It’s that time of year again when men everywhere start synchronously sprouting hair along their upper lips, all in a good cause, and it has reminded me of something which really annoys me when watching zombie apocalypse films. The same issue also arises in The Walking Dead. So what is it that gets on my goat, and what on Earth does it have to do with Movember?
Well, it’s facial hair. Somehow in amongst all the melee and confusion, men within these zombie apocalypse stories somehow manage to remain almost universally beard free. At best, they, like Rick in The Walking Dead, grow a bit of designer stubble, but nothing more. It seems they manage to have an unlimited supply of all the accoutrements required to keep male facial hair at bay: razors, shaving foam, electric trimmers and shapers, and so on. Even if they somehow managed to keep themselves well-stocked with all that’s required, there’s the issue of getting the warm water needed to use them. As a rather hirsute man myself, I can tell you that shaving with cold water is, at best, a painful experience and, at worst, a rather bloody affair.
I first learned this when I was twenty and spent a month on a yacht in the waters off Labrador on the east coast of Canada chasing humpback whales round icebergs. Don’t worry, the aim wasn’t to hurt them, but to photograph the unique pattern each individual has on the underside of its tail so we could tell who was who and to use a crossbow to collect a small skin sample from their backs for genetic analysis. The yacht we were on was very much a working boat and fuel was sufficiently limited that warm water was viewed as a luxury, so was fresh water. As a result, bathing and shaving were done using buckets of water plucked directly from the sea. Within days, I learned that shaving and ice-cold, salty water do not mix and it quickly disappeared from my daily routine. The result was a surprisingly full and rather fetching beard which has remained within me, in various guises, ever since.
From this experience, I can tell you that regular shaving will be one of the first casualties of a zombie apocalypse and any man of sufficient age will quickly start to develop facial hair. The exact extent will vary from person to person, with some being full and luxurious and others being little better than patches of peach fuzz, but you cannot escape the fact that facial hair will be a feature of almost any post-apocalyptic world.
If you wonder how long it would take for facial hair to start making an appearance, simply find the man nearest to you whose participating in Movember, and watch the whiskers appear as the month progresses. Now, I know some of you might not be aware of what Movember is, so to give you an idea, it’s a challenge where normally fresh-faced men (and a few very brave women) stop shaving their upper lip for the month of November.
This is done to raise awareness of men’s health and, in particular, male cancers. This is a cause I very much support, and I’d participate if it wasn’t for the rule which says you have to start the month clean-shaven. The last time I chose to shave my beard off was when, early in our relationship, my girlfriend urged me to get rid of it so she could see what I looked like underneath. The response from all around me was immediate and unanimous: grow it back as quickly as possible (the six year old daughter of my best friend pretty much burst into tears and told me she didn’t like what I’d done).
Anyway, the crux of the matter is this: when they stop shaving, men grow facial hair surprisingly quickly, and when men stop having easy access to hot water to shave, most will give up shaving pretty much immediately. So it’s a simple fact of male biology that zombie apocalypses will be populated by hairy-faced men and not clean-shaven ones, and this won’t simply be trendy designer stubble, but full on facial fuzz. Frustratingly few portrayals of zombie apocalypses reflect this, what some might consider, ugly little fact and it breaks the illusion that it could be real. It’s a small thing, and you could rightly accuse me of being pedantic, but gets to me every time I notice it.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.