The Stupid 365 Project, Day 25: The Razor’s Edge

October 26th, 2010

The disposable razor is an ethical dilemma.I know about the widening continent of plastic trash floating in the Pacific.  I know about the millions of tons of crap shoveled into increasingly toxic landfills every day.  I know about the chemical runoff from plastics manufacture.

I’m keenly aware that we have discarded something like a trillion literally razor-sharp little pieces of steel over the past twenty years.  And all those weensy, rusting sharpies give me the heebie-jeebies.  We’re courting a global outbreak of tetanus.

Speaking of which, “tetanus” was one of the medical words that most frightened me when I was a kid — along with “yaws” (picture of a young woman with her left cheek eaten away to expose her teeth) and “elephantiasis” (picture of some poor African guy pushing his testicles in a wheelbarrow).  It was the elephantiasis picture that first got me speculating — at the age of eight or nine — on the frivolousness of God.  The only thing to be said for yaws and elephantiasis was that they seemed to live on different continents.

But tetanus was right outside the door.  Tetanus was waiting on a rusty nail, buried in the grass.  On the edge of an old hoe.  It locked your jaw.  So you got tetanus shots, which can’t be as bad now as they were back then, when your arm and then your entire torso went toothache-sore for days.

But I digress.  Environmentally, I try to be reasonably green.  I don’t drink bottled water (for one thing, most of it is tap water marked up literally 20,000 percent) and I recycle what I can.  We compost our organic trash, or at least give it to someone else to compost.  We both of us, my wife and I, buy organic when we can to reduce pesticide use.   We restrict our driving, starting the cars only when we need to go somewhere.  Jeez, I take a bag to the beach and pick up trash.

But I can’t give up my disposable razors.  They’re among the great exceptions of the 20th/21st-century rule that says that everything is going downhill.  Never in history has it been possible for a man (and a woman, too, for all I know) to get such a clean, comfortable, sanitary, cheap shave.  I remember my father, when my mother forced a package of disposables upon him after they first came out — he was not a man to change his habits without a struggle — saying, “They last so long I get to feeling guilty.”  He regularly threw one away while it was still sharp and started on the next.

This is the new cornucopia.  Now that we have plums and nectarines from Chile in February, now that melons are ripe all year long and pumpkins come in cans (memo to self: carve scary faces into empty pumpkin cans, claim as conceptual art), the 21st-century Horn of Plenty would be, for me, a tumble of disposable razors, with the new four-bladers in front.  (Four blades!  It makes my head swim.  If they’d had four-bladers in the Sixties, Richard Nixon would have won that television debate.)  I buy the damn things whenever I see a new brand, I buy them at Costco in packs of twenty.

By the way, the best disposable razor in the world is the Old Spice four-blader, which existed for like seven heartbeats last year.   I literally bought out the entire stock of a Walgreen’s drugstore and I wish I’d bought out two.  Now it’s not even featured on the Old Spice website.

I do feel guilty about this.  I know that I should be using an old straight-razor with no disposable parts, stropping it daily, using whipped lard or some other biodegradable substance in place of aerosol foam, assiduously avoiding veins and arteries, keeping a styptic pencil right at hand.  But then I think about just stepping in the shower, getting my face all wet and hot, pushing the button on that reassuringly heavy can, whipping an Old-Spice four-blader over my follicular output for the night, then emerging pink and gleaming,  my face as smooth as the proverbial baby’s behind.  And I find myself sending up a variant on St. Augustine’s prayer:  “Oh, Lord, grant me chastity — but not yet.”

15 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 25: The Razor’s Edge”

  1. fairyhedgehog Says:

    Who’d have thought disposable razors could be so interesting?

  2. Sylvia Says:

    One of the things I like about this part of Spain is that vegetables are still seasonal. Sure, I crave asparagus like a mad woman now but that does mean that next Spring I’m much more grateful for their appearance.

