It’s not hard to figure out where Dan gets the idea. ITV is playing Calendar Girls, and half way through, during the ads, there’s an advert for Race For Life, a series of races and events all over Britain that raise money for breast cancer research, and the two things morph together in Dan’s mind.
He approaches the rest of the band with the idea a few hours later, fidgeting slightly as they all gape at him.
“A naked calendar? Why?” Max asks, his face scrunching up in confusion.
“Well, I was watching Calendar Girls, and I thought, why not do a calendar ourselves, see if we can’t get some more guys from other bands to do it, and raise money for breast cancer research?” He explains, and all of their faces soften in understanding. They all took it hard when Josh was diagnosed a year and a half ago, and they all know where he’s coming from. Without another moment of hesitation, Matt pulls his phone from his pocket.
“I’ll start making phone calls, see who we can get,” he assures Dan, who can’t help but grin.
They end up with eleven guys, including themselves. Everyone they asked agreed as soon as they hear why they’re doing it, but most back out again when they hear the word ‘naked’. Dan can’t blame them, it took him a week to convince Josh to do it. He’s gotten a lot less self-conscious about the left side of his chest, but this was almost too much for him. In the end, though, Dan finds the right argument to convince him.
“Think, though, how much more it’ll mean if we have an actual survivor in the calendar, and it’ll help spread awareness of breast cancer in men,”
They assign each person a month, deciding on a group photo for December, rather than try to find one more person, considering how long it took them just to get eleven. Dan is January, Alex Gaskarth is February, Matt’s March, Gavin Butler is April, Oli Sykes is May, Sean Smith for June, Vic Fuentes for July, Josh is August, Max is September, Tom Sykes is October, Chris is November, then the group shot. Now, all they have to do is get all of these guys; spread out over five bands, half of them with clothing lines, all with busy, differing schedules; in the same place, at the same time, to do a shoot.
It’s just under a week after Josh’s birthday when they all finally manage to get together. The good thing about it taking so long to set this up, is that it’s given them plenty of time to come up with inventive props for each month to hide their ‘family jewels’. Some are a bit difficult to find, like a miniature Maypole, a plastic pumpkin and turkey, and it turns out to be surprisingly difficult to find an easter egg in July. In the end, though, they have everything ready by the time everyone piles into Josh and Dan’s flat, just after ten in the morning on the thirteenth of August.
They hand out dressing gowns and props, and once everyone’s stripped off, they sit around while Tom sets up his camera equipment, laughing as everyone tries to guess what month they are, based on their prop. Everyone guesses Vic’s, Tom’s and Chris’ straight away, a Halloween pumpkin, a Thanksgiving turkey and a pair of stars and stripes hotpants aren’t difficult to figure out. Sean and Gavin figure out Matt’s stuffed Welsh dragon is for March soon after, then Gavin’s Easter egg for April. By the time Tom’s done setting up, the only one they haven’t figured out is Dan’s whiskey bottle, none of them seeming to realise there’s only one month left.
Tom ends their guessing as he leans against the doorframe.
“Mr. January, when you’re ready,” he requests, and Dan gets to his feet.
“New Years and Burns Night in the same month, and you couldn’t figure it out? I’m disappointed,” he tuts jokingly as he heads to the kitchen. He sets the bottle on the table, and pulls off his dressing gown as the others squeeze into the room to watch, all of them bursting out laughing as they get their first good look at the label on the bottle. As if he was ever going to use any other whiskey than Knob Creek.
They work quickly, Tom taking five or six photos of each of them, hopefully ensuring they’ll have at least one decent photo to use for each month. Alex shows no sign of bashfulness as he stands in front of the backdrop Tom’s set up, American football held in front of his groin. They all see more of Gavin than they ever wanted to when the easter egg rolls from between his legs as he sits on the kitchen table. Oli ignores their jokes about the size of the Maypole with a quiet, confident grin they can’t help but admire him for. They try their hardest not to laugh at Vic, but he looks ridiculous, stood in front of a backdrop of a night sky full of fireworks, a sparkler in each hand and the tiny shorts leaving nothing to the imagination.
They finally get to Josh, Dan holding a towel around his waist for him so he can take his dressing gown off and cover himself with the football (“For the last time Alex, it’s not a fucking ‘soccer’ ball! I refuse to bow down to you and your colonial hand egg bullshit!”). He hesitates, overly aware of the scarring on his chest and everyone watching him as he finally shrugs off the dressing gown, takes the ball from Chris with a quiet ‘thank you’, and goes over to the backdrop, holding the ball over his crotch with one hand as he nudges the towel off with the other. He does his best to relax, since no-one will appreciate Mr. August looking tense and miserable, taking comfort from the encouraging smiles and thumbs up the others are giving him.
Finally, they’re done, ending things with a rather fantastic photo of all of them, none of them able to stop laughing as they stand together with santa hats covering them. Once they’re all dressed again, and they’re talking and laughing in the living room with a beer in their hands, Dan thinks to himself that this calendar is going to turn out better than he ever imagined.
A week and a half later, Tom e-mails them all copies of the photos he’s chosen for their approval. The five of them look through them together, laughing as they remember each photo being taken, until they get to the photo of Josh. He grabs Chris’ wrist, stopping him from moving past it, and stares at the photo, specifically at his chest, for a few minutes, a thoughtful frown on his face. The four of them go quiet, watching him with concern, but sigh in relief when he smiles slightly.
“It’s really not that bad, the scarring, is it?” He mumbles, and they grin as he moves onto the photo of Max, laughing at the ridiculous plastic wheat sheaf they’d used.
The calendar’s ready by the last week of November, and they all start promoting it heavily. They post almost constant tweets with a link to the website it’s being sold on, with teaser photos. None of them have confirmed that they’re in the calendar, just they’re involved with it, so the teasers are all of unidentifiable body parts, a shoulder, a belly button, a chin.
They arrange it so that the calendars all arrive at their destinations on the last three days of the year, and from nine am on the twenty-ninth of December until about two weeks into January, all the internet can talk about is the calendar. Most of the talk surrounds Josh, and the scars on his chest. It seems Dan got the raised awareness he wanted.
Josh is already feeling good about the whole thing, but he feels amazing about it when he gets a phone call from Alex on the third of February.
“Hey, so when are we doing the shoot for next year’s calendar?” He asks, and Josh realises that this is only just the beginning.