I’m right-handed; I have to raise my chin to position the razor at an appropriate angle.

I lean my head back to shave the neck and under the chin. I make short vertical strokes, gradually moving from left to right. It’s like painting a wall, except that I’m removing whiteness rather than adding it. Usually a musical earworm in my head accompanies and guides the rhythm of my hand. It’s a jaunty tune, from the finale of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love): the quack Dr. Dulcamara sings it to hawk his cure-all patent medicine. (You can see and hear him at ) A few years ago this melody came into my head while I was shaving, and it returns unbidden when I begin my short strokes—Pavlov would understand. Occasionally I hum along or jiggle my body in time with the music.

Before the doctor finishes his sales pitch most of the gel is off my face and in the sink. I rinse with warm water and rub my hand over my neck and jaw to test the smoothness. Invariably there are still a few bristles. I am fair, and can get away with a not-very-close shave, but if I’m feeling obsessive I stroke a few more times to improve the job. Then I towel down—I’ve showered before shaving, and am almost but not quite dry at this point. I leave the bathroom to dress for the day, feeling pampered and refreshed.

The mustache? Ah—that’s another story.

Charles Troob: I’ve been a participant or a coordinator of the LP² writing workshop since 2010, and I’ve been shaving considerably longer than that.