The art of not shaving

In solidarity with my fellow Y chromosomes, this year I am participating in the annual ritual known by the rather clever portmanteau, Movmember (http://us.movember.com). Much like the wearing of pink in October for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month shows solidarity and support for those affected by the disease, men are encouraged to allow the hair on their upper lip to grow unfettered for 31 days to bring forward discussions of prostate and testicular cancer and other health concerns related to males.

While the international movement really only calls upon us to grow mustaches, I’ve decided to make the awkward transition from clean-shaven to burly by allowing for a full beard – perhaps to be reduced only at month’s end. Like much of life’s passage this has been a learning experience. Initially, I undertook the mission as more of a lark than a serious commitment. Having not seen my face under fur, it struck my curiosity. What I’ve found is that folks are very curious as to why my normal, hairless facial appearance has been altered. Several times per day, conversations begin with some remark about the motivation for my unshorn countenance and end with often intimate retellings of how men’s cancers have affected them or those they love. In a whisker of time, I’ve learned formerly unknown personal details of men and women that I’ve known for many years. Sometimes the stories are heartwarming and other times they are tragic. But a silly beard turned out to be the key to open the dialogue.

I’ve also taken note that these things itch – a lot. Those experienced in matters hirsute tell me that the sensitivity to my new outwear will pass in a matter of days. But even as the scratching diminishes, I hope our attention to men’s health remains.