HoNoToGroABeMo, or how poor facial hair development is funding breast cancer research

I am participating in How Not To Grow A Beard Month this November, or HoNoToGroABeMo for short. Rather than give a sub-par summary of the origins and nature of this exercise, I will lift Kris‘s excellent write-up from the official website:

How Not To Grow A Beard Month owes its existence to three things: National Novel Writing Month, Evo Terra, and genetics.

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as it is known to participants worldwide) is an annual challenge in which would-be novelists attempt to write 50,000 words in the span of 30 days. Since its inception in 1999, NaNoWriMo has grown from a mere 21 participants to more than 101,000 in 2007. The 30-day challenge has also spawned a host of imitators, among which HoNoToGroABeMo can be unabashedly included.

But applying the NaNoWriMo formula to facial hair would likely not have happened if not for Evo Terra’s largely unsung 5 O’clock Shadow project. In March of 2007, the podcaster and new media entrepreneur began including a photo of himself with his blog posts; specifically, a photo taken at 5 o’clock in the evening. The project continued on a more or less daily basis until Mr. Terra had amassed 100 photos of his early evening stubble.

And this is where genetics comes into play. When Evo began his 5 O’clock Shadow project, I decided it might be fun to do the same. Only in my case, it quickly became clear that the paltry stubble I managed to grow between my morning shave and 5 o’clock wasn’t visible in my self-portraits. Some of the blame could be cast upon the low-resolution cameraphone I was using at the time, but the truth of the matter was that I was not genetically disposed to beard growth.

So, in November of 2007, I decided to combine the month-long-challenge aspect of NaNoWriMo with the facial hair of Evo’s 5 O’clock Shadow into a single, cohesive event. Given my less-than-impressive record with growing anything beyond a simple goatee, I dubbed the challenge “How Not To Grow A Beard Month”.

The concept was simple:

  1. Shave every bit of hair off my chin, cheeks and upper lip on October 31st.
  2. Don’t shave again until December 1st.
  3. Take a photograph of the “progress” at roughly the same time every day and post it to the Internet.

I made two small (but necessary) exceptions to this rule: the front of the neck may be shaved for the sake of comfort, and basic beard grooming (trimming along the jawline and upper lip; minor trimming to make the beard length even) is acceptable for the sake of not looking like the Unabomber.

After 30 days, my beard was (as predicted) less than impressive. Some of the words and phrases that were not used to describe it include thick, Norris-like, lush, Lincolnian and brawny. Despite this, I determined that HoNoToGroABeMo would be an annual event, and that I would invite anyone foolish enough to set aside their razor for a month to join me in my quest.

I was content to confine the scope of HoNoToGroABeMo to my personal blog, but wily web developer Bob Voegerl decided that the challenge was just ludicrous enough that it deserved a home of its own, and so created HoNoToGroABeMo.org, a place where beards of all shape, color and density can come together and grow in unison and harmony.

Clearly, this was pursuit originally borne of silliness, although since last year ideas were considered about how it could be used to raise a meager amount of money for charity. That opportunity surfaced in an unfortunate way – earlier this year, Bob tragically lost his mother to breast cancer, which he describes in more detail here. As such, HoNoToGroABeMo 2009 has been dedicated to the Beards4Boobs project, which aims to raise money for the Ann Voegerl Memorial Breast Cancer Research Fund. Thus far, it is in the waning hours of day 2, it has accumulated $666, which is both mind-blowingly awesome and has already far succeeded everyone’s expectations.

To give you an idea of what is in store for you, here’s my own Day -1 picture:

HoNoToGroABeMo Day -1 for Cmar
HoNoToGroABeMo Day -1 for Cmar

And the shocking reveal of November 1:

HoNoToGroABeMo Day 0 for Cmar
HoNoToGroABeMo Day 0 for Cmar

My participation thus far is documented here – Day -1, Day 0, Day 1, and Day 2. Please, check out the site, be amused by our progress (or lack thereof), and consider donating to this most worthy of causes. As Bob rightly notes, sponsorship helps beards grow… and that, my friends, is SCIENCE.

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