Can’t Stop The Pinging

Well, this morning I tried duplicating a YMCA locker room shave in my own bathroom at home. I got such wicked good shaves at the Y this past week that I wanted to see if I could get the same results at home. I want to dissect the Y shaving experience, break it down, pinpoint the reason why my shaves were so shockingly good this week despite seemingly suboptimal conditions.

And I don’t want the reason to be other men standing around. Look, I’m perfectly comfortable with other towel-clad men standing beside me at the sinks at the Y locker room. What I’m not comfortable with are any possible reasons why I might need towel-clad men standing near me in order for me to perfect my shaving. As Nixon once said, that would be wrong.

What I was able to dupe: the hardware (Merkur Progress DE razor, Merkur Platinum blade); the software (Proraso “green” eucalyptus shaving cream, Proraso soothing liquid aftershave — the milky-white, non-alcohol stuff).

What I was not able to dupe: an hour of exercise beforehand; other men grooming themselves at adjacent sinks; sense of hurry due to parking meter outside probably minutes away from the red flag.

What I was able to duplicate but didn’t, and in retrospect probably should’ve: running hot water the whole time instead of a silent sink full of hot water for the duration of the shave.

The shave was good but not great. Even after five passes — one with-grain, one against-grain, and then three more diagonals on my neck and under-chin only — I not only had more feelable stubble on my billy goat’s gruff than I did after the YMCA shaves, but my face didn’t feel as perfectly exfoliated and tushy-smooth either, despite the added passes on my problem zones.

Or was it because of the added passes? I think it was. I think that the sound of the running water at the Y is the key to those insanely great shaves I got this week. By drowning out the sound of the Progress razor’s pinging noises as it cut my whiskers, I didn’t go over the same areas again and again and again like I always do when I shave with the Progress. I basically shave till I can’t hear the pinging anymore.

But with the running water at the Y, I couldn’t hear anything, so I just did a light downward pass, a light upward pass, and that was it. No added pressure on the razor beyond its own weight bearing down on my face, and no added passes on my neck. Just downward and upward and done.

Tomorrow I’m going all the way and letting the faucet run for the entirety of the shave, to better duplicate the fabled YMCA shaves. If it’s not loud enough to drown out the Merkur’s pinging without all the other locker room noises to help build the cacophony, I’ll plug my ears with my Etymotic headphones and listen to an iPod while I shave. Anything to cut off the feedback loop between my ears and my need to shave till I can’t hear the pinging any more.

Yes, it’s come to this.