do it myself or pay someone – a real-life story

th5IHWWXDFI’ve recently taken up a new ‘hobby’.  I have an old-school barber who immigrated here by way of many years in New York who uses a straight razor to shave my neck. About a year ago, I decided to see what the fuss was about with a straight-razor shave, so I bit the bullet and got my face shaved by my barber. I was astounded by the smoothness!  And it really did seem my beard grew back more slowly. Since then I treat myself to a shave whenever I get my hair cut; and every time I marvel at how long it lasts and how smooth it is.

When my son asked me what I wanted for Christmas I came up with the perfunctory list: a new robe, a new camera, blah, blah, blah.  Then it occurred to me – I could actually dive into the world of straight-razor shaving by having him buy the stuff for me for Christmas! What a win-win! He has the pleasure of giving a unique and thoughtful gift and I get to experience that clean, close shave whenever I so desire!  What could possibly go wrong?

Straight-Razor-shaveI opened my gifts, excited to at the prospect of a fantastic Christmas shave. What I found was a list of things I had to do before I could even use the razor – cleaning and oiling and stropping (that leather strap thing they slide the razor on – you have to do that every time… 25 times… each way… on both sides of the strop); and these things have to be done every time I use it! Then there’s the stuff I had to do to prepare my face – wait until I shower, soak my face, apply soap, rinse, do it again. I decided to wait a day or two.  On the fateful morning I got out of the shower, got the blade ready, got my face ready and prepared to give myself my very first D-I-Y straight-razor shave… then I got a really good look at that inch-wide blade, four inches across, of finely honed carbon steel; and I realized I was about to place that blade against my neck and drag it across my skin in hopes of not slitting my own throat.  That first shave was a bit harrowing, but I got through it. I had to learn how to hold the blade, how to get the right angle, how it’s not a paintbrush and MUST be kept straight. I learned these lessons with bright red dots on my face from my razor – nothing serious, but I did get knicked up. And I skipped all the REALLY scary areas, like lips and chin. I’ve used it several times since, and I love the experience. Because of the inherent dangers, nothing moves quickly (at least for me) so there’s a sense of pampering oneself as I go through all the steps before and after the shave, but I still get knicked during every shave. My proficiency is increasing, but it will be a long time before I am completely comfortable holding that thing next to my lips and nose.  Will that make me stop?  Never!  It’s my new hobby!  Will I get better?  I certainly hope so!

Here’s my point: In the year or so I have allowed a professional barber to shave my face I have never walked out of there with so much as a razor burn; yet EVERY time I do it myself it takes much longer, isn’t as close, and I get hurt (a little).  Had I been taught and been using a straight razor the last 35 years I probably wouldn’t be as prone to getting cut, but I would also have several hundred shaves under my belt. On the other hand, my barber has done several THOUSAND shaves in his professional life. Is it any wonder he does a better job on my face than even I can?  And can I ever REALLY hope to attain his level of proficiency?  Nope.  But it’s a fun (albeit semi-dangerous) hobby.

home_imageThe same can be said of painting your house – it’s not that you can’t do it yourself, but you don’t have thousands of hours of experience holding a paint brush or taping your trim or masking your windows.  Nor do you have easy access to the many tools that make the job go by more quickly and look better when it’s done.  So unless you truly enjoy painting as a hobby, I humbly submit you’d be better off having a professional do it.

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