x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Teen Life: Making the most of Movember

The result of Movember is entertaining, with teenage boys, not all of them yet capable of growing moustaches, making early bloomers the heroes of their peer groups.

The baby pink ribbons have been unpinned from shirts and the Breast Cancer Awareness Month pamphlets you saw everywhere have been packed away. The effort that has been put into raising awareness about the disease and the importance of mammograms is laudable; the number of bake sales organised by our school charity committee fund-raising for cancer research foundations has kept us well fed for a month. Happily, the committee members have no reason to put their oven mitts away just yet, because this month marks Movember, with the limelight switching from the ladies to the gents.

Movember adds a pinch of humour to combating a deadly illness - prostate cancer, which affects a small gland in the male reproductive system. Worldwide, this is the sixth leading cause of cancer-related death in men. As the tumour is relatively slow-growing, it can be managed by surveillance and early detection; treatments include surgery and radiation therapy. A low-fat diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of developing the cancer.

The idea of Movember is for every man to grow a moustache so they can spread the word about prostate cancer awareness whenever someone asks them why they have a hairy caterpillar under their nose. The result is particularly entertaining with teenage boys, not all of whom are yet capable of growing moustaches - making early bloomers the heroes of their peer group.

Those who are unable to produce spectacular handlebars must endure hundreds of well-worn witticisms such as: "Hey, you have a piece of fluff on your upper lip. Oh whoops! That's your moustache!" Cue big wink and laughter as everyone in the vicinity politely assumes something between a smile and a grimace.

For most guys used to a daily shave, the art of managing a moustache with dignity seems to be completely and regrettably lost. Last year, post-lunchtime lessons saw those with the more developed whiskers wondering out loud why no one wanted to sit next to them. Sporting revolting little bits of sandwich and pastrami dangling above their mouths probably had something to do with it.

Moustaches are quite common in my home country, India, with actors such as Anil Kapoor (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) unabashedly flaunting their luxuriant chevrons. However, they are usually much less common elsewhere, so are bound to become talking points when they do sprout up.

Teachers have proved rather more adept than teenagers at the skill of raising a fine specimen. Competition for the most impressive pair of fuzzies escalates as the month draws to an end, with students cheering for their favourites.

Prefer imperial styles to Fu-Manchus? We'll have them, residing on the face of one of the science professors, perhaps. Dalis, pilots, toothbrushes? You don't need to search long to find a sample. French teachers transform into characters from Ratatouille.

Mark Spitz famously attributed his 1972 Munich Olympic success to his moustache's aerodynamic streamlining. If the power of the 'tache can bring home seven gold medals, it's bound to be unstoppable as a symbol of the war against cancer.

The writer is a 17-year-old student living in Dubai.

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