The Spirit of Movember

We’re in the dying days of November, which in the last few years has carried the “Movember” name. The general idea, if you’ve avoided reading about it, is that it’s a time where guys grow their best attempt at a non-weedy mustache for the month. It’s supposed to raise awareness of men’s health issues (notably prostate cancer), and like many things, has seen some efforts in the spirits industry to capitalize on.

Glenfarclas has released a 9 year old Movember whisky; there have been several bottles released under the Whisky 4 Movember label. As with all things whiskey, the whole thing tends to be a tongue-in-cheek, self-effacing celebration of masculinity. And of course, a way to sell some middle-tier whiskey and give a small percent to charity (or not).

The thing is, in the celebration of a temporary pursuit of a Selleck-’stache, the bigger point gets lost – that of “awareness” of men’s health issues. However, I think if you’re old enough to drink whiskey and nerd out about it online, you’re old enough to move beyond awareness and into action.

Health issues are a touchy thing to bring up in the context of a celebration of booze that whiskey blogs tend to be. In the back of our minds, we’re all aware that to some extent we’re ingesting something unhealthy and may have a tendency to consume a little too much (when compared to definitions of binge drinking and standard units per week). It’s also likely if you’re active in whiskey clubs you might be aware of people who have struggled with their consumption in the past.

No, no, this isn’t an about-face and entry about renouncing alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption can confer some health benefits. The trick obviously is not bullshitting yourself that that 2 ounces of 72% bourbon counts as just one of your two “standard drinks” for the day. It’s also important to not bullshit yourself about your habits from day to day.

A few weeks ago, I’d noticed an odd spot on my arm that hadn’t been there previously. It was an unusual color for me and I’d noticed a little growth over about six weeks. I decided I couldn’t just ignore it and it was time to go in. My wife discussed with me about just getting a full physical, and after resisting for a bit, I decided it was time. As we talked about it, I read more articles online and realized that men’s wellness does tend to be neglected. For whatever reason, we as men have a tendency to carry the feeling of invincibility of our youth well forward into our adult years and neglect any sort of health screening beyond routine dental care (if that) until a problem presents itself. Meanwhile the women in our life continue having more or less regular interaction with a doctor through a large percentage of their adult life, which can help catch problems earlier (and hopefully, cheaper).

I was at a Pearl Jam concert last weekend and as the house lights came up, I thought for a moment about my tradition of hashing out the set after the show with my friend Brady. Usually we’d compare to other nights on the tour and recent west coast runs for the band. Right after that thought, I remembered I wouldn’t be having that conversation with him this time of year. Unfortunately, my friend Brady passed away in early 2012 after a very short battle with cancer. It’s hard to say if screening could have caught it earlier, but it wouldn’t have hurt.

In my case, my blood test results weren’t a huge shock – the long and short of my results confirmed what I knew: time to eat better, get a little more exercise and drop some weight. In my case this will be aided a bit by continuing with my reduced consumption of late. That’s fine: with so many questionable bottles, I haven’t felt like I’ve been missing much lately. And the spot on my arm? Nothing at all. Just a sign of getting older. A relief (generally speaking).

I’d had a feeling things weren’t too bad, but I’d done a screening with 23andme earlier this year (who are now under some sort of FDA order to stop selling; apparently people are fairly bad with understanding probability). That, too, didn’t pose much surprise: no real bizarre genetic markers, and a fairly high risk for heart disease: but wait, on average your risk is over 50% - so if you’re inclined to wager, the odds are heavy there.

All this comes back to the original point. It’s fun to grow a mustache, sure. It may even be a decent excuse to buy a younger independent whiskey. Have that Tom Selleck film fest. But what you really should do is schedule a physical if you haven’t been. Get yourself checked out — for the benefit of your loved ones if nothing else. It’s no more than about an hour of your time and you’ll know where you stand and can take some corrective measures if necessary.  Take care of yourself long enough and you’ll live to see the next golden age of whiskey.