For the month of November, I grew a mustache.
I haven’t had facial hair since the last time I grew a mustache, which was three years ago.
There’re all kinds of nuisances and annoyances of having a mustache. Those small, coarse hairs annihilate my upper lip like a band of ninjas, stabbing my face with their tiny sword-like points. And the itching…oh, how I loathe the itching. The itching is bad enough, but when I go to scratch, I get attacked again from the tiny ninja squad. Oh, the woes of manhood…
But there’s something else that’s also a bit annoying. Growing this sweet ‘stache has revealed yet again, that:
People don’t say what they think.
Having a mustache on one’s face can be quite provocative, especially when there’s not one normally there. I often do double-takes when passing a mirror, almost frightened by the image. Is that a cop from the 80’s or a criminal? A cop from the 80’s, of course.
As some of you may know, November (or Movember, as it’s called) is men’s health awareness month. It’s an opportunity to bring awareness to things like prostate and testicular cancer. And what better way to bring awareness than growing a mustache!
But here’s the problem: I don’t talk about prostate cancer or men’s health issues unless someone brings up my mustache. Not because I don’t want to, but because I often forget the mustache is even on my face!
But I’m not sure what I’ve been more bothered by: not bringing awareness to men’s health issues or people ignoring I have a mustache.
Here’s are three different responses from people this month:
#1 – Pretend it doesn’t exist.
This is by far the most popular stance.
“Oh, HEY Derek! I didn’t see you there!”
Didn’t see me? I look the same. I’m just exercising my facial-hair-follicle-freedom. I have rights, you know!
There’s always this brief pause before a friend or family member says hello or embraces me. It’s like they’re trying to figure out if what is on my upper lip is on purpose or not. I mean, if it weren’t, I’m SURE they’d try to help me out.
“Hey man, you’ve got a caterpillar crawling across your face or something…kind of looks like a mustache.”
#2 – Pretend it’s the coolest thing in the world.
“Nice work, Derek! Rockin’ the mustache…I like it.”
Don’t lie to me. Seriously. I don’t even like it. If I don’t like it, surely you don’t like it. It’s weird (at least at this stage…not-quite-full-grown-‘stache stage). If you had a daughter, you’d probably try to shield her for fear of me being a creeper.
I assure you, I’m not.
#3 – Pretend you’re my real friend and tell me the truth.
Only one person did this. While most avoided the obvious, and a few sprinkled on some mustache glory, one friend supported me with the truth.
He laughed out loud when he saw me.
I’m not talking about a giggle or snicker. No, no…those are way too gentle of words.
He belly laughed…for a good amount of time…before he could even speak. And when he did speak, he said…
“What is on your FACE?!”
Now that’s a real friend. Someone who will tell you like it is. Someone who isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings, your pride, or your manhood.
Someone who tells you the truth even when you’re trying to do something for a good cause.
Why don’t people say what they think or feel? Why do we avoid communicating what we want to say?
My theory? Lack of connection.
When you’re truly connected to someone, you’re vulnerable. But vulnerability poses a threat. When you’re vulnerable, you’re open to getting hurt. You’re intentionally leaving yourself open to possible harm.
But unless we become vulnerable, we’ll never truly feel connected. And if we’re not connected, we’ll never actually say or do what we think.
I tell my wife everything. Absolutely everything. All my victories and shortcomings are shared with her. She knows the best of me and the worst of me. And vice versa.
If I intentionally kept things from her, I would damage the connection. And of all the people I need to stay vulnerable with, it’s my spouse.
And the beautiful thing about vulnerability and connection is the freedom that results.
You can only be free when you’re willing to be vulnerable.
Yes, you’ll probably get hurt sometimes. But you’ll also experience the deepest, most meaningful relationships of your life.
So the next time you see someone growing a mustache or doing something different, don’t avoid it or pretend to like it.
Instead, ask some questions. Get some clarity. You might discover deeper connection and freedom.