Lane Filler: I'm raising awareness for … something

November 22, 2013 

Thanks to sheer laziness and a well-timed vacation, I now find myself swept up in an international philanthropic craze. Thanks to my lack of awareness, I am a billboard promoting more awareness. And I'm not even sure I advocate more awareness at this point.

It started a few weeks ago, when I was told I had to take my vacation days.

"No, I'm fine," I told the keeper of the calendar. "I prefer coming to work, and my family says weekends give them more than enough 'Lane time.'"

"Your co-workers sympathize with your family's stance, but insist you vacate the office for a week," she replied. "There was a petition."

So I took last week off, and it was horrible. For me, stay-at-home vacations means assuming the household and child-rearing chores my wife normally handles, tasks so endless that by day three I had increased planned spending on her Hanukkah gifts tenfold. That she does with a full-time job what I can barely manage while off work only adds to the evidence that I am the appendix of the Filler family: not worth noticing unless I start causing serious problems.

The only plus of such vacations is: no work, no shave.

By Tuesday, having gone four days without scraping the stubble, I was developing some nice scruff, which prompted my 12-year-old daughter to say, "I think it's great that you're not shaving for Movember. I'm really proud of you."

My first thought was to question what kind of accomplishments she considers me capable of, if not shaving is a cause for praise, but I filed that under "resentments for later," and asked, "What's Movember?"

"It's where men don't shave in November to raise awareness of testicular cancer. The guys on 'The Today Show' are doing it. You've watched a segment about it every morning this month."

Wife: "It's actually called 'No-Shave November, and it's to raise awareness of men's health issues in general."

Me: "So it's to raise awareness, you've both seen TV segments on it and you don't agree on what it's to raise awareness of? Or what it's called?"

But they're both right, kind of. Movember, or No-Shave November, started in Australia with 30 guys who grew mustaches to raise awareness and funding for prostate cancer and depression in men a decade ago. That led to the Movember Foundation, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for those causes, but also to an amalgam of organizations serving many causes and raising awarenesses, under the Movember (a combination of mustache and November) and No-Shave November names.

How these movements raise money varies, but center on the idea that friends and family would pay you to grow facial hair. Fair enough.

But I've hit awareness overload. I don't feel I should have to be aware of every disease. I need to have a physical every year, and remember that smoking is bad and fiber is good, but I don't have to have an intimate knowledge of breast cancer or dropsy or Sudden Buttock Shift Syndrome.

That's what my doctor is for.

And it's not just the diseases. Thanks to social (and even antisocial) media, I'm made aware of hundreds of travesties each day. Dogs dying in shelters. Voter suppression in Third World lands, like Alabama. Cyberbullying. Live-action bullying. The dangers of vaccination (none). The dangers of not vaccinating (many). Obamacare killing grandmas. Grandmas fighting to kill Obamacare.

I'm fully aware, OK? Of everything. I promise. And I grew this facial hair to stop … apartheid, OK? Apartheid is over, you say? Don't thank me. Thank the beard.

Lane Filler, Newsday editorial board; lane.filler@newsday.com.

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