November 21, 2017
Last week, my co-worker Brian Hickey tweeted out a photo of my now-three-week-old mustache, a product of an agreement between myself and a friend to participate in No-shave November, the month-long tradition originally devised as a way to raise cancer awareness that's since taken on a cultural significance all its own.
The reviews were, predictably, negative. My mustache looks bad, and many were quick to point out that it made me look like everything from downright creepy to a character from a 1995 slacker comedy movie. One person suggested it appeared I had forgotten to wipe my upper lip after drinking chocolate milk.
To all that, I say: fair. I'm a teenage-looking man whose genetics have cursed him with the inability to grow any hair on my face sans the multi-colored, scraggly mess that currently occupies the layer of skin between my nose and mouth.
But as aforementioned friend recently pointed out, what fun is No-shave November if your facial hair actually looks good? How can one truly claim they're taking part in what's framed as a challenge if by Thanksgiving they're out here looking like Bradley Cooper?
Let's say the month was instead "Curly Hair Month." If Justin Guarini made a big hoopla about participating, would you give him any credit? No, because while the rest of his are hitting up a hair salon to get a perm, he gets to enjoy those naturally curly locks.
Cultural trend watchers and even scientists have made much ado about the general attractiveness of facial hair. What those musings often fail to take into account is whether someone is even capable of growing it properly in the first place.
For many, that's not the case. Men with facial hair are not a monolithic group, and "having" or "not having" it isn't a distinction free from subjective interpretation. You wouldn't ask a football fan if they wish their team did or did not have a quarterback. There's Carson Wentz, and then there's Nathan Peterman.
The point being: What's an aesthetic compliment for some, is a grooming nightmare for others. My mustache is five interceptions in the first half.
Of course, anyone who's using their facial hair as a concerted effort to raise money for initiatives such as men's health and cancer research should be applauded and encouraged, and you can donate to such efforts here and here. And if you can grow a solid beard or mustache, good for you! Rock it, dude!
But as a surface-level qualification for participation in the spirit of the month, spare me your GQ models and carefully-trimmed face accessories. Give me your Letterman-esque, I-haven't-had-human-contact-in-months beards. Give me your "Superbad"-era Michael Cera mustaches. Give me whatever on God's green earth John Travolta is attempting here.
Guys, it's the one time of year to do something you wish you could do well but can't, getting away with it and even bragging about it on social media. If your #Movember facial hair is ugly, be proud. That's the fun of it.