    I have a vegetable garden here and there’s a gardener who likes to help me out with my annual plantings. But he kept putting pesticides on the plants and weird blue stuff and god knows what. I explained to him that I wanted it to be organic and that I didn’t want pesticides etc etc. He gave me a withering look and said “If I did that on my plot, my family would have starved a long time ago.”

    It did give me pause to realise that my little organic vegetable garden works because I have plenty of food and can afford to supplement it or even lose a full crop. Another thing to be grateful for!

    (I have to admit though that now I pretend not to notice when he sneaks stuff into my garden to get rid of specific pests.)

  3. Gary Says:

    Organic/sustainable is good. And virtuous. Most of my sense of virtue arises from the financial pain involved – paying $6.95 for a small loaf of sprouted grain bread that tastes like paraffin, versus $1.79 for a large loaf of tasty multigrain bread produced commercially. On which one spreads – of course – expensive salt-free butter from yet another organic farm.

    I one knew a hippie farmer who kept a cow in a small field, so small that any preexisting grass had been trampled into mud long ago. You could count every bone on that cow – it looked like a wooden frame with a hessian bag hanging from it – because the worm eggs were being recycled again and again within the confines of that tiny field. When I suggested he worm it before it died, he explained that it wouldn’t be organic to use nasty worm medicine. Cows out in the wild weren’t wormed, were they?

  4. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, all —

    Well, I warned you I’d be scraping bottom soon, but I hadn’t thought I’d go down as far as disposable razors.

    I admire the resourcefulness of those who responded — FHH asking who would have thought disposable razors would be so interesting despite the evidence that no one does; and Sylvia and Gary going straight to organic farming, which at least has potential.

    Both of those comments are, in fact, more interesting than the blog. And wait until tomorrow when you see what I have to say about buttonholes.

    We have friends who buy organic venison. Did anyone know there was any venison that isn’t organic?

  5. Maureen Says:

    Only four blades? Pity. Mine have six. We use the old four-blade ones to shave our organic moose. Makes it easier to see their buttonholes.

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Six????? Six?????? (Nose in air, sniffing.)

    Ahhhh, I know who this is. This is Maureen Sugden, unsplitter supreme of split infinitives, the only person in the world who can tell me that I got wrong in the fourth Poke Rafferty book the number on the badge Rose was described as wearing in book one. Six, my nalgas.

    Six? Seriously?

  7. Maureen Says:

    Fourth try at posting this. I hate that Captcha thing.

    Seriously. Six. And it’s only the cheapy supermarket brand, too. I just fished the packaging out of the bathroom wastebasket to make sure I was right. (That’s how I do most of my research on your manuscripts, by the way. Never underestimate the scholarly value of loo trash.) I’d post pictures (or video! how cool would that be, my disembodied hand rooting around in soggy Kleenex and empty pill bottles looking for razor detritus?), but I’m much too lazy.

    I’m a little surprised–I thought everything high-tech started in California and moved east. Who would’ve thought that Maine would be on the cutting edge of disposable-blade technology? (I made a razor joke–did you catch that?)

    So is this what you do to avoid getting copyedited?

  8. EverettK Says:

    Safety razors? SAFETY razors????

    C’mon, Tim. You KNOW you should be using a straight-edge.

    Do you REALLY expect to be able to slit your throat with a SAFETY razor when you fail to give birth to Spirit House???

    May as well use your chopsticks to try to club yourself to death. But, to each their own. Me? When the time comes, I plan on swallowing my keyboard.

  9. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Maureen, let’s just ignore Everett’s display of lack of faith for the moment and talk calmly among ourselves.

    SIX????????? Which brand? I googled it and found two I can order online that are sold in Target (not that someone of my refinement ever goes into Target) but there were no customer reviews and, like all writers, I live or die by customer reviews. Oh please? Or are they those little-bitty women’s razors? Remember in North By Northwest when Cary Grant shaved his big face with …

    (I’ll get around to you in a minute, Everett. Subside.) … with Eva Marie Saint’s little bitty razor? Great stuff. And that joke you made was really (wait for it) sharp. (razor? cutting edge? sharp?)

