Reflections on my mediocre “No Shave November”

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Reflections on my mediocre “No Shave November”

Artwork by Jenny Lu.

Artwork by Jenny Lu.

Artwork by Jenny Lu.

By Matthew van Bastelaer

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November was tough. Despite having very little skill at growing facial hair, I decided to embark on “No Shave November.” For 30 days, I didn’t shave, persevering through constant shaming and mockery from my peers, refusing to give in. Now having completed the challenge, I can say it was both a confidence booster and destroyer.

In 2004, 30 men in Melbourne, Australia started the Movember (“Mustache November,” the predecessor of the current “No Shave November”) Foundation. Each grew a mustache for 30 days to raise awareness about men’s health issues. By encouraging men to grow goofy-looking facial hair for a month, they hoped to start conversation about prostate cancer, testicular cancer and male suicide. By 2030, the organization hopes to reduce the number of men dying prematurely of cancer and suicide by 25 percent.

I decided to partake in “No Shave November” to raise awareness for these issues; although, I’ll admit I also wanted to see if I could withstand looking disheveled for a month without caving into the razor.

Week one went by easily. My facial hair doesn’t grow fast at all, so the slight stubble that accumulated was nothing out of the ordinary.

By week two, the hairs started to visibly emerge. The change sparked a comment or two from those who knew me best, but still largely went unnoticed. Over the weekend, I realized that I couldn’t fly under the radar anymore. In preparation for the haters, I used my headphones more often in the hallways to avoid hearing the imaginary mocking of all that walked by.

Week three was when I really started to get feedback. It’d been 15 days, and I finally received the first comment from a classmate. Someone in my English class noticed the hair growing—but he didn’t seem impressed. When I told him that I was trying to do “No Shave November,” he said, “Oh. That’s all you have so far?” Now, I’m not one to take things personally, but I was hurt. He’d shaved only four days before and already had a decent five o’clock shadow. My patches of whisker paled in comparison.

On day 16, my mom noticed. I was worried that she’d make me shave before Thanksgiving, but she respected my right to a beard (or whatever you would call the disparate sprouts of hair springing up around my face). Still, over the next few days, she’d make little, offhand comments, like calling me “Fuzzy Face,” even though my face was by no means fuzzy.

On day 18, my brother came home from college for Thanksgiving. A few days prior, he’d mentioned that one of our mutual friends needed a shave, so I decided to mention my participation in the event.

Me: “Maybe he’s going for No Shave November—like me.”

Brother: “You are not.”

Me: “Indeed I am.”

After an in-person investigation, his only reaction was a disappointed shake of the head.

At the Thanksgiving table, he shouted across the room, asking what those at my end of the table thought of my patchy mess, hoping to embarrass me. Having seen the progress at school everyday, all one friend could muster was “Let’s just say I’m anxiously awaiting December 1st.”

The only person who thought I looked good throughout the month was my dad (thanks pops). Since he’s my facial hair role model, his input was the only one I truly paid attention to.

By the last few days, I acknowledged that the growth was unsightly, but I had gotten too close to the end to succumb to the wonders of the Gillette Fusion5 Proglide (not sponsored). When I finally reached December, I felt a sense of relief and accomplishment for not giving in to the general public’s disgust. At times, I felt stubborn for not shaving, but the conversations that I started (“Matt, you need to shave.” “Okay, but first let me tell you about men’s health…”) were more valuable than many of my usual day-to-day discussions. I’d gone a full month devolving into a Wolverine-esque look, while still starting conversations about issues pertinent to half of the globe’s population.

As my musical role model Hillary Duff said in her aptly-titled 2004 song “Haters,” “haters, traitors to the human race.” These traitors didn’t get to me, and frankly, I’m proud that I lasted the full month for a good cause.


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