It was day one of Movember. There were a few bald faces among my male colleagues, myself included, and it was refreshing, like a cool spring rain. But then I noticed another such colleague, hunched behind his computer, with five days worth of stubble etched on his face. "What, no Movember?" I asked.
He shook his head dismissively, as if I was crazy for even bothering to ask. Me? Grow a moustache? Piss off, would ya? He was on the phone at the time so I probably shouldn't have read much into it, but the combination of a hairy face on the first day of Movember and the absence of caffeine in my system really pissed me off.
I mean, come on, man! No moustache? You're not going to partake in the single greatest act of masculine solidarity? Where's your communal spirit, brother? And more importantly, where's your sense of self-effacing humour?
I said none of this, for fear of seeming like a jackass among my colleagues. Instead, I said something like, "Well, if you get prostate cancer, don't ask me for help," which still made me sound like a jackass... but you know what? Whatever. I'm supporting Movember.
Movember, for those don't know, is an annual event where men grow moustaches throughout November (duh) to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer. It either began in an Adelaide pub in 1999 as a friendly challenge to raise money for the RSPCA (according to Wikipedia) or in a Melbourne pub in 2003 as a friendly competition among friends to bring moustaches back into fashion (according to Adam Garone, the guy who supposedly came up with the idea). Either way, some men started the idea in some Australian bar fond of moustaches.
"Movember, at its heart, is fun and irreverent, a little bit anti-establishment," Garone, CEO and executive director of Movember, told the Toronto Star this week.
By the following year, surprised by the amount of traction it received - and the backlash it received from girlfriends and workplace managers - he decided the movement could be put to good use. Noticing the success of the pink ribbon challenging the stigma of breast cancer for women, and all the money it had raised to fight it, the Movember team used the moustache as a furry ribbon of sorts, to do the same for prostate cancer.
By 2004, it was spreading awareness and raising funds across Australia and New Zealand. By 2007, the Movember Foundation had set up shop in four other countries, including Canada. More than 450,000 people participated in 2010 and since its inception, the movement has raised $176 million worldwide. The movement has ambassadors in celebrities and athletes.