Move On, MOvember
Article for GCN / The Outmost, November 2014
I’m laying in a hospital/clinic bed at the moment; my preoccupation vacillating between my hot German nurse and the feeling that all my ribs have been broken, that I’ve been sucker-punched in the gut, that ten-inch nails [even worse than nine-inch] have been driven into my armpits, that an entire volume of encyclopedias has been stacked on my chest. This is The Second-Most-Physically-Painful Thing I have ever experienced.
Now, occasionally, during a bar argument on one topic or another, the claim will be made [and not always by a woman], “Well, you know, women are actually stronger than men.” At which most of the Manly Men will scoff, and begin an endless volley of anecdotal proof to the contrary that usually involves lifting heavy things. What is being referred to, though, is pain tolerance- the ability to endure.
As a boy I experienced all the pain that comes with running marathons and ultra-marathon distances; military competitions that included a run with a 50-pound backpack and an M-16; I’ve crashed bikes, motorcycles, car, trucks and horses; I have burnt myself with fire and I have burnt myself with acid; I have inadvertently cut, abraded or lacerated almost every inch of my body, and have stitched some of them up myself; I’ve had tetanus, tattoos, heat exhaustion and near-hypothermia; cracked ribs and concussions, cauliflower ear, bloody knuckles, lost fingernails and just about anything else that comes with the territory of being a Manly Man. Until this year, I honestly don’t remember ever crying from physical pain. Not even now, during this, The Second-Most-Physically-Painful Thing I have ever experienced: a tit job. The First-Most-Physically-Painful Thing I have ever experienced?
Laser hair removal.
And I cried so hard laying on that clinic bed that I had mascara pooling in my ear holes.
How is it that the two most painful things I’ve ever experienced are things that women –hell, even little teenage girls at this point- get done every day, and yet you never, never hear about how goddamn painful they are? It’s all smiles in the glossy ads; ah sure, it’s like a puff of air on your face or a slight discomfort or some other line of total. bull. shit. It hurts.
Now, granted- with biologically male hair density on my face I had more follicles for the laser to target and so the heat [that searing, focused, ridiculously localized heat- it’s a frickin’ laser, man!] was a bit more severe; the second and third sessions hurt less-so. But still. Ouch. And, by the way, Ouch for wearing heels all night, Ouch for tight clothing, Ouch for waxing, Ouch for evil depilatory machines [and I’m not even touching childbirth]. And it all goes on under the radar, every day, casually, unmentioned. And then on top of that is the yoga, the running, the whatever-else is undertaken in the name of beauty. And then, when it comes to that inevitable time of the year when all the charity and awareness campaigns start up, what do women do? They go run a race.
And what do guys do? They grow a fucking mustache. Oh, apologies, moustache– we have to keep the “o” in there so that “MO-vember” makes at least an iota of sense.
The average contemporary women undergoes feats of resilience and endurance that would break the hardest political prisoner and would be hastily re-defined as “enhanced interrogation techniques” by governments, with nary a mention or acknowledgement- in fact, the entire point is that it is invisible, to pretend that all this pretty packaging just happened naturally. And, hopefully, maybe, we feel good about ourselves, or someone comments about how nice you look that day, or at the very least, some drunk douchebag at the bar that night doesn’t say something insensitive and horrible that night.
But when guys get in on the Peacockery, holy shit, look out! It’s an entire effing month of fur-themed festivities; it’s moustaches printed on t-shirts, mounted on bicycles, and hanging plasticly from sunglasses; whole barber shops erected in art galleries. And even the skinniest specimen of hipster, who never endured more than the wait for his double latte or dole cheque, is suddenly a handlebar superstar, a fu-manchu macho man, or whatever ridiculous face-pube sculpting styles we can list here [and I am reminded of a comment Bianca Casady made when I interviewed her recently, about the visibility and invisibility of male and female personas]. The pageantry surrounding what amounts to letting nature takes it course! And everybody eats that shit up, guys and girls alike. Not once during a recent November have I ever heard anyone in person at an event, in conversation, actually talk about prostrate cancer, or ball cancer or dick cancer, or whatever cancer it is supposed to be in awareness of… see? I don’t even know.
But, look. I get it. We need our awareness events, particularly because there’s nothing else occupying the social psyche during November [as a nation, you could just import Thanksgiving you know…it has the added benefit of creating a buffer in between Halloween tat and crimbo tat in the storefronts]. But surely at some point moustaches must go the way of big black nonprescription glasses and- what was it before that? Plaid? Braces? Anyways, point is, if we’re supposed to be raising awareness about manly crotch cancer, let’s draw the attention there, not to the ‘tache, and let men prove that they are as resilient and manly as, well, women: if it’s about how weird you can shape parts of your body, how about drawing a page from fetish body modders and see who can hang the heaviest weight from hooks in their scrotum? Or what about the artist in Russia who just nailed his junk to Red Square in protest? Now that takes balls. I have never donated to any coloured ribbon or race event, but if all the guys in Dublin sat in Stephen’s Green and tacked their tackle to the pavement, I would gladly give the equivalent of what these tits cost.