My reasons for skipping the Movember party this year are various. I did it for the previous three consecutive years, and that seems a magic enough number to stick on. Each year, I asked more or less the same people for money (apparently I make few new friends) and I’m starting to feel like a tax collector – albeit an extraordinarily dashing and manly one.
Each year that I’ve done Movember, I’ve upped the ante to keep things interesting. Without a bigger budget, a film crew and the whole month off work, I’m not sure where else to go with it. In 2011, I just took a picture every day for the information and amusement of people I knew. In 2012 I took a picture each day involving a Movember theme: Mona Lisa, Mohemian Rhapsody, the Littlest MoBro etc.
Then last year I reached new heights in back-rod making by deciding to write a Movember and men’s health related blog entry 26 out of the 30 days in the month, each with a relevant picture, to span an entire thematic A to Z. If you can be bothered to read it, it’s all down there below this entry. You know how fast the internet moves these days though, I bet it already seems embarrassingly dated. So 2013.
But as I sit here, one year on (well ok, eleven months on), wisely stroking the light beard that I have grown for non-fundraising reasons, it seems a good time to see if anything’s changed. Did my blog have any impact on anything? Anyone? Anywhere? And, to stop thinking about myself for a minute, is Movember changing anyone’s behaviour, other than their shaving habits?
Blog = slog
I won’t lie: the blog was hard work. There’s no way I could have done it without fairly meticulous planning during October of the same year. Some happy accidents along the way helped, such as the monthly meeting of the Handlebar Moustache Club falling on the 8th (AKA the Hth) of the month. There were certainly times where I was feeling the pressure, and some entries I’m more proud of than others (L is for London? D is for Desperate).
I think I gained more, though, than just getting the words on the page in a timely manner. I bulked up many of the posts with additional research, and although I have now forgotten most of the facts I looked up, I’m sure the overall message stayed with me, i.e. “Don’t be so damned cavalier wiv yer ‘elf boy”, or possibly just “WOTCHIT, SON, it could ‘appen to you too”. I’m not sure why the message is so threatening and cockney, but I’d advise you to listen, if you know what’s good for you.
Touched for the very third time
If having an influence on others is too much to ask, at least I’m still boss of myself. So as well as subjecting my upper lip to itchy hairiness and my wakeful mind to incessant worry about what was going in the next blog entry, I went to my local GP to have my testicles expertly prodded (on the Gth of Movember). This led to a further ultrasound several weeks later, and, happily, an all-clear on any serious problems.
It didn’t stop there though. Here’s a lazy Bridget Jones pastiche to detail the health-check achievements since the end of November 2013:
- GP visits – 0
- Physio/massage visits – 1
- STI checkups – 1 (maybe this is too much information?)
- Testicular self-assessments – approx 3 (this is definitely too much information)
- PSA tests – 0 (but I’m a bit young for that sort of thing)
The one blot on my record is that I have not done the testicle thing as often as I might have. However, I remember how to do it (being taught how was one of the important gains from last year) and I’m going to correct the infrequency right now. Unbeknown to you, between that full stop and the word “Unbeknown”, I put a little reminder in my phone.
I am now, I think, more likely than I was to take my health seriously, and to talk about health issues. There’s still work to do, though. In writing this today, I’ve had to decide whether to use euphemisms or not (did I check my testicles, or my “bits”?). I’m pleased that I haven’t used euphemisms, but I think it’s not just me who feels the reticence. Privates are private, much of the time. I have just started working with a clinical trials involving people with testis cancer, so I’m going to have to get used to it, one way or another.
We mean you
In writing the blog, I hoped to challenge not just my own attitudes, but those of people around me.
The challenge to some was indirect. Each blog entry was (shamelessly) linked on Facebook, and I would talk to people I saw out in the real world about the whole project and the thinking behind it – always in an unpushy way, you understand. That potential audience might not have decided to click the link, however, or listen to what I was saying.
To certain other people, my approach was more direct. I went for lunch with my father (on the Fth of Movember), and more or less ambushed him with some tricky questions about, amongst other things, how recently he’d had a finger up his bum. By the end of the month I think I’d convinced him to get a health check of some sort, but he’s not so bad at doing that anyway. I did a similar thing to my brother (Bth of Movember), and hopefully got him thinking too.
I may have had some small influence, therefore, on the men closest to me, i.e. my dad and my brother. I know at least that my dad has had a fairly thorough health check in 2014, but he still won’t confirm if he’s had a finger up his bum. I’ll keep probing (as it were).
The bigger picture
I’d love to be corrected on this, but I don’t think I can claim that my blogging had any influence on anyone else. Fair enough. I mean, I was only copying and pasting things from Wikipedia anyway. However, I’d like to think that it has been a small part of a bigger shift. I notice that at least one Movember participant, my cousin, is this year doing his health awareness bit as well as growing the tache: he’s posting health tips every day with his daily pic. Good lad!
Movember has always been about not just raising money, but also raising awareness of men’s health. I reckon one of these two objectives is easier than the other. People have fun growing their taches – I know I have – and money flows, especially in a country like the UK, where there is a strong culture of charity giving.
But how many of those who take part use the opportunity or think and talk more about men’s health? In all the chat and banter between participants, how often does #movember and #menshealth actually end up as #justgotchecked? I don’t know the answer, but I suspect it could be more than it is.
Maybe Movember will tail off in a few years, or maybe it will stay with us for longer, but we must hope for a time when the issues it aims to address don’t burn like they do now. A time when men feel freer to talk to others about their health problems, without conflating them with strange ideas about weakness; when boys, as they grow and learn, receive better guidance from all those who guide them about how to look after themselves; and when this positive message has legs to spread without resistance to future generations. When looking after yourself is just…what you do.
When was the last time you checked yourself, anyway? Don’t mean to bust your balls, but better I do it than something worse does!