It’s November once again, that bleak, grey month in-between Halloween and Christmas where we try desperately to pretend we’re interested in Thanksgiving when what we actually want to do is put up the Christmas Lights and crank up that trusty Anne Murray “Christmas Wishes” album. But if you happen to be the sort who feels like such things shouldn’t occur until 12:01 a.m. Dec. 1st, and who drives through their particular neighborhoods privately whispering words of scorn from the safety of your car at the houses who you think have jumped the gun on getting in the festive spirit, then perhaps you ladies out there have also noticed something else going on around you…perhaps something, maybe a little….say, “off” about that guy in your life or his crumbum buddies he hangs out with in the garage while attempting to perfect his own WD-40-based microbrew while listening to the Best Of Kansas on that beat up Panasonic Boom Box on his workbench?
For November is also known by many as “Mo-vember”, a month-long event where men you thought you respected try in vain to not look ridiculous growing, or let’s be honest, “attempting to grow” a mustache, all supposedly in an effort to draw attention to men’s health issues. Although let’s be honest, most, if not all, the men you know wouldn’t go to the doctor even if that sad, thin, wiry mustache they spent all four weeks growing somehow managed to take root up into their brain and poked back upwards through their skull like a reverse Narwhal.
Guys and their facial hair, right? If there’s any proof that men are deep down just as obsessed about their looks as anyone else, than I give you our ability to sprout sharp Fuller-brush bristles from our faces every few days and our unending fascination with shaving it, styling it, adding touches of grey to it, covering up large patches of grey in it, and, as in November, going out of our way to shock our loved ones by presenting them with mustachioed alternate-reality versions of ourselves where we decided to become carnival roustabouts or roadies for The Doobie Brothers.
I started shaving sometime around my very early teens, I think. I don’t remember exactly when, but I do remember the equipment, starting first with my dad’s electric razor (odd that he had one when he’s had a beard the entirety of my life); a process which couldn’t have torn me up any more than if I had raked an electrified cheese-grater across my cubby-cheeks. A few months later and I received a mysterious package from the folks at Gillette thanking me for “becoming a man” by gifting me with a complimentary Sensor razor with replacement blades. I’ve always wondered just how, in those pre-internet days, before the time when your Facebook feed lights up with ads for Pop-Tarts mere minutes after you said the word “Pop” or “Tart” near yours or someone else’s smart phone, the folks at the Gillette Corporation knew that some clueless boy in Cooks Mills in desperate need of a more stable facial hygiene regimen needed a little help. I realize now it may very well have had something to do with a postage-paid postcard tore out of a Prevention Magazine and dropped in the mail on behalf of my mother who no doubt was sick of me leaving the house looking like the hillbilly on a bottle of Ski or the assistant lighting tech for The Little River Band.
All guys are alike in that we all shave differently, with different stuff. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated with aftershaves and related products. What a strange thing it is to try to describe exactly what aftershave is and why we need it. You ladies out there arguably shave more than we do, at least over a larger geographical area, and I don’t see any of you needing to buy products with such amazing names as “Brut” or “Skin Bracer” or the all-time classic, “Ice Blue Aqua Velva,” something I learned about from a scene in “Twins” where Danny DeVito gets a bottle of it as a birthday present and then instantly drops it into a wastecan the second the gift giver has her back turned. I made a mental note that that age to stay away from “Aqua Velva” when I grew up. Want to guess if I have a bottle of it in my medicine cabinet at this very second?
The first time I decided to try to grow any kind of facial hair at all it was a goatee. Now there’s a look I don’t ever plan on revisiting. Look, there are guys who can pull that off, namely suave European terrorists attempting to steal bearer bonds out of the Nakatomi Building. What I was feared I looked more like was “Cargo short and wraparound shades-wearing volunteer soccer coach who needs to lay off the double-decker tacos after practice”. So back to baby-face mode I went until on a whim, around grad-school time, I concentrated as hard as I could and grew my very first actual beard.
Sure got off to a good start if I don’t say so myself, although never ever doubt a man’s innate ability to look at himself in a mirror and convince himself he doesn’t look like a total mess. For while I thought I looked like Commander William T. Riker once my beard really got cookin’, it took a few novelty beard gifts from my grandparents and some choice “Grizzly Adams” comments from my grad school chums to make me realize that you actually have to…you know…groom a beard as it comes in, lest you look like the Bearsville Records-assigned publicist for Foghat. And I did.
But wait! “Mo-vember” is all about the mustache, even though you’ll see a lot of guys trying to mutton chop their way around that by doing all manner of squirrely things with their facial hair because they don’t think they can pull it off that particular look. Perhaps I should give it a try. After all, I can think of many more ‘70s bands to reference. Or should I say, many “mo”.