    Everett, there’s no need to reveal yourself quite so nakedly. In fact, “Spirit House” has been finished for three days, and Parts One and Two are exemplary — well, they’re okay. I’ve even found pictures for them. Part Three is a mess, but I’ve got five days and Sunday morning to make it better. Actually, this response is tempting me to drop the next blog, More About Disposable Razors, Part Three, and do yet another about writing “Spirit House.”

  10. Kaye Barley Says:

    Tim. You are never ever going to run out of topics.
    Trust me on this.
    Just re-read this piece and you’ll know that you’re safe.
    Forever, my friend!
    (I loved this!)
    and yes, I love disposable razors.
    AND razor is a great Scrabble word .. .

  11. Maureen Says:


    One, two, three, four, five, six. VI. Seis. Roku. Sechs.

    I already told you it’s the generic, unbranded supermarket kind. Have I ever lied to you before?

    Speaking of Eva Marie Saint, remember in On the Waterfront when Marlon Brando puts her tiny white glove on his big boxer’s hand? Swoon. I wonder if this is a theme in Eva Marie Saint movies. That could be your next blog topic. I think this disposable-razor thing may have played itself out.

    Although Everett seems to have very strong feelings on the subject.

  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Kaye, and welcome back. For mystery fans, Kay’s current Louise Penny piece is absolutely worth reading (and then some) and you can find it FREE, do you hear, FREE at
    Well worth the time. I don’t know about not running out, Kaye — I have to tell you, the three-day respite due to “Spirit House” looks awfully good to me right now.

    Maureen, let me see if I follow you here. It’s the generic, unbranded supermarket kind. So that means it carries the supermarket’s brand? Well, what supermarket? Or is it some off-brand, niche New England-obscure snowshoes-and-pemmican store we’ve never heard of out here in Big Sky country? That’s interesting about Eva Marie Saint, although I’d have been more likely to swoon over her glove than Brando’s hand. I met her several times in the 1980s and 90s and she was really delightful. Everett has strong feelings about everything. It’s the gaming mentality — everything is win/lose.

  13. EverettK Says:

    Oh, by all means, give us more on the gestation of Spirit House. Can’t get enough. Heck, if you write enough ABOUT it, you won’t even have to post the story itself. 🙂

    And, no, I don’t have a gaming mentality. VERY logical. No luck involved, there is NO losing. It’s all win. As long as you’re perfect. Which I am. But most folks don’t like to hear that.

    However, some folks HAVE found me to BE a bit gamey. Whatever that means.

  14. Maureen Says:

    I gave up and took a photo of the package it came in. Check your e-mail. (Try not to be offended–the place mat is from Target.) And don’t think I’ll let you forget making me dig around in icky bathroom garbage not once but twice over this issue.

    I’ve never seen pemmican at our local Hannaford’s, but the moose mousse is to die for.

    Very impressed that you’ve actually met Eva Marie Saint. I just checked her IMDb page and am thrilled to see she’s still with us. I loved her as Cybill Shepherd’s mom in Moonlighting. (Apropos of nothing.) Could you find out if she happens to have that glove? I would pay big money for it.

    Other than that, I really regret butting into this discussion. ;o)

  15. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Oh, Everett — this cynical tone just doesn’t fit you. We all know you’re just a big pussycat trying to come on all James Woods when in any real movie you’d be played by Robin williams in wet mode, meaning with the awful beard and the more awful sincerity. But we’ll all pretend we don’t know that and go, “Oooooohhh, look OUT!!! Everett’s here.” And of COURSE, you’re perfect. Isn’t he everyone? You can’t hear them because they’re nodding.

    Got the photo, Maureen, and that is one tacky bathmat. I’d shower in my shoes, knowing I’d have to step on that. (Just kidding. It’s fine, although the moose prints are a but much.)

    I haven’t seen old Eva Marie in about 20 years, but she really was tremendously nice. I’ll be sure to ring her up tomorrow about the glove. And you did not butt into this discussion. It had gone into pause mode, waiting for you.

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