by Dan Levitz
Groucho Marx, Albert Einstein, Frank Zappa, Burt Reynolds. Is there a particular shared physical attribute these famous names bring to mind? No? How about Charlie Chaplin, Gene Shalit, Clark Gable? Still not sure? Visualize The Village People’s Construction Guy, Salvadore Dali and Borat…
As the moon over Halloween recedes, Movember will begin. That is not a typographical error. The month formerly known as November, for many, has now been meaningfully changed to Movember. During this great autumn month, some presumably post-pubescent men with the ability to achieve facial hair will grow a mustache with intent to “change the face of men’s health.” Clever puns aside, this annual event is an important world-wide effort to raise awareness (and funds) for serious men’s health issues.
It all began in Australia in 1999 where ‘Mo’ is slang for a mustache. A well intentioned group of men coined the term Movember with the simple concept of starting clean-shaven and then growing mustaches throughout the month to raise money for charity. A donation could be made to a specific ‘Mo’ or to sponsor a team of mustache growers. This evolved in the early 2000s to more specifically focus on Men’s health issues like prostate & testicular cancer along with depression, which many people, unfortunately, just aren’t comfortable discussing. What these illnesses all have in common is that early detection can be life-saving and Movember is an effort to make people speak up and seek help.
It’s an interesting aspect to male culture that these pervasive health issues need this colorful event to raise awareness. Logic would seem to dictate that if a man was having an issue he would simply call the doctor. However, as an adult male I can confirm that, logic be damned, it is just so easy to live in denial. I’m not sure if this is a hard-wired male genetic flaw or an evolutionary defect. Perhaps the genius behind Movember is that people are not the slightest bit hesitant to talk about that blossoming growth of hair on one’s upper lip which is the perfect segue to discuss what are quite serious and potentially life-saving subjects.
In a broad sense, the timing of Movember couldn’t be any better. With apologies to Brooklyn hipsters rocking waxed handle-bars, I think I can say with some confidence that the mustache has fallen out of favor.
Nowadays when you see a gentleman with a magnificent growth of hair above his upper lip you might hear words uttered like What was he thinkin’? or faux sneezed Porn-stasche! Somewhere along the way what was once an appealing stylistic male attribute has become something of a grooming pariah; a facial fashion-don’t.
Full disclosure, I usually wear a goatee which seems to be more acceptable to many than a plain old mustache. One day I shaved the beard and soul patch which left a fairly wonderful ‘Mo’. I proudly strutted out of the bathroom to show my lovely wife who looked up at me, smiled and calmly yet vehemently said, “No.” She went back to her book and I went off to shave.
Chappaqua resident Stuart Angowitz sprouted a full-on mustache for two recent Movember campaigns raising several thousand dollars. For Stuart, enjoying not shaving was a pleasant surprise and the simplicity of just sending an email to friends and family about Movember was an effective way to get the message out. He also found the endeavor to be a natural way to broach important subjects like Prostate Cancer. An old friend of mine, Ken Umansky, has only one time ever worn a mustache and that was in Movember of 2013. Ken noted, “It was meaningful to raise awareness about early detection.” He was also happy to receive a number of inquiring gazes towards his new facial coiffure from female passersby. Maybe the ‘Mo’ is making a comeback!
Speaking of The Ladies, women reading this may wonder how they too can get involved. There seems to be an inherent flaw in Movember as, theoretically, growing of the mustaches is only feasible for about half the human population. However, the folks organizing Movember have gone out of their way to encourage women to become ‘Mo Sistas’ who are encouraged to support the men in their lives participating in Movember and to help the cause.
Besides starting conversations about men’s health, Movember has raised substantial funds for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Testicular Cancer research, The Movember Awareness and Education Campaign and a long list of specific health related research endeavors.
Details about where the money goes and how to donate and/or sponsor a mustache can be found us.movember.com.
Dan has lived in Chappaqua for 10 years and is an art dealer and writer with a blog on The Huffington Post.