As the nation’s men watch the shavings of yet another Movember disappear down the sink, I suggest sparing a thought for the voiceless few who are in increasing danger of being overlooked at this time of year.
Before I go any further, let me be clear: Movember is a great thing, and though I’m personally a little fatigued by how it fills content-starved 24 hour news channels and otherwise empty column inches, the cause is so good I’ll happily tolerate almost anything. I’ll even take on the chin the mounting inadequacy and self-loathing I feel for resisting the campaign’s call. Heavens, I might even do it myself in 2013. Actually, maybe not. But if I don’t, then I’ll at least seek charitable sponsorship for staying out of it – which, these days, takes almost as much determination as actually taking part.
But what is worth considering is the impact on the established moustache growing community: those mo-veterans who have invested months, years, possibly even whole (post-pubescent) lives in perfecting their beloved taches, only to find themselves at the unwitting centre of an annual cult to which they do not belong. How hard must it be for them in autumn and early winter, forever scrutinised as though they too are just temporary travellers on the good ship mo? Even I, with my modest stubble, once got unduly entangled in it – ‘Growing that for Movember, are you?’ they demanded – and felt profoundly awkward when I explained that whatever hair I’d mustered was solely for my own gratification. If it was bad for me, what must it be like for those with lovingly-nurtured proper mos? In October, they get pilloried for starting too early; in December, they get quizzed for not having shaved it off. As for November itself – well, even the earliest Johnny of all must feel something of a come lately.
I’m no expert – and I really don’t mean that modestly (in truth I deplore them, Lionel Richie, circa 1984, aside) – but is it possible that the art of the moustache is being devalued by its greatest advert? Although ostensibly a celebration of the tache in its myriad forms, could it be that Movember ends up achieving the opposite? Whatever lip service it pays the finer points of mopiary, the campaign largely defines itself by the goal of being shot of the things come December. For all the fun, the overarching aim is ‘getting through it’; the unwritten challenge to withstand embarrassment. What must that do to the self-worth of committed mo-bearers? Never mind the guilt they must feel for having sprouted top lip tentacles without charitable donations; what of their future? Might they end up saving face by shaving face – against their better instincts?
It worries me. (A little.) Perhaps some kind of research could reveal the impact of Movember on what might be an increasingly beleaguered community? I speak from a position of no authority whatsoever. Except that – and hence this post – the other night I was in the pub with a friend, who confessed that he had been toying with the idea of growing a moustache.
‘Movember?’ I asked, like a shot – and he shook his head shyly. With a little gentle coaxing, he proceeded to explain that the very reason he hadn’t yet chased his dream was the fear of it being misappropriated by Movember’s transience and triviality. For him, the tache was a serious proposition, but he couldn’t see it through because he wouldn’t be taken seriously.
I tell this story – no names mentioned – as a warning. Of course we mustn’t stop Movember. But its organisers have a moral duty to the moustache community, whose riches they so philanthropically plunder, to ensure no lasting damage is done to one of the last great vestiges of manhood. (Albeit one I really can’t stand.)