The first time I heard about the Movember Foundation was when my sister sent me an article about a group of guys in Australia who were growing lip-lawns for charity. And, when I finished reading it, I had some very mixed emotions. To me, the mustache was something sacred. It was quite literally a birthright. My father, multiple uncles, my grandfather, a few unfortunate (or fortunate) post-menopausal great aunts - all of them had successfully cultivated the thick and burly ribbon of facial hair that has affectionately become known as a 'Mo.
While to the untrained eye I may look naturally hirsute, my ability to grow a proper 'stache eluded me until I was almost 30 years old. Then one day, it happened. It popped. If you've grown, you know what I mean. One evening you go to sleep with an anemic patch of weeds, the next morning you wake up with a robust thicket. It was like a second Bar Mitzvah. On that day, I was truly a man. And on the day that I read the article about Movember, I had no interest in seeing the emblem of my manhood--the centerpiece of my family totem--as a campaign tool, no matter how benevolent it might be.
But the world works in mysterious ways. A few years later, my dad died of cancer and Movember had moved its headquarters down the street from my apartment in Venice Beach. As I looked to honor my dad's legacy as a health professional, I started workshopping concepts for a fundraiser with some of my friends, a few of whom had recently gotten involved with Movember. By this point, I'd grown a tad less protective of the mustache and when asked if I'd want to combine my event with Movember, my response was "of course!" By that point, I had learned that Movember isn't just about facial hair and medical research, it's about creating community, promoting dialogue, and changing the culture of male macho stoicism that causes men to avoid regular health checks and shy away from open discussions about our prostates and our testicles.
As I've grown as a person, Movember has grown with me. In 2015, I lost my best friend to brain cancer, I became broke and unemployed, and I found myself witnessing my mother as she slowly lost herself to Alzheimer's. Suddenly the mustache and the good times weren't as high on my priority list as they were in the past. I couldn't help but wonder, "what's Movember been doing these last years?" It's been using its tremendous resources to expand its mission to include mental health as a priority initiative. I'll be showing my mustache this Movember and supporting the movement as it works to improve mental health and to build a culture that allows men to feel "manly" as they become more transparent, empathetic, and compassionate, which, it turns out, is a beautiful thing!
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the #GivingTuesday Team at 92nd Street Y, to celebrate #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement, and the series (which will feature content throughout November) aims to celebrate how people are giving back around the world. For more information about #GivingTuesday, visit here. And to join the conversation on social media, use the hashtag #GivingTuesday.