But it takes a while to gain that confidence. And when you shave your legs for the first time, it's tough. No doubt about it. When I grew up – like many readers of this blog – there was no Google. There was no Internet. There were no blogs, and certainly there were no swimming blogs. The first time I shaved my legs, it was a crash-course, one that ended with a sliced calf, three bloody towels, and utter, wild confusion.
Which is why I’ve created The Manly Manual: How To Shave Your Hairy Gross Legs.
NOTE: This manual will be a free-running manual, which means I’ll edit in good comments or changes or points from commentators. The goal here is to provide 14-year-old boys who have never shaved anything before with some solid, proper instruction.
BEFORE YOU SHAVE
I. DO NOT TELL ANYONE.
This is the most important part of shaving your legs, men. Especially in the age of digital photos/videos. If you’re shaving for the first time, just don’t tell anyone. Once you do, you’ll have everyone from the community – mothers, friends, uncles, teammates, siblings, girls you have crushes on, girls you don’t have crushes on, enemies, football players – all trying to snap the elusive “shaving legs photograph” for Facebook. I never lived in an age of Facebook. But if I did, I'm sure that every time I shaved my legs, there would be an accompanying photo album. This is because people are voyeuristic jerks.
II. DO NOT SHAVE IN GROUPS.
Compiling teenage boys with razors is a Molotov cocktail for disaster. I know this because I was one. Group shaving is a scary environment, especially around hyperactive, chlorine-damaged teenage boys wielding razors. The first time I shaved was with a teammate. We had placed a bucket in between us for rinsing our razors. During, we watching the movie, “Die Hard.” It was an exciting part in the movie, and my teammate rinsed his razor, then quickly flicked his arm/razor up. "What's that funny feeling?" I asked to myself. I looked down. My entire leg was bloody. Of course Teammate had no idea, because he was watching Bruce Willis. Meanwhile, my calf was sliced open 5 inches.
(Note: There's also the risk that seniors will do something awful to you. Never get into the same room as seniors in high school when shaving. Never accept their invitation to “shave your head.” Just don’t.)
III. FIND A PERSONAL BACK SHAVER
For backs: you want someone you trust. You want them to become familiar with the outline of your back, and specifically, the topography of your back. Moles. Weird skin things. Anything that could potentially “slice” or "carve." You want your back-shaver to be aware of your back topography. Preferably, you should find someone that you are attracted to – many high school girls are willing to shave a back, weirdly. Exploit their foolishness.
IV. DISCOVER YOUR HAPPY PLACE
A calm mind is a calm hand. Doctors don’t listen to Ramstein before open heart surgeries. Neither should you. Find a little happy place, some little happy clouds, little happy music, in a shaded little happy area. Put on Bob Ross. Enya. Candles. Again, don't do this near other people.
V. BREAK IT DOWN
This process will take an hour, maybe longer. Shaving can drain you of the mental relaxation you need the night before a big race. So clip that afternoon. Then shave later that night. Break it down into parts, idiot. This isn't rocket science. You will need time to hack through the Sherwood Forest that is your leg hair.
Clip your hairy legs first. Clip everything. Clipping will save you hours, upon hours. Your body hair and leg hair is like a redwood forest. You are a logger, and you need something mechanical to chop that down. Clip everything prior to shaving. Unless of course you are some 200-butterflying masochist, and you just love that feeling of ripping inch-long hair particles in long, strong, slow strokes with a dull razor blade. (Side note: Do not let 200 butterfliers shave your back.)
II. SENSITIVE SKIN SHAVING GEL
Your dad shaves with 50-cent cans of Barbasol. It's stocked under the sink, dated from 1988. You want to be tough too. You think, “I don’t need that feminine stuff because I’m a man! And real men shave their legs with manly shaving cream!” So you take out your Dad’s Barbasol and, 15 minutes later, your legs are bleeding, your skin is raw and bubbling -- all in the name of Chasing Manhood. Listen. Buy the more expensive stuff, the $5 Cadillac of Shaving Cream stuff. If you need to, organize a can drive so your team can purchase nice, soothing, lavender-scented shaving gel. “What’s this fundraiser for?” they ask. “So we can shave our legs.”
III. DON'T SHAVE AGAINST THE GRAIN
Really this should be subtitled, “Don’t listen to women who give you advice about shaving legs.” Never listen to women about this if you're a Shaving Rookie. Ever seen a woman shave her legs? It’s violent. They take these long, swift, fluid swipes at the legs, sometimes without shaving cream at all. They're straight from the movie, Misery. All of them. It's a terrifying experience, watching a woman shave her legs. They have years of practice, so don’t listen to when they say, "Quick! Fast! Like a Band-Aid! Against the grain!" You’re a first-timer. Go with the hair. If you want to do another shave-over, you can, but that first blade-swipe, shave with the grain.
IV. GO SLOW
Most important part of the shave. Go slow. Short strokes. Soon, your legs will look like they did when you were 8, or what they will look like when you’re 80. Smooth and hairless.
V. DON'T WATCH TV
A lot of my teammates watch TV while shaving legs. TV-watching leads to cut calves, bleeding thighs, chopped-off moles (or nipples, if shaving the chest). 14-year-olds can barely ride a bike without crashing, much less navigating the crevasses of the human form with a sharp metal object. If you're watching Mortal Kombat, you're not doing it right. (You shouldn't be watching Mortal Kombat at all, it's a terrible movie.)
AFTER YOU SHAVE
I. DON'T LOTION
You might want to slather on tons of lotion, put on pants, and head to bed to rest for tomorrow’s prelims. But the entire point of shaving is not only to reduce drag, but more importantly, to help you gain a “feel” for the water. Shaving = you’re really getting rid of dead skin on your body. That gives you that awesome feeling when you hop in the water, like you’re “grabbing water” and flying through the pool. Putting on lotion is just counterproductive to this entire process. Plus you spent $15 dollars on expensive shave gel. Cocoa-butter lavender aloe powder with Vitamin E cream is unnecessary.
II. HANG A BLOODY TOWEL ON THE OUTSIDE OF YOUR DOORKNOB, LOCK YOURSELF IN THE BATHROOM, AND SCREAM LIKE YOU JUST CHOPPED OFF SOMETHING VERY, VERY IMPORTANT
III. EMBRACE YOUR LEGS
After you shaved your gross, hairy legs, there is no going back. Point of no return. Everyone will ask you the same question, “Do you shave your legs?” Conjure a confident response. Embrace your legs. High school kids are like wolves. They smell fear. Show no fear, and they’ll respect you. Maybe.
IV. WEAR JEANS FOR 3 MONTHS
IV. WEAR JEANS FOR 3 MONTHS
And even though you've embraced it, you've rocked the super-short mesh shorts in springtime even when it's 50 degrees outside just so you can flash your newly-shaven swimmer legs, you're confident with your silky smooth angelic cocoa-butter-infused legs.... keep it to yourself. No one wants to see your black stubble and plethora of in-grown zits. Regrow your hair in seclusion, put your Enya soundtrack away, hide your sensitive skin shaving gel, pack up your 30-pack of disposable Bic razors, until next year, when it's time to do it all over again.