Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Perhaps beard hair looks like pubic hair to remind us that we have balls.

An ode to No-Shave November.
(Well, not really an ode. More of a meditation.)

What is it about No-Shave November that so excites and fascinates men? Is it the explorer's thrill of discovering what new, previously unseen things will show up on our faces this year? Is it the joy of the lazy man given a completely legitimate excuse to slack? Or is it something deeper; something more primal?

My father lives in a cabin in the woods, and whenever I visit him I can't leave before I've completed my ritual. I walk out into the forest; find a nice, healthy tree (no scrawny saplings or standing deadwood please!); and piss on it. Why do I do this? I could speculate as to the act's connection to human origins and the territorial behaviors of certain animals, and this is likely at the root of the issue, but the simple truth - the only thing that really matters to me when I'm doing it - is that when I piss on a tree I feel like a man.

I never met a woman who understood Fight Club. I overheard a group of women talking about it in the cafeteria at work. "What level of intelligence does it take to want to spend your Saturday night getting beat up?" seemed to be the general consensus. It baffled them that an actual fight club had recently been broken up by police in a nearby town. This they chalked up to the mental acuity (or lack thereof) of the area's residents. What else could possibly explain such behavior? Like I said, I never met a woman who understood it. I never met a man who didn't.

What you see at fight club is a generation of men raised by women. - from Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk

This is one of my favorite quotes, because it cuts straight to the heart of the plight of the American male. It certainly describes my life.

I don't have anything against women. Let me make that perfectly clear. Women have gotten the shaft (both figuratively and literally) for the whole of human history. Black people suffered in slavery at the hands of whites for a few hundred years, and nobody is surprised when they have bitterness and anger towards them. Women have suffered at the hands of men for as long as there have been women. Are we really going to pretend that they're not a little pissed about it? Don't they deserve to be?

Again I say, I don't have anything against women. I have been on the receiving end of women's frustrations with men - God knows, I have been the cause of those frustrations more times than I'd care to admit - but I can't bring myself to hold it against them. They've earned their anger. They've earned their bitterness. So I'm not trying to say that there is something wrong with women. What I'm saying is, is it any surprise that, in an age where men hurt women and then leave their sons to be raised by them, the women try to raise the boys to not be like their fathers? Is it any surprise that, even though they've grown up, these boys still don't feel like men?

That's what No-Shave November is about. You'll notice I capitalize it. That's because for me - for many men - it's not just an excuse not to shave; it's a holiday at least equal to Memorial Day. A day to honor our lost masculinity.

One more quote, this from Chuck Palahniuk's introduction to the 2004 edition of Fight Club:

In the mountains of Bolivia... every year, the poorest people gather in high Andes villages to celebrate the festival of "Tinku."
There, the
campesino men beat the crap out of one another. Drunk and bloody, they pound one another with just their bare fists, chanting, "We are men. We are men. We are men..."

I'd be willing to bet that before "Tinku" the men don't shave.