Thursday, March 29, 2007

Week 1, Day 1, ZERO HOUR

When I was in third grade, a classmate of mine named Terri Claxton* plucked each and every eyelash from her face. I don’t know what compelled her to do this, nor do I know where her parents were as she did so (I mean, didn’t they hear the screams??) What I do know is this:

They never grew back.

I can’t speak to the biology of this. Perhaps Terri was unique in this regard (she was unique in many ways), or perhaps we simply get one set of eyelashes and that’s that. I don’t know, but what matters is that from that day forward, people were ill at ease in her presence. They rarely understood why.

It was the hair. Or lack thereof. A face without eyelashes is a disconcerting sight. It is not, however, something that you’re immediately able to process while in a social setting. Your brain knows that there’s something odd about the person you’re speaking with, but social decorum prevents you from staring at them long enough to figure out exactly what it is.

Walking into the side room of Arbor Brewing Company on Monday evening was like walking into a room full of Terri Claxtons: All of the men in the room were slightly too hairless. It was late in the evening, so even the guys who make it a point to shave daily should have been showing at least a little stubble. Instead, every upper lip in the place was smooth and glistening, primed and ready for what was to come. It was WEEK ONE, DAY ONE, MINUTE ONE of the first ever 826michigan Mustache-A-Thon, and we had gathered to kick it off in style.

I must admit, I was nervous. I’m a slightly-less-than-manly fellow, and I had expected this event to be rife with trash-talk and chest-thumping. It’s such a distinctly masculine idea: grow as much hair on your face as possible in a limited amount of time. Perhaps we could have slam dunking competition as well? Or maybe some light, bare-knuckle boxing in between manly beers? Anything to keep the testosterone levels up! Friends, I sometimes curtsy instead of bowing. I pee sitting down. This was not my world.

So imagine my relief as I surveyed the room that first night! There was no boasting, no posturing, no sports trivia. Instead, the participants seemed to exude a somber, contemplative vibe of quiet dread. As we received our Mustache-Grower Information Packets and had photographs taken of our hairless lips, the whole affair felt more and more like a dare taken too far, a bluff that had been tragically called. I had the following unspoken conversations with many growers, all discreetly carried out through eye movements:

::We’re not really doing this, right?::

::Is it too late to back out?::

::Who’s going to chicken out first, so we can follow their cowardly lead??::

::Can we at least score a couple more free drink tickets??::

Irony: By the end of the evening, all trace of anything approaching machismo had long since left the room, leaving us to bare our souls to one another:

“I can’t grow hair here or here. My mustache is going to have patches. I’ll going to look like a fool.”

“My hair is blonde. You’re not going to be able to tell that I’m even growing anything for weeks.”

“Easter is coming up. Seeing me like this is going to make my mother cry.”

Seriously, there’s got to be a way to get a few more drink tickets…”

The 826michigan Ladies Auxiliary were in better spirits. Program Director Amy Sumerton went so far as to convince a few already-mustachioed fellows to shave their lips and start again. A mustache grown for personal reasons, she reasoned, is an act of hedonism, selfish and vain. But a mustache grown for charity? That, friends, is pure, unkempt altruism. Amy believed this with such conviction that she took it upon herself to shave their faces for them, shearing them like a shepherd in spring.

Less creepy was a rare and delightful appearance by original 826michigan superintern Diana "DK" Kimball. She dropped by to wish us well, and helped launch our mustaches in the traditional manner by smashing a bottle of Champagne across our upper lips. She sent six of us to the hospital that night, drenched in fine wine and good luck. It was an evening to remember for all involved.

Who knows what will happen next week? We’ll be meeting each Monday at Arbor Brewing Company for camaraderie and photographs. Do consider dropping by! We gather at 8:26 PM. (Get it? GET IT??) Look for the room filled with what seems to be a group of junior high school boys, complete with soft, peach fuzz mustaches.

(FOOTNOTE: *Not her real name, now that she’s married to Jeremy Wegman.) Read more!