The old ways are best
Gentlemen, have you ever gotten the feeling that the world has gotten just a little bit too advanced (read: far up its own arse) for its own good?
By this, I mean that you sometimes look around and find yourself thinking that the modern conveniences that we take for granted, actually make life less interesting, less pleasant, less fun.
You see it around you all the time in America. Make no mistake, I love this country- or at least, I love what it used to be- but I'll be the first to admit that long road trips through the heartland can make one rather jaded. All one sees is basically giant strip-malls and service stations connected by huge freeways and interstates.
What one does not see, unless one is very lucky or actively looks for it, is any sense of time, space, and culture.
And that is because the world has simply advanced too far and too fast for its own good. In the process, certain things in life, which should by rights be appreciated and savoured, have become crass and commercialised.
Here are three simple good things in life that have become overly cheapened through modernisation and commercialisation- and here, I provide recommendations that will allow you to restore some sense of purpose, of ceremony and propriety, to these things.
1. A Great Shave
Every man who shaves knows what it feels like to get a truly great shave. It is a wonderful sensation. Your skin and face feel refreshed, you feel relaxed and happy, and you are alert, calm, ready to face the day and all that it brings.
It used to be that in order to get a really good shave, you had to go down to your local barber shop. And this was something of an event in and of itself.
You would sit down in the barber's chair- and he would know you, and your entire family, by name, because that was what life was like back in small-town America, ever so many decades ago. He would soften up the skin and hair with a hot towel, then carefully apply oil and lathered soap. He would sit you down and let you relax into the soothing, well-worn leather of the barber's chair, while he sharpened an old-fashioned cutthroat razor.
And then, with infinite care and precision, he would give you a careful, close, and- if he really truly knew you and knew what he was doing- nick-free shave.
This entire procedure would take upwards of 20 minutes and was rarely, if ever, cheap. But it was never time wasted- because during that time an important social function was performed that kept the community together. News was exchanged, men were able to bond in the company of other good and decent men, young boys were able to spend time seeing how a community made by and for men functioned, and wives and daughters were given a welcome and often necessary respite from the presence of their men in the household.
Today, however, a man can walk into any pharmacy and pick up a can of shaving gel, a pack of cartridge blade refills, and maybe some aftershave, for a total of about $20. He can go home and shave himself in all of about 5 minutes- less, if he is in a hurry and doesn't particularly care about nicking himself.
Through this, the sense of ceremony was lost. The art of male grooming- and yes, I am perfectly well aware of how gay that sounds- was cheapened. Most importantly, though, the sense of self-respect that a man gained from performing an important task with care and attention disappeared.
Fortunately, there is a quick-fire remedy for all of this.
Earlier in the year my friend and fellow shitlord LastRedoubt wrote up an article about shaving that talked about the importance of buying a safety razor. Now, I had been experimenting with my shaving process for a while. Years ago I stopped using shaving gel and foam after reading Bourbon for Breakfast by Jeffrey Tucker, in which the author mentioned using olive oil (seriously) as a lubricant for shaving instead of gel.
Then I started to use shaving soap on top of that, to reduce friction a bit and give a cleaner shave. The feeling of using an old-school badger brush with even older-school shaving soap created a sense of pride and purpose to the simple but necessary act of shaving that I'd never even realised was missing in the first place.
But I was still using cartridge razors. And, to be honest, I was getting pretty fed up of paying $50 for a pack of 8 Gillette Fusion blades every three months. (And I say that as someone who owns shares in Procter & Gamble.)
Then I read that article about safety razors and my mind was made up. I decided to go for it. I walked into an Art of Shaving store near my workplace, bought my first real safety razor and a proper, high-quality badger brush, and a couple of packs of double-edged old-fashioned razor blades, and off I went.
As the chap at the store warned me, the first few shaves were not much fun. My skin was not used to the sharpness and unlubricated harshness of the extremely fine steel blades, and despite the care that I took, I nicked myself many times.
But soon enough, I got the hang of it. And I realised that the sense of care and pride that a man rightfully ought to take in his appearance was restored through just a few simple changes.
