Something For the Weekend, Sir…?

Hot towel shave

No, that’s not me. Well, I don’t think it is…

Anyway, today I had my first hot towel shave – you know, that dubious homo-erotic tradition, masquerading as male grooming (not the grisly concept of befriending young boys) in a world where most of the pampering belongs to the women.

It’s a strange institution: a relic of a more innocent time. It comes from an era when a man spending an hour in the bathroom was exclusively down to last night’s curry, and not because he is moisturising, exfoliating, flossing, brushing, spraying, smoothing, and applying both pre-shave and after-shave lotions.

People say the hot towel shave is one of those things you have to experience once in your life. You know, like it’s a rite of passage or something. Well – although I certainly have more pressing concerns than the three millimetres of facial hair I occasionally sport – I’m a sucker for anything that increases my testosterone levels, so I thought I’d give it a try.

It was quite humbling to sit there while another man – whom I had only met three minutes earlier – held a blade to my throat, smiling (and occasionally whistling) while he did so. Thankfully he didn’t make the obvious gag of telling me that this was his first time; nor did he pretend to suffer from a nervous tic or muscular deficiency, which forced his bladed hand to spasm in a mildly comic fashion across my jugular – both of which I had half-expected upon making the appointment.

After the shave, he gave me a seated massage (I was, not him); rubbed my face until I thought he was going to remove the top layer of my skin; cracked my back (and what sounded like a rib); then held my hand in what I thought was a street-style handshake variation I had not seen, but was more likely some kind of reflexology thing. After all that, I momentarily thought I was going to be offered a happy ending as well, but fortunately things didn’t go that far.

I’m not sure it’s something I would do again. There’s only so long I can feel comfortable with a man touching my face, before I start to ponder the softness of his touch, and how precisely manicured his nails are; and I’m not entirely convinced I am more of a man for having put my life in those (admittedly, rather tender) Turkish hands, but it was certainly an experience I won’t forget anytime soon.

Now, if you don’t mind I’m going to shelve the masculinity for forty-three minutes: Glee is about to start…

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