Friday, December 06, 2013

I Won't Shave My Beard For Anyone

I skipped Movember last month. Actually, I've skipped Movember for the last 10 years.

No, that's not a typo. Movember is the men's health nonprofit organization that brings awareness to male reproductive health — prostate cancer and testicular cancer, plus mental health — by urging men to grow a mustache in November.

Or moustache if you want to be all French about it.

Teams of men — called Mo Bros — will grow mustaches as a way to bring awareness to, and raise donations for, Movember, which then sends funds to different education campaigns, research groups, and support groups. Last year, they raised $147 million, registered 1.1 million participants worldwide, and started 2.7 billion conversations about men's health.

It would be like if women didn't shave their legs for October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Or grew mustaches. Which would definitely draw attention to their cause, although it would start very different conversations.

Men's health awareness is definitely a worthy cause and one that I wholeheartedly support. I believe in the mission of Movember, and support them in their hirsute endeavors.

I just can't participate.

It's not that I object on moral grounds. I just don't want to shave my mustache.

To participate in Movember, you must start on day one with a clean-shaven lip. Which means losing the one I've got.

I realize it's not a fancy one. Not like the guy who constantly wins the Best Beard contest by separating it into stalks and putting so much gel on them that his beard looks like an octopus that OD'd on Viagra. It's not even a thick Magnum P.I. mustache that all cops and firefighters are required to wear, including the women.

It's just your average mustache — not too thick, not too thin. Sort of the middle-management-living-in-a-suburban-neighborhood kind of mustache. But it's mine. I've had it since I was 17, back when it looked more like a child's connect-the-dots game.

I have not shaved my mustache for nearly 29 years. I haven't shaved my goatee for 22. I have had my chin whiskers longer than I've known my wife, and that's going way back. I have had my facial hair for so long, I don't even remember what I looked like without it.

There has been only one time that I ever considered shaving it off. When we first got my oldest daughter (we adopted her when she was one year old), she was afraid of my beard. She wouldn't look at it or come to me, and whenever I tried to hold her, she would lean away from me.

"Do you think I should shave it off?" I asked my wife that night.

"No, she'll get used to it," she said.

I wasn't too sure, but I thought I'd try it for one more day and then, if she was still afraid, I'd shave it off and let it grow back while she got used to it.

When we saw her on the next day, she still looked suspiciously at me, like something was going to fly out of it. So my wife talked to her gently, and tugged on my beard.

"Look, it's hair. You can pull it." She tugged at the hair on my head, and then on my beard again. She grabbed my daughter's hand, ran it through my hair, and helped her make a fist around it. I made some fake noises as she pulled, which made my daughter smile a little.

Then they reached down for my beard together and grabbed it. My daughter tried to pull away, but she had a clump of my beard in her sweaty fist. I made some more fake squawks as she pulled, which made her smile a little more.

Then it occurred to her that this was a fun little game. She shook off my wife's hand, got a better grip, and yanked. I squawked for real that time.

Oh yes, this was absolute fun. We had to pry her fingers off so I wouldn't get whiplash. From then on, she loved my beard, and whenever I held her, she would often grab it and yank my head around by my chin.

After that, I never had the desire to shave again. Even when we adopted my other daughter, and later, my son, I knew they would get over their fear of the beard. We did it the same way too. Grab a hand, shove it into my beard, help them grab a fistful, and yank.

Even on day one, you could spot the Deckers' kids —they were the ones cackling like mad at someone else's pain and misfortune.

Listen, Mo Bros. I may believe in your cause and support your great work. But if I wouldn't shave my goatee for three of the most important people in my life, I certainly won't shave it for you.

Besides, I've almost gotten them to quit yanking on it.

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