Movember is the month formerly known as November where men (and women) raise awareness and funds for men's health programs that combat prostate and testicular cancer. We grow a mustache (a "Mo") for 30 days with the help of our supporters ("Mo Bros" and "Mo Sistas"), essentially being walking and talking ambassadors for the cause. It started 10 years ago in Australia, and now millions across the globe now participate. In the United States alone, over 200,000 Mo's raised $21 million in 2012.
Becoming 40 (as I did a few months ago) is, to paraphrase Southern California Pastor Larry Osborne, "like having dinner at Denny's. You don't plan to go there; you just end up there." And whether we planned for it or not, the milestone has a clarifying effect on what it truly important and imbues us with a sense of humor and dash of optimism for the remaining miles on the journey. It also served as a reminder to me that both my grandfather and father were diagnosed with prostate cancer just a few years from where I am, ultimately claiming the life of my namesake much too early.
Pop culture and American history is full of what I call "The Follicled." From local yore there is the Californio bandido Tiburcio Vasquez whose name adorns the rocks seen in such movies as the original Planet of the Apes. Pachyderm party people also remind us that America's first Republican presidential candidate, John Fremont, was an oft-seen visitor to the area and sported a healthy beard. Starting the same year he lost that national contest in 1856, California governors embarked on a six decade binge of facial hair from the full beard to a more modest Burt Reynolds-type mustache. (Purists might say that Henry Gage is the exception but while his official portrait was done sans 'stache, Van Dyke or Howie Mandel-esque Soul Patch, his 1899 campaign materials certainly included a Magnum P.I.-worthy Mo.) It would not be until 1907 under Governor James Gillett -- a Republican from Oakland -- that the spell would be broken.
The "Mutton Chops Mo" grown for this Movember is inspired by some of the Golden State's legendary characters as well as infused with a little Wolverine and the granddaddy of mutton chops (and muse for what we call "sideburns" today) himself, Ambrose Burnside. The evolution of this Mo will be documented online for all of the world to see. You can also join the movement by growing your own. Perhaps try channeling your inner Sam Elliot, President Chester Arthur or go all the way back to the forest of follicles that was Stephen Clark Foster, Los Angeles' first American mayor.
Have some fun. It is for a good cause. And remember, "Excited we Grow. United we Mo."
A version of this is appearing in the SCV Beacon. Ed can be seen throughout the great L.A. area sporting his "Mutton Chops Mo" for Movember.