My Meaning Behind 'Movember'

“You’re going to have that on your face for our holiday picture?” quipped my wife, referring to the freshly grown stubble that began accumulating on my chin in early November. 

My wife knows we always take family portraits around Thanksgiving for the obligatory holiday photo card that we send to far-away friends and relatives sometime between mid-December and late-January (we sent one just in time for Valentine’s Day a few years ago). She also knows I’m not particularly “facial-hair gifted,” in terms of my aptitude for growing lush, Paul Bunyan-esque beards. Translation: Not only will my husband have a scruffy beard in our holiday photos; it won’t even be a full beard. It will a spotty, patchy, slightly-more-than-a-goatie, beard. 

So why on earth would I do it? (As if it weren’t satisfaction enough, knowing that all of her old college friends will picture us this way for an entire year!)

For me, there are two major reasons. 

The first reason: a couple friends (equally “facial-hair-challenged” friends, mind you) got together and decided we would see who could grow the best beard over the course of a month. While it’s just a friendly competition (as friendly as a competition can be, where the winner gets the title of “manliest”), it has indirectly sparked another competitive edge among us. A few of us used to train martial arts together (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, specifically), and for whatever reason – career, growing families, less time, and so forth – a couple years ago, we all either slowed down dramatically or stopped altogether. Recently, a couple of us started back up again, and others have committed to start after the holidays. As much as I’d like to say that “No-shave November” has been a catalyst for this renewed attention toward living a more active lifestyle, I think that would be a stretch. But in an odd way, it has brought a group of guy-friends together to do guy-stuff, which just happens to be impacting our physical activity in a positive way. 

The other reason – the serious reason – that I decided to participate in “No-shave November” is to silently support a friend of mine who, last Christmas, was diagnosed with a serious health condition. He has spent the entirety of this year – a year that saw him turn 30 as well as saw his daughter turn one – battling through the initial shock and ultimately the slow but encouraging recovery, comprised of many difficult rounds of treatment. It’s a battle he continues to wage courageously; it’s also one that caused him to lose all of his hair at one point. I know there’s more contextual meaning behind “No-shave November” or “Movember”; but for me, if growing out a straggly, amateurish, dare I say unmanly, beard is a small way of supporting a friend who only recently started growing his hair back, then… 

“Yes, dear, I will have this on my face for our holiday picture this year.”