Tag Archives: Facial Hair

Of Movember And Zombie Apocalypses

11 Nov

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.

Why I Hate Movember…And It’s Not Because I Don’t Like Moustaches

4 Nov

Movember is here again, and I hate it.  For those of you who don’t know what Movember is, it’s the challenge for men who do not usually sport one to grow a moustache during November to help raise money for men’s health charities. Why do I hate it?  It’s not because I’m too miserly to give to charity (I’ll happily give), or because I don’t approve of the cause it raises money for (it’s a great cause), or because I don’t like wacky money-raising ideas (I think they’re great). Instead, it’s something more personal.

I have prosopagnosia, a condition also known as face blindness.  The chances are you have never heard of it, and even though I have it, I only I found out it existed a couple of years ago. It is a weird condition that can sometimes stretch peoples’ credulity to the limits and it means that I don’t recognise or remember faces.  I’m fine with everything else, it’s just faces I have a problem with. It seems I’ve had it since I was born (as do about 1% of the population), so to me it’s normal not to recognise people by their faces.  In fact, I’m so used to it that it wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I discovered that this wasn’t what everyone did. At that point, I had myself tested for prosopagnosia (I turned out to be at the moderate to severe end of the spectrum).  Suddenly, a lot of things in my life fell into place.

I struggle with films, especially when the lead characters change how they look (such as dyeing their hair or changing its style), and if I meet people I know out of context, I won’t recognise them.  An example of this occurred a few years ago (before I knew about face blindness), I was asked to pick up a friend’s daughter from school. She was five or six at the time and while I’d known her since she was about eighteen months old, I’d never seen her in her school uniform.  When the end of the day came, I sat outside the school and was faced with a hundred little people running out towards me, all dressed pretty much identically. I was suddenly struck by the terrifying realisation that I couldn’t tell which of them I was meant to be picking up. Luckily she recognised me or it could have got very awkward.

Once I found out I had prosopagnosia, I mentioned it to my brother. He wasn’t surprised. Over the years, he’d repeatedly seen the blank look on my face when I met people who I should clearly have known. My best friend, who I’d known for twenty years, dismisses it as me just not putting in the effort, and I can’t really blame him. It just sounds so bizarre to say that you cannot do something that everyone else around you takes for granted. My girlfriend is very supportive and puts up with me leaning over and asking in a hushed tone who people are, whether they are ones in our social circle or actors in movies (and it can be several times for the same character in the same movie!). She also has to put up with the fact that I can’t always pick her out of a crowd if I don’t remember what clothes she’s wearing on a particular day.

There’s another side to this though. I now realise I tend to primarily recognise people by their hairstyles and I’ll confuse very different people who wear their hair in a similar way. There have been several times when I have been confidently speaking to someone who I thought was one person only to work out from what they’re saying that they a completely different person. As yet, I’ve never put my foot in it too badly when I’ve done this (or at least not as far as I know), but I’m sure one day I will.

Each day I’m faced with people who I don’t recognise when I should, and others who I think I might know when I don’t (because they have similar hairstyles or facial hair to people I do know). My strategy to avoid offending people is to smile and nod at pretty much everyone, just in case.  If it’s someone I know, they won’t be offended.  If it’s not, they’ll just think I’m being friendly (hopefully).

So where does Movember fit into all this?  Well, because of Movember, at this time each year, people start sprouting all sorts of weird and wonderful facial hair. It’s great for the cause they’re raising money for, but is a nightmare for me because it means I’ll no longer recognise them. And it’s not just other people. When I first grew a beard, it took about three years before I could recognise myself if I unexpectedly caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. So, if you know me and you’re participating in Movember, I’ll applaud (or laugh!) at your effort, I’ll give you money for the cause, just don’t get offended if you pass me in the street and I ignore you.  It’s just with that new moustache, I won’t recognise you any more.

For more about Movember, visit: http://uk.movember.com/about or https://www.movember.com/

For more about prosopagnosia, visit: https://www.faceblind.org/research/index.html

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 the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.