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“Men Who Have Shaved Me,” by Stephen Leacock, is an essay included in Leacock’s volume titled Literary Lapses. Leacock begins by asserting that the typical barber is also an expert in sports. The tone of the essay is immediately comic, as Leacock explains that barbers are far less interested in barbering than in imparting crucial information about sports:
To the barber the outside world is made up of customers, who are to be thrown into chairs, strapped, manacled, gagged with soap, and then given such necessary information on the athletic events of the moment as will carry them through the business hours of the day without open disgrace.
Customers (Leacock asserts) are willing to wait long periods in barbers’ shops in order to have access to this kind of important information. Sometimes barbers test their customers by asking detailed questions about sports, but in general they would prefer to discuss the subject with other barbers.
Barbers (Leacock claims) have to be highly educated in the present day, and he offers a long list of the comically-titled courses they supposedly take in barbers’ colleges, including
(1) Physiology, including Hair and its Destruction, The Origin and Growth of Whiskers, Soap in its Relation to Eyesight; (2) Chemistry, including lectures on Florida Water; and How to Make it out of Sardine Oil; (3) Practical Anatomy, including The Scalp and How to Lift it, The Ears and How to Remove them, and, as the Major Course for advanced students, The Veins of the Face and how to open and close them at will by the use of alum.
Leacock claims that although barbers are in the business of removing whiskers, they are found of cooking their customers first by covering their faces with steaming hot towels. He also asserts that barbers like to entice their customers to allow barbers to perform all sorts of exotic treatments on them. Customers either resist or succumb; in the latter case the barbers are delighted and immediately get to work manhandling the customer even more than before. Leacock makes it sound as if, in modern shops, a customer is surrounded by different barbers waiting to get at him for all kinds of different reasons, few of them pleasant. Things are even rougher, he jokingly concludes, in barber shops in the country, where the customer’s hair is assaulted the way a lawnmower assaults grass.
For the full text of the essay (which is quite funny indeed and to which the preceding summary doesn’t begin to do justice), see the links below.
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