A group of my friends and I were eating lunch on a mid-October day when I mentioned that we were rapidly approaching “Movember.” I have a reputation of being a prankster and making up random facts about history, so everyone quickly wrote me off. Later that day I sent them a link to the Movember website. The only problem is that mustaches are not held in high regard in the Air Force or Army; I am not sure about the Navy, but I don’t think anyone really is sure about the Navy. We agreed that we would all grow mustaches even if it meant dealing with prejudice in the form of supervisors harasing us about being out of regulation.
It was an instant success, with local Pakistanis and throughout the U.S. Embassy (at least at our level). In fact I think it actually boosted productivity. One of the participants G-Money (not his real name) stated that he actually looked forward to coming to work for once so he could see the progress. He then stated “Movember is the best idea we have had.” He even mentioned the utility of the mustache; it is something to fiddle with during long meetings. People I barely knew would say things like “hey, nice Movember” or “You are very handsome” (which was definitely due to the mustache, since I am not normally handsome).
I finally got my computer back from HP and went online to skype. Vance could hardly contain himself, he laughed and asked if I bought my "mushmash" or if I grew it. Which is a legitimate question in the region of the world where the fake mustache is an integral part of Bollywood.
One of the best highlights of Movember was the day that Billy (not his real name) was walking through the security check point. It is manned by Pakistani guards, many of who speak broken English. “Billy” was walking through the checkpoint when he noticed an article of interest in a newspaper sitting on a counter top. He stopped briefly to read it. He was suddenly drawn out of the article; he thought he heard someone say “Movember.” It was early in the morning and he knew he was the only American in the room. He turned around and the guard, who could barely speak English, was smiling and others were laughing at the new addition to his vocabulary. “Billy” even kept his through the middle of December so he could show his wife during Rest and Recuperation leave. Though I believe he had to dry shave in the airport as soon as she saw it.
The best thing about being in an organization that frowns upon facial hair is that it is obvious and leads to a very important question, “WHY?” Especially when we are clearly in violation of grooming standards (a mustache cannot extend past the corners of the mouth). This no doubt opened the door for the real message, cancer awareness. Many of the local Pakistanis we interact with regularly took notice and always commented on our mustaches (it is a cultural thing) and frequently would ask the question, which got the same explanation, awareness.
Although we had to keep them as close to tolerance as possible, in the end it boosted moral and awareness as we slug away through a year of monotony and frustration.