To shave or not to shave. Now THAT is the question!

Beards and soup are mortal enemies
Beards and soup, mortal enemies

It’s the start of summer 2020 and I’ve been avoiding my fellow (in)human beings since early March. Walking the streets of London these last few months feels like accidentally straying onto a Zombie movie set, where is everyone? The first time I really noticed it was when I was walking up the road and a woman nearly threw herself into the hedge trying to avoid me (the story of my life sweetheart, the story of my life!)  

My feeling is this is going to go on for a few years (!) and I’ve been thinking my usual left of field thoughts. I wish I was a Hamster and could hibernate, or go into suspended animation until a working vaccine is available. And then I was wondering, how come in SciFi movies everyone comes out of suspended animation clean shaven and not looking like furballs? I’ve stopped shaving as frequently, sporting the Werewolf look, what’s the point, and now I’m wondering why we actually shave?

Historically, shaving was simply more hygienic. Lice were rampant but washing in freezing cold water wasn’t something to look forward to. Alexander the Great told his soldiers to shave because it was easier to fight and avoid beard grabbing. Men who did not shave were considered barbarians.

But why do woman shave the parts of their bodies that aren’t pubicly – sorry publicly – visible? Social convention? Hugh Hefner and Playboy didn’t help, it seems to me that the big push came around that period (ouch!) but I’d love to know what the Victorians attitude was. Most of us have access to clean water for washing, so the lice argument is null and void and yet we’ve become accustomed to shaving frequently. On average men spend about 125 days per lifetime shaving and research by Emma Leslie of Escentual.com shows these surprising figures for ladies;

Shaving legs- 72 days a lifetime
Styling hair- 294 days a lifetime
Plucking eyebrows – 30 days a lifetime
Taking off your make-up- 52 days a lifetime
Applying fake tan- 12 days a lifetime
Dying your hair- 23 days a lifetime
Body moisturising- 44 days a lifetime
Painting nails- 20 days a lifetime
Exfoliation- 20 days a lifetime
Pedicures-11 days a lifetime

Of course this is from the very selective audience of a beauty products website so the figures are going to be VERY slanted, I don’t know anyone who spends 12 days, or even 12 minutes applying fake tan which reminds me of this little story.

A long time ago I was sharing a flat with a female friend. She was going through a dry run re: boyfriends but one morning I was having a shower and the shower pan started to fill up with water. I was puzzled and mentioned this to my housemate. She looked suitably embarrassed and said “Oh, I’ve got a date tonight – so thought I’d better get the razor blade out..!” Gross!

ANYWAY…. the interesting aspect of all this social isolation is it gives one time to really think and ruminate, to take stock and figure out what kind of person you really are. We never really get much chance to think and ruminate, do we? We start school and then it’s full on until retirement, study study study work work work boom dead! But now we’ve got time to think and ruminate, to really focus on the bigger life questions; where are you going, how is your life, what do you really want, what is the meaning of life, are you going to eat that last Rolo, you know, just the important stuff..

George Sands wrote “There is only one happiness in this life; to love and be loved.” I agree with this sentiment to some degree but George Sands has obviously never tried a White Chocolate Magnum ice lolly on a hot summers day! I think there are many many happiness spread all through our lives, just walking around the (now packed!) park yesterday listening to the children laughing/playing and the birds singing brings me and I’m sure everyone a sense of happiness.

As Philip Gould approached his final days he wrote movingly in the Guardian “I live by the day. Just sitting in the park, looking at the flowers thinking how beautiful they are. It’s almost … not hallucinogenic but it’s a much stronger feeling than previously. For me, at the moment, going for a walk in the park with Gail is heaven.” We, who can see this, understand this, it brings deep joy.