I just shaved off the goatee I’ve had on my face for almost exactly thirteen years. I haven’t been clean-shaven since I was 25. Holy crap.
Okay. Take a breath. [That was to myself, not to you.] Okay, now why would I do such a thing, something with the potential to scare (but which of course only provoked laughter from) my children, who’d never seen my top lip and chin before, and to scratch the beautiful spouse whom I’ve been kissing with this thing on my face for almost three-quarters of our life together?
Because it’s Movember, MoBros. And this year, this dad, son, grandson, husband, and dadblogger decided to step up and join the awesome Dad 2.013/NYC Dads Group team to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer awareness, education and research by growing hair on our upper lips for the month of November. I’m sure there are many fine MoBros who are normally clean-shaven who look at this month as some philanthropic fun that will end with a razor restoring their faces to normalcy, or others who are follicularly blessed with the ability to change their look at will. But when I jokingly say that I wasn’t sure about doing this, even with the great cause and the peer pressure, because I’m afraid this thing on my face [correction: this thing that was on my face until this morning] won’t grow back, I’m only partially joking.
My dad has had a full beard my entire life. I’ve seen photos of him pre-marriage and pre-beard, but I’ve never seen it in person, and I never will. His red-blond beard and mustache has gone grey over the years, but it’s never lost its fullness. His dad, my late grandfather, I remember as someone who switched between mustachioed and clean-shaven whenever it suited him, and he looked good either way. My dad’s younger brother has mostly stayed baby-faced, though I seem to remember a long-ago mustachioed period or two that is best left to distant memory next to his youthful Jewfro. My mom’s dad, who passed when I was in junior high, I seem to remember mostly clean-shaven, while his son, my mom’s brother and my uncle, has defied stereotypes about Asian men and facial hair to sport a pretty full mustache for most of my memory.
I first tried to grow a mustache and goatee when I was still in college and teaching over the summer while my girlfriend, now wife, was overseas doing research. It was an experiment and a lark, started after she left and expunged before her return, and I have no photographic evidence of it. When we got married three summers later, in 1998, I was as clean-shaven as always. But a little over a year later, when she left for a few months to do med school externships and residency interviews in California, I decided to try again. I started in October 1999, and when met her at the airport for Thanksgiving, she found her husband with a mustache and a goatee. [And an earring in his left ear that hadn’t been there before, but we don’t talk about that anymore.]
In part, I grew it then because I was getting ready to go to grad school to teach high school the following year, and I hoped that some facial hair would make me look older, if not to my students, then at least to the other staff so I wouldn’t get stopped on campus and asked why I was out of class. [And yeah, the earring… Never mind.] In part, I grew it because, I think, that was how I always thought I’d look. I knew I couldn’t do the full beard like my dad, but thought a goatee would look, I don’t know, grown up, distinguished, or something. And though the mustache has been a bit sparse in places for my liking, this has become how I see myself when I think of myself. When it’s a certain length, you can see flecks of reddish orange in the light, my mishmashed Hebraic/Celtic inheritance, and I always get a kick of being the Asian American guy with the (slightly) red(dish) beard. Though I’ve had it for less than half my life, I’ve had it for most of my marriage, all of my time in Bakersfield, and all of my time as a father.
And I really, really want it to come back. I’d finally decided, last month, to bite the bullet and do this, signing up with the Dad 2.0 team, before I found and read the rules:
Movember is about real men growing real, authentic moustaches. It’s the moustache which causes an average of 61 people to ask each Mo Bro why he’s growing it. To be a true Mo Bro you should start completely clean shaven on Movember 1st and grow a Mo. The definition of a Mo:
1. There is to be no joining of the Mo to side burns – That’s a beard.
2. There is to be no joining of the handlebars – That’s a goatee.
3. A small complimentary growth under the bottom lip is allowed (aka a tickler).
Crap. So not only do I have to start from scratch, I have to wait until December to try to grow the bottom half back. And what’ll that look like, trying to grow a goatee to match an already growing mustache? Like uneven layers or something? I have no idea.
But you know what? My customary wordiness has made me push to the bottom the real reason to do this. A year before I got married, my grandfather, Jerome Leon Sperber, passed away from a short battle with prostate cancer. Actually, we’d been planning to wait to get married until after my wife-to-be finished medical school, but my grandfather’s death made us realize that waiting longer only meant the possibility that other loved ones might not be with us. So, I do this in the memory of my father’s father. And if, by chance, my facial hair grows back patchy, funny-looking, or not at all, it’s worth it.
So, please, in my grandfather’s memory, and for the friends and loved ones in your lives touched by prostate cancer and testicular cancer, and yes, in the hopes that you can bribe my facial hair to grow back properly through philanthrophy, please visit my Movember page and donate, and check back here and there over the month to see how funny I look.
Now, on a lighter note, some multimedia:
And finally, here’s the main event, The Pumpkin shooting me shaving it off this morning before taking her and her sister to school, with The Button’s color commentary: