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Movember: Growing the Mo for Men's Health

by George Graves

George Graves' Mo | Movember(image: George's "mo")

You’re not keeping that are you? What does your wife think? How do you get away with that? Where’d your beard go?! I didn’t recognize you …

Half way through my sixth Movember, I’ve had a fair amount of practice getting used to the comments and “hairy eyeballs” that my mustache provokes. I first participated in Movember in 2010. I had just graduated college and was living with my parents, working alternating day and night shifts, looking for my first “real” job. I was bored and I was looking for entertainment. As I read up on Movember and discovered what it was all about, I realized I really had no excuse not to participate. It would take minimal effort on my part, I had a decently full beard (so I wouldn’t look too sketchy), and best of all: it was for a good cause.

The Movember Foundation, #55 in the top 500 non-governmental organizations, is a global organization dedicated to improving men’s health and encouraging the difficult conversations that guys tend to avoid. Starting with just 30 participants in Australia in 2003, 5,232,625 participants have since raised $710 million for a broad range of programs and trusted men’s health partners. The Movember efforts are focused on three key issues: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention.

“The state of men’s health is in crisis. Men experience worse longer-term health than women and die on average six years earlier. Prostate cancer rates will double in the next 15 years. Testicular cancer rates have already doubled in the last 50. Three quarters of suicides are men. Poor mental health leads to half a million men taking their own life every year. That’s one every minute. Our fathers, partners, brothers and friends are facing this health crisis and it’s not being talked about.
We can’t afford to stay silent.”

I can help and all it will take is a mustache? Count me in.

Movember Design by Thy Doan(image: design by Thy Doan)

For the first few years I followed the rules to a T. I shaved clean every November 1st and grew the “mo” from scratch. Since then, as I have become more motivated by the spirit of the movement and it’s purpose, I’ve become less of a stickler for the rules so I usually shave my beard down and leave however much of a ‘stache I’ve already grown. The bonus is that I’ve found a fuller mustache tends to start more conversations which leads to greater success.

After shaving, I often forget that I have a mustache until I catch myself in the mirror in the morning. I always feel like a cop or a fighter pilot (à la Goose), but really I’m just a dead ringer for my father when he was my age. No matter who or what the mustache makes me look like, I’m lucky to have a wife who puts up with my foolishness. In fact, it was the middle of my second Movember, when we first started dating. I took her agreeing to be seen in public with me as a good sign.

Movember has become a fun “remember when” time of year for us and it has been a great excuse for us to collaborate. I’m a printer with a background in graphic design and she’s a designer with a passion (and knack) for hand lettering. I like to send out a sort of “thank you” to all of my donors at the end of the month so we usually tackle that together. It helps kickstart the holiday cheer and spreads the warm fuzzies. Besides, it’s the least we can do.

I plan to put together a letterpress piece again this year, but I am broadening my goals. I usually go it alone, but this year I have been trying to put my connections to good use to build a team of letterpress printers: The Handsome Devils. The name is a nod to the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride that Movember organizes and a bit of print trivia. Historically, a “Printer’s Devil” was a person serving at or below the level of apprentice in a printing establishment.

Movember Print by George Graves and Thy Doan(image: print by George Graves & Thy Doan)

Movember advertises three ways to participate: growing a mustache, taking a movement/exercise challenge, or hosting an event. In coming years, I’m hoping this team grows into a fourth method of participation. I’m asking that each team member also be willing to print a commemorative piece as a thank you for their donors. We’re starting small this year, but in years to come I would love to see this culminate in a gallery show at the end of the month as a sort of wrap party.

Other than the fact that I’ve always gotten a kick out of trying out different beard and mustache styles, I continue to participate in Movember for two reasons. First: I grow the mo for my brothers who face battles far greater than anything I’ve experienced and do so with far greater courage than I possess. I won’t name them, because their humility is part of what I admire so much about them. Second: I’m using Movember as motivation to begin speaking more openly about my own experiences with anxiety and depression with the hope of removing the stigma for other men who might be struggling silently.

If you’d like to help me change the face of men’s health, please donate directly to my fundraising page or to The Handsome Devils' page. If I reach my goal of $1,000 Clayton and Zoard are going to rock mustaches with me for at least a week. Right guys? Right?

Perhaps even more importantly, take the leap and have the tough conversations with the men in your life. The Movember website has all the tools and information you need to fully arm yourselves for just such an effort!

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