Never mind the sheer amount of money that is saved simply by using a proper safety razor and some good quality blades- though that is enormous over a lifetime. The pure satisfaction that comes from a truly great shave is reward enough.
The process of shaving takes longer now, to be sure. But the end result is far better. The process of applying olive oil (which I still use and maintain is far better for you than any other oil) and lathered soap takes a few minutes, but that is time well spent. The sheer weight of the safety razor, combined with the extreme sharpness of the blades, makes it necessary to take great care and precision when shaving.
And when you get in right, when you feel the results of a really good shave in the morning before you go to work, and you know that you did that, it is a great way to get your day started.
You will only truly realise the difference when you are forced by circumstances to go back to using cartridges.
I didn't take my safety razor along on this road trip that I am on with my family, mostly because I did not have a travel case for my soap and a case for the razor and so on. So I dragged my old plastic Gillette Fusion razor out from under my sink and packed it in with some shaving gel. I had a feeling that I would regret it, but I figured it wouldn't be a big deal for a week.
I tried shaving with that old cartridge razor this morning. It was horrible.
Even with a brand new cartridge, the razor felt useless and insubstantial. The shaving gel left my skin all... doughy and lumpy, which is the entire reason why I started using olive oil in the first place. The shave was not particularly close, despite Gillette's relentless advertising about how MOAR BLADES!!! gives a closer shave- it's all nonsense, of course.
The result was unsatisfying, annoying, and unpleasant. There was no sense of pride, purpose, or accomplishment in there at all.
Gentlemen, do yourselves a favour. Get to your nearest barbershop or shaving supplies store and buy yourself a real safety razor and shaving kit. If you're lazy like me and you want to do everything online, here is one possible starting point; here is another. You could get yourself about 10 years' worth of blades, a stand, a brush that will last you a good 2 years at least, some soap, and a soap dish, all for about $200.
That sounds like a lot- until you realise that you're probably spending that much every single year just on disposable, cheap, tacky, breakable, and low-quality plastic crap that gives you a quick, unsatisfying, and ultimately un-masculine shave.
2. Uncorking a Wine Bottle
I actually got this idea from our friend Adam Piggott, the Gentleman Adventurer, and his 28 Traits of the Modern Man. Adam read the same ridiculous Pravda article that the rest of us did, and like us, fell over laughing- but unlike us, he then decided to have a go at creating a proper list of masculine traits that a real man should embody these days.
One can quibble over certain details of that list. I certainly do, over very minor specific aspects. But overall, it is a solid outing that presents a powerful new way of looking at masculinity in a modern light.
Trait #5 in that list states that the modern man never orders a bottle of wine that can be opened without a corkscrew. And with good reason.
Now, when I first saw that one, I thought that Adam was being unnecessarily uptight. I have partaken of many a superb Australian wine that comes in bottles that use plastic corks, or, more often, simply don't bother with corks at all. Many very good middle-range wines, costing between $12 and $18 a bottle, have nothing more than a twist-off screw top, and yet the wine itself is still of quite high quality.
However, it was only with subsequent re-readings of this trait that I realised that I had missed Adam's basic point.
The issue that the modern man has with non-corked wine bottles is not the convenience or simplicity or superior freshness and taste of the wine. The issue that the modern man has with it is that a certain amount of ceremony, and therefore of solemnity and tradition, is lost in the act of partaking of wine.
Certainly, one can make arguments for and against traditional versus plastic corks, or for and against corked versus screw-top bottles. By all means, let us have all of those academic discussions- preferably over a really good glass of Barossa Valley shiraz.
But, again, all of this misses the point.
Remember what wine is- especially red wine. This is a substance that looks like blood and tastes like the nectar of the gods, when distilled and preserved correctly. This is a liquid that makes a good meal into a great one. This is what makes every social occasion with friends and family a special one.
Put simply, wine should be respected. It should be appreciated. It should be savoured.
And it is much harder to do these things when all you have to do in order to open up a container of the stuff is to twist off the top of the bottle. Especially when you've taken the time, trouble, and expense to go to a nice restaurant and order a bottle of the stuff- usually at a 50% markup to what you would spend buying the exact same bottle at your local liquor store.
