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Movember and the psychology of the upper lip

Today’s men and women are bewilderingly well informed on matters of sex, relationships and fashion. But our ‘literature’ is silent on the subject of character. Indeed the very notion of character seems to have shifted from something everybody had, for better or worse, to a questionable distinction to be hushed-up wherever possible.

At least for most of the year, until faces begin to sprout the first tell-tale signs of Movember and character is celebrated once more. For every upper lip concealed, Movember reveals much about modern man, testing him in ways he is seldom tested in these times of peace of comfort.

Consider… what trials await the man who can affect naught but the merest wisp of growth upon his lip? Or the man destined by fate to appear ridiculous in all manner of moustache?  Watch carefully the way in which he endures the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. And what of the man who gives up, placing the pristinity of his own upper lip above all things? Is such a man to be trusted?

For those worthy souls who persist, raising funds for men’s health, further clues to character can be seen in the moustaches they fashion. Consider the man who settles in early November with a simple style which he maintains without fuss for the duration. Compare, if you will, the man who delights in bizarre experimentation? And what can tactfully be said of the narcissistic groomer, who just can’t leave the thing alone. Oh yes, it is a month for observation.

Movember ought to be considered a standard test for modern relationships. The master himself tackles this weighty issue in Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit:

…I saw, as I had foreseen would happen, that his gaze was riveted on the upper slopes of my mouth. It was a cold, disapproving gaze, such as a fastidious luncher who was not fond of caterpillars might have directed at one which he had discovered in his portion of salad, and I knew that the clash of wills for which I had been bracing myself was about to raise its ugly head.

Wodehouse cleverly employs the moustaches of Bertie Wooster and Stilton Cheeswright to symbolise the futility of struggling against a partner’s iron will. A man prepared to tailor his face to your specifications is barely man at all. Put the endearing little chap back where you found him, before his mother discovers he is missing.

During Movember however, my advice to ‘Mo Sistas’  and other partners is to resist the urge to criticise. There’ll be time enough for that later. Invest now in careful observation, before it’s too late to turn back. I’ve spent ten years with a man whose chin I’ve never seen. Even now it lies waiting to be revealed, like Dorian Gray’s portrait.

So look to your Movember man for glimpses of character. Does the moustache become him, or overwhelm him? Is he enjoying the hair and attention? Or slinking in the shadows? It’s not really about the moustache, after all. Character is everything. In Wodehouse’s world, a man can have a crooked face and a  cauliflower ear, yet reign supreme. Just as it should be.

But the last words on the subject, I leave to Bertie and Jeeves.

‘You hurt and disappoint me, Jeeves,’ I said, sipping a couple of sips and getting suaver all the time. ‘I could understand your attitude if the object under advisement were something bushy and waxed at the ends like a sergeant-major’s, but it is merely the delicate wisp of vegetation with which David Niven has for years been winning the applause of millions. When you see David Niven on the screen, you don’t recoil in horror, do you?’

‘No, sir. His moustache is very becoming to Mr Niven.’

‘But mine isn’t to me?’

‘No, sir.’

***Support Movember 2013***

This Movember, I’m supporting my good friend Jeremy Groffen. You can make a donation at his Mo Space

HP

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10 Comments

  1. Janiece Pope says:

    Fabulous piece, J. I had never though of it from that perspective. And i love how you worked Wodehouse in!

    Be careful re D’s beard: i know someone whose partner shaved off his beard after many years, only to reveal a weak chin, and it was all over.

    Oh and you may enjoy this: http://luvandhat.tumblr.com/post/12636454313/movember

  2. It is interesting to see all the men on my campus grow out their facial hair in November. I get to see beards of all shapes and sizes. Many men, at least that I am friends with, cannot grow a “lumberjack beard” or grow facial hair quickly. However, I also see guys who can grow a beard in two days, it is crazy. No shave November!

  3. honoria plum says:

    Reblogged this on Strong remarks from the Bar and commented:

    M for Movember! I’m reblogging this piece I wrote in 2011 at my Wodehouse page, Plumtopia. Apologies for the reblog – due to the pressures of completing my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo novel by 30 November. Only 40,000 words to go!

  4. honoria plum says:

    This year I’m supporting my good friend Jeremy Groffen. Here’s his Mo Space: http://au.movember.com/mospace/7551793

  5. […] Wodehouse on the moustache, revisit one of my first posts at Plumtopia: Movember, and the psychology of the upper lip. […]

  6. ashokbhatia says:

    Marvellous. Out of Bollywood, we have a flick by the name “Gol Maal’. A business tycoon believes that a fungal growth on the upper lip is a sure sign of an exemplary character. When the jobless hero puts on a fake one to get employed under him and also falls in love with the tycoon’s daughter in his sans-fungus (original) version, much hilarity ensues.

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