Growing a Mo for a good cause, have pity on me
November 9, 2007
I may have to get a new photo to go with this column.You see, I’m growing a mustache, even though quite a few wisecrackers have wasted a lot of breath remarking on how difficult it is to tell. That I’m growing a mustache, that is.That’s because it doesn’t look at all like the mustache I used to sport, back in my youth, when my hair was dark brown and not salt ‘n’ pepper, and I wore a beard and mustache more as a matter of laziness than anything else.Anyway, for the past week, I’ve looked as though I’ve just eaten a bowl of cream of mushroom soup with a heavy dose of black pepper and forgotten to wipe my upper lip. It’s finally filling in a bit, and my hope is that it will get to the “distinguished” stage pretty damned quick. My patience is wearing thin as the wisecracks get thicker.The reason for this foolishness is something called “Movember,” started locally by Pamela Herr at the Given Institute but originally spawned in Australia, where MoBros came up with the annual charity event as a way to raise awareness about men’s’ health issues, particularly prostate cancer. “Mo” apparently is as far as the Aussies can get toward actually pronouncing the word mustache, and November is a month with a name made to blend nicely with the basic theme, hence the name of the event and the fact that the growing season ends when the month does.Herr, as the chief “MoSista” (that’s the female equivalent of a MoBro, whose function is to encourage and support the activities), has thrown a couple of parties in honor of the MoBro army, with mo’ planned through the month.And there, in a nutshell, is the reason my upper lip has taken on a slightly bushy appearance.As noted before, I sported a beard and mustache for most of my adult years, finally conceding to its elimination in the interest of domestic bliss in the early 1990s (my spousal unit said it tickled too much). So it occurred to me to wonder why we men ever decided to look for ways to un-hairify our faces in the first place, and when.According to a website run by a shaving equipment company, we first started shaving around the year 100,000 B.C., when Indo-Europeans began scraping their faces with flints or plucking the offending sprouts with seashell tweezers. No mention is made of the essential question, “Why bother?” but there you have it.Metalworking was invented in about 3000 B.C., giving us blades that made the chore a bit easier and cleaner, and by then women were into it, too, using bizarre and often satanic concoctions to remove unwanted body hair. Why bother? Don’t ask.By 500 B.C., it had become such an important societal impulse that Alexander the Great reputedly would not go into battle without shaving, presumably worried his five o’clock shadow would reflect badly on his soldiers’ abilities and embolden his enemies. I wonder if Richard Nixon ever knew about that.Some time around 300 B.C., a Roman man’s first shave, said to be around the age of 25, was the occasion for a party at which testosterone-fueled manly behavior was the rule and women likely spent the previous day finding somewhere else to be.And by 100 A.D., beards were “in” again; Emperor Hadrian is believed to have used his facial adornment to hide a bad complexion. Even in the Americas shaving appears to have taken root early. Europeans arrived around 1500 B.C. to find that the Aztecs had been shaving with obsidian blades. Again, no explanation of why.And so it grows.Whether or not I keep the thing after the Movember denouement depends on variables not yet known.But it’s all for a good cause, reminding men of the need to occasionally give blood or bend over for some exploratory finger-pointing to see whether our equipment is malfunctioning in a bad way, rather than following our time-honored preference to do nothing until it’s too late.So, have a little pity for those guys you might see around town, wearing their wispy good intentions on their upper lips and yearning desperately for the day when it actually looked like something they meant to do all along.