THE MALE MIND AND BODY
How to Know Your Limitations
“Relax, all right. My old man is a television repairman, he’s got this ultimate set of tools. I can ﬁx it.” —Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn),Fast Times at Ridgemont High
“Man’s got to know his limitations.” —Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood),Magnum Force
This book is ﬁlled with instructions for things you need to know in order to be the perfect husband. But to start things off, let’s take a moment to ﬁgure out how to know when not to do something. You’re faced with a task that you ﬁgure is pretty straightforward. Your wife, of course, is skeptical, and happy to let you know it. Do you take a stand, or fold like a cheap map? Sometimes (not nearly as often as your wife would prefer, of course) a real man must admit he’s completely clueless and defer to wiser minds. The question is, how do you know when to go with your gut, dive right in, and let the chips fall where they may, and when to take the mature (i.e., whipped), sensible (i.e., uninspired), and responsible (i.e., boring) path?
The two questions you must ask yourself are:
1.How difﬁcult is this task?
2.What are the consequences if I screw it up?
You must take each factor into consideration when deciding how to proceed. For example, replacing the air ﬁlter in your home’s central air-conditioning unit might be a simple maneuver. But if your in-laws are arriving tomorrow for Labor Day weekend, you’d better get a professional in there to guarantee it’s done right.
The difficulty of a task is basically defined by your own familiarity with it, the accessibility of instructions for how to do it, and the number of special tools involved. If you’re pretty sure you know where the air ﬁlter goes, and the guy down at Sears can get you the right ﬁlter, and all you need is a screwdriver, you’re all set. But if you don’t know the ﬁrst thing about a project, don’t have any idea where to look for help, and have never even heard of an immersion heater spanner, forget about it.
This brings us to the three areas of disastrous consequence to consider:
If you try to replace your car’s timing belt and screw it up, you’re probably in for a new engine. If you crash the aforementioned air-conditioning, you’ve got a weekend of sweaty in-laws ahead of you, and if you plan a best-of-seven hoops grudge match with your old college roommates, you’ll likely end up hospitalized (or worse). So, here are some guidelines to help you know your limitations:
Ironically, the best way to know your limitations is to never find out what they are. That is, never get close enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel, which invariably will be the anemic fluorescent glow from a hospital room or lawyer's ofﬁce. So, be honest with yourself. If you’ve got bad mojo around car engines, electricity, or black diamond trails, then just don’t go there.
If you’re seriously considering taking on a new task, follow this rule: If in doubt, hire it out. That means if you are in doubt, not if your wife is in doubt. She’s not yet convinced you can gargle without choking each morning, let alone change the oil or carve a turkey. The key is how you honestly feel about your abilities. If you’re really not sure, then hire a professional the ﬁrst time (for the turkey carving, that means defer to her father), learn how it’s done, and consider doing it yourself next time. If you’re certain you can do it, there are still some steps to take to ensure that you actually can.
If you’re about to embark on a project you’ve never done before, you’ve got to get your hands on authoritative instructions. That means ﬁnding a book on the subject (preferably the one you’re holding in your hands right now), or a friend who knows what he’s doing, or both. The book will tell you how it’s done, the friend will tell you if it’s possible. And all throughout this process, don’t forget to always consider (1) how difﬁcult this undertaking is and (2) what the consequences are. If,after conducting proper research and determining that both the difficulty and consequences are reasonable, only then may you proceed. Otherwise, get professional help.
See “How to Be Handy” (page 96) for some suggestions to help you do the job right. The most important tip is “Use the Correct Tool for the Job.” Nothing will accentuate your ineptitude like hammering nails with a monkey wrench or scraping off putty with a kitchen knife. If you’re stuck on a job because you can’t jury-rig a tile cutter from a circular saw, two pizza boxes, and a garden hose, then you’ve reached your limit. Go out and buy the right tool, and get the job done. But even then you may want to take a moment to make sure your insurance is up to date.
One ﬁnal thought: Another way to help you determine whether or not to charge forth with a particular endeavor is to think about how your obituary would read if things didn’t work out quite so well. “Tragic spackling accident” is no way for a real man to go.How to Get a Close Shave
A recent study by a British aftershave maker found that 92 percent of women prefer a clean-shaven man. The study also found that 63 percent of men believed that facial hair made men more attractive. These results suggest an intriguing connubial conundrum. She wants him to shave off the mustache or, more likely, the goatee that he’s had since college (or his most recent midlife crisis). He’d rather not, believing that his facial hair is a babe magnet.
She has two options: Force him to shave, and risk him shacking up with a gaggle of nubile young coeds. Or leave him hairy, and rest assured that no young chippie is going to come along and steal him away. Given that the odds of the former scenario occurring are zero on a good day, I’m guessing she’ll take her chances with a clean-shaven husband.
Salvation for the hirsute hubby lies in his learning how to get the smoothest shave with the least irritation, chaﬁng, and blood loss.
Getting a close shave is actually quite easy, but for some reason men have been misinformed over the generations and have suffered needlessly. Actually, since we’re incapable of asking for help, just like our fathers and their fathers before them, we’re pretty much using the same technique employed by our great-great-grandfathers back in the old shtetl in Minsk. It’s time to update things a bit.
First of all, modernizing does not necessarily mean new technology. I’ve never known those electric shavers to work. They look pretty good in the commercials, but as I’m told, commercials are not the most accurate reﬂection of reality (who knew?). So, get your hands on a good disposable razor, with at least two blades. I’m partial to the Gillette Sensor, but I’ll use whatever higher-end razor they’ve got at Costco that day.
Now, next time your wife drags you to one of those big department stores, head straight for the men’s grooming section. Tell them you want a good shave cream and aftershave (and, if you really want to take the plunge, invest in a badger-hair brush, and then buy shave cream designed for use with it). Specialty brands like Kiehl’s will make all the difference over the products you’ve been using, by taking care of your skin and setting you up for a great shave.
Timing is the key to a close shave. You always want to shave after you shower. The steam and hot water from the shower will open up your pores and soften your beard. When you get out of the shower, crank up the hot water in the sink, as hot as you can stand it. If you’ve ever wondered why anyone would ever need a washcloth, here’s your answer: Soak that sucker with hot water, apply it to your face, and hold it there for a few seconds. Before applying the shave cream, you may want to try using a facial scrub to exfoliate your skin. Kiehl’s sells a Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub that works wonders.
Next apply the shave cream. Forget about those foams and gels you’ve been using. It's time to get a real cream that you apply by hand or with a brush. If you’ve got sensitive skin, be sure to use a cream with mint or chamomile to soothe your skin. Kiehl’s Green Eagle Shave Cream works great. Forget about lathering up, all you want is a barely visible ﬁlm, enough to protect your face but not clog up your razor. Using your ﬁngertips or a shaving brush, massage the shave cream into your beard in tight, circular motions, starting with an upward motion (against the grain). When you’re done, get the hot water running again, wash off your hands, place your razor in the sink, and cover it with hot water. This gives you a little time to admire your manly physique before the metal meets the mug.
Start your shave with the least sensitive parts of your face, usually the cheeks. Use smooth, steady downward strokes, rinsing the razor thoroughly after every few strokes. For most men, the neck is the most sensitive part, so we’ll leave that for last and do the chin and upper lip next. This gives the moisturizer in the shave cream the maximum possible time to soften up your beard. When you get to the neck, keep in mind that you want to keep shaving with the grain, which in some cases may not be downward but sort of sideways toward your throat. Just follow the grain on your face and you’ll be all right.
When you’re done, check for any missed spots (especially along the jawline), then rinse your face with warm water and pat dry with a towel (don’t wipe your...