The Joy of Smoking—and Shaving

One day last week, a number of early-morning contretemps—including my daughter’s locking herself out of her bedroom—conspired to make me leave home without shaving lest I miss my train. I considered that I might just let it go for the day, thinking no one would really be scandalized by my stubble. I even asked Dave Savona if was that noticeable, which he didn’t think was, but then again he hadn’t shaved for years. By lunch, I decided a trip to the barber was in order.

I’m glad I did as my lunchtime adventure taught me two things: the value of self-indulgence and how much a professional shave is like a fine cigar.

The first concept, I’ll confess, was not a major revelation on my part as it's an idea that Cigar Aficionado has been directly or indirectly preaching from the outset: The Good Life is good, and you should take time and resource to treat yourself to it once in a while. But that is also something that we must remind ourselves of every once in a while (especially when you're het up from spending 15 minutes finding an Allen wrench and taking your daughter’s bedroom door handle off). In this case, the good-old-fashioned barber shave, while nothing to compare to the performance cars that you pay for in private islands and that we sometimes feature between the covers of our magazine, is a sweet little example of indulgence.

The second concept dawned on me because, in truth, I started the experience by ignoring the importance of the first concept. I arrived at the barber’s thinking I would rush through this so I could get a bite to eat before returning to my desk. I was even thinking I should get some reading done as sat in the barber’s chair. Of course, while you might read during a haircut, while being shaved it is quite impossible. Nevertheless, I began the ministrations of my tonsorialist with a distinct lets-get-this-over-with mindset. But once I got the hot towel on my face, it struck me that hurry was not in the program. The barber walked away and let me ruminate on that with my eyes closed. Once I gave into the idea that I was going to be there for a while, a great feeling of relaxation came over me and I submitted to the special attentions, the lotions and potions being rubbed into my skin, the careful going over with a precisely honed razor.

So where does this shave-cigar connection come in? By the time I got out of the chair—which seemed like an hour, but in truth was more like 20 minutes—I felt relaxed and recharged. It also cost me but $14, which—like the cost of a smoke—is a small price to pay for a new view on life. Moreover—and this is what really drove the cigar analogy home for me—it was an experience I realized I couldn't hurry and expect to get the same results from. A cigar is as much about the process of smoking—the mediation, the introspection—as it is about the product itself. This shave—while closer than I would have given myself in my regular two-minute routine in front of a mirror—was also better because of the process and the time well spent getting it.

When I left the barber, I still had time to grab a sandwich to take back to my desk. But I didn't. Why ruin this reverie with a hurried meal? Dinner would come soon enough, and I would savor it in the peaceful atmosphere of having my family all around me.

At least, after I got done lecturing my daughter about the bedroom-door incident.

"It's great to hear that you a had a wonderful experience in the barbar's chair. I sat for a shave on a cruise ship and it was torturous. She used a cream that stung my skin and the razor must have been weeks old considering the razor bumps that rose later. However, the pause this little ritual can provide is the good life." —November 22, 2009 07:45 AM