Quite simply, if you are going to order wine at a good restaurant, you might as well get your money's worth. And for that reason alone, it makes sense to order a bottle of wine that has to be uncorked, that is worth pouring carefully into a glass, that is given to you to taste before offering to others, and that you can keep a memento of in the form of the cork when the meal is finished.
These simple but profound traditions have been lost in our headlong rush toward modernity, convenience, and ease of life. There are certain things worth taking the time to do, and this is one of them.
Which brings us neatly to the third and final item on my list:
3. Dinner with the Family
Now I should point out fro the start that those of you masculine men reading this who have families probably do not need my advice on this subject, so feel free to move on down and skip this part.
However, for those of you men who grew up without strong nuclear families, or who are just starting out with families of your own in this deeply degenerate age, I have some advice to offer you, coming from my own experiences as the son of two loving parents:
ALWAYS eat dinner together as a family.
This means rather more than just sitting together and having a meal, by the way. Dinner time in my family's house is sacrosanct. Everyone in the house comes down to eat, we all sit together at the table, no mobile phones are EVER allowed at the table, and no subject of discussion is really taboo. (Except for sex, which my family never ever discusses openly.)
I often wondered as a teenager what the point was of gathering everyone around the dinner table like that. It was only when I left home and started living on my own that I realised what a profoundly important function this seemingly innocuous little daily ritual served.
Dinner time for my family is a powerful bonding experience. It brings us all together, lets us argue and debate and blow off steam, and allows us to become the tightly knit unit that we really are. That 30-45 minutes of family time is our bulwark against a world plainly gone mad. It gives my parents time to reinforce the values that made them such exemplary caretakers and moral examples to their children. And it gives me and my sister the time that we need, even now as fully grown adults, to absorb the lessons that my parents have to teach us through osmosis.
Dinner time with the family used to be normal and expected. There was nothing particularly remarkable about it. The father and husband would come home from work, the wife and mother would greet him at the door with the children, and within an hour or two, a wholesome, simple, tasty dinner would be served to all.
Yet it is only when you do not have this experience that you understand how important it is. It is only when you no longer have this opportunity to bond with the people who matter the most that you realise what you have lost.
Today many parents do not bother to cook for their children. Many wives simply lack the domestic skills to cook- hell, I'm practically a borderline barbarian, and I have more cooking skills than the average American woman my age. Many children these days grow up in fatherless households, and as a result they grow up eating processed crap bought with food stamps, or microwaved "ready meals" stuffed full of preservatives and fillers that have no nutritional value whatsoever- and, in the case of boys, contain many estrogenic compounds that serve to lower their testosterone and make them flabby and weak.
The single best way for a modern husband and father to rebel against this abysmal state of affairs is to demand that his wife and his children be present at dinner.
This is not merely for the father's benefit, by the way. A family dinner is always an opportunity to express gratitude to the wife and mother for her very hard, and often thankless, work in keeping her family happy, well cared for, and well fed. The women who do this job rightly deserve our thanks; without them, there would be no future for our children, and there would be no civilisation for us men to fight for and protect.
The Fight to Reclaim Our Traditions
The older I get, the more that I come to think that the old ways really do make more sense. I grew up with very old-school values, which have served me superbly throughout my life- yet I have repeatedly encountered people and situations that have informed me that I am as out of place in the modern age as a dinosaur riding a unicycle.
That categorically does not make those values wrong or misinformed. It simply means that the values that you and I were raised with, are being rejected by a degenerate and insane society.
It is that society which deserves scorn and pity, not us.
By keeping certain simple traditions alive and well, by taking the time to appreciate the simple things and virtues in life, and by making space in our busy daily routines for the little things that really matter, we are striking a blow against the madness that surrounds us.
We are striving to restore a sense of honour, dignity, and simple decency to our lives. This, in and of itself, is a most noble and worthy aim, and we should applaud those who seek to do so.
And we should strain with all our might to follow their most excellent example, for then we will become better and more complete men in the process.