Shaving At Night

A short essay from Haruki Murakami’s Murakami Radio.

A long time ago there was this commercial (that might still be airing for all I know) where they’d stop real businessmen on their way to work and get them to try this electric shaver. The businessman would look at the bits of beard the electric shaver had taken off and exclaim, “Wow, I just shaved with a razor blade, but look at everything it missed!” It captured a real truth despite being a fake scenario scripted for a commercial.

It just so happens I use an electric shaver from that manufacturer. Sometimes I’ll do the opposite of the commercial, meaning I’ll first shave with the electric razor and then not too long after follow up with a traditional razor blade. Why do I go through the trouble? Mostly because I’ve got free time, and because I’m curious. As I’ve said before, this is the type of person who becomes a novelist.

The point is, doing it in this order also reveals leftover beard from the first pass. I’m not sure exactly why, but razor blades and electric shavers have their own quirks, advantages, and disadvantages, and it seems that each have certain parts of your face that they just don’t fully shave. On top of that, things are rushed in the morning, and regardless of your shaving method there aren’t that many guys who can say they took the time to get a perfect shave. It makes me wonder if the commercial is out of touch with reality even though part of it is true. Sure it’s trivial, but isn’t it important to look at things objectively from many angles?

I usually shave once in the morning, and sometimes I shave again at night. Maybe I’m going to a concert or I have an important dinner meeting. I don’t have much of a nightlife, similar to a farmer, and these outings certainly aren’t frequency, but maybe it’ll come up once or twice a month. You could certainly see it as a burdensome chore, but I think shaving at night has a certain special something to it. It makes me feel ready to go out. At the very least it’s not the compulsory, habitual act you do in the morning. It makes me feel like I’m alive.

When I shave at night I like to warm my face with a steaming towel, slather on shaving cream, and take my time with the razor blade. Then I give my face a good wash, wipe off the remaining shaving cream, and check in the mirror for any spots I missed. Then I put on aftershave and as I enjoy the slight tingling feeling I change into a brand new, freshly ironed dress shirt, put on my favorite tweed jacket, and slip into some leather shoes. If after that someone approached me at the train station and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but would you mind shaving once more with this razor?” I feel like despite my gentle spirit I’d yell at the guy. “Get outta here, asshole!”