The image before me was the reflection of the face I'm stuck with. It's not so terrible, really. There are some things I would change if I could, but it could be much worse. One way in which it has failed me, though, is in its inability to grow a thick, luxurious beard. Thus the angst concerning the latest of my very few attempts at cultivating some kind of organized facial hair growth; to wit, a mustache.
Oh, how I have longed for the ability to hide behind the bushy mask of a Grizzly Adams beard, at least for a short while. Or failing that, just to sport a modest set of sideburns. How many problems in my life would have been solved by sideburns? Pretty much all of them, that's how many. But alas, it's just not in my genetic makeup.
As far as anyone knows, my family is mostly extracted from the British Isles; and yet our men tend to have facial hair more typical of Asians or Native Americans. In fact, my Vietnamese brother-in-law can grow a better beard than me. It's a travesty, really.
So when a bunch of my imaginary friends from the interblogosphere were all of the sudden growing mustaches for a good cause, my heart sank a bit at first, because I assumed that I couldn't join in the fun.
I should fill you in, in case you're not currently stroking your philanthropic fu-manchu. There's this organization called "Movember," that encourages guys to grow mustaches in the month of November to raise awareness and money for research on cancers that affect men. The proceeds go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Livestrong.
It's brilliant, really. Just think about it: if you grew a mustache, everybody you knew would start asking you about it, right? Because, let's face it, unless you're a cop or a firefighter or in the Navy, a mustache is a pretty outlandish accessory in this day and age. And when people asked about your anachronistic accoutrement, you would say, "Well, I'm spreading awareness about cancer, and hey why don't you give me ten bucks ya cheap bastard?"
Having mostly convinced myself, I announced my intentions to my wife.
"I'm going to grow a mustache!" I said.
"Hah!" she replied. "You and what army?"
That clinched it. I would grow this damn thing, if not to benefit cancer research, then at least to prove my wife wrong. I let her know the same.
"And anyway," I added, "the idiom is 'you and whose army'."
"Are you sure?" She said.
"Oh...you won't doubt my knowledge of colloquial English once I have a Faulkner 'stache. And a pipe."
I could sense her eyes rolling even as she walked away from me.
I took a picture of my clean-shaven mug, as the rules of the Movember game require, and didn't really think about it until four days later, when it seemed like it was maybe time to shave again.
I shaved my whole face except for my lip, and stood back to take it in. It...it resembled something not totally unlike a mustache! I shaped it up a little bit and looked again. I checked it out in three or four different lighting situations around the house. By God...it was recognizable as a mustache!
"Don't you think it's kind of dashing?" I said.
"You look like a child molester," she responded.
But she didn't demand that I get rid of it.
And I might have left it there, except that we were going to a pool party that afternoon, and I would have had to explain it to our friends there. Which of course is the idea behind the whole Movember thing. But then I thought about the awkwardness. These friends are not like my old buddies who would be all, "Dude! You look like a gay porn star from the seventies!" These are friends we have made through our kids. Parent-friends. Friends who probably have not watched much seventies gay porn.
In fact, the friends at the pool party probably wouldn't even mention the 'stache. They wouldn't dig the irony*. They would probably think that I really thought it looked cool. Which I kind of was starting to do. But cool in a ridiculous way. I wondered if I would always have to smirk as long as I had the mustache. Irony is so confusing sometimes.
It made me think about the hipster kids. Do they all know that their neon sunglasses and American Apparel scoop neck tees (and mustaches, in many cases) look idiotic? Or has the coolness of the attitude rubbed off on the outward trappings to such an extent that it has created a new aesthetic framework in which skinny jeans with baggy asses are attractive? You can see how I could easily churn myself into a meta-mustache maelstrom.
Then I thought about the reactions I'd get from people I interact with regularly. Since I don't have one of those jobs, I don't see the same people all day every day. I see people at the store, the playground, the dog park, etc., but we don't really know each other that well. Not well enough to say that the other looks like an ass. And that's the appropriate ice-breaker to get the Movember scheme to work. If you have to say, "Hey, did you see my weak-ass little mustache? Well, I'm not really the kind of guy who grows a mustache, but, well...you see, it's kind of a lark, heh heh, I'm trying to raise awareness..." you've lost the sale. And on top of that, you're starting to freak out because the person you're talking to is staring at you, considering every aspect and quality of your face and your appearance in general. You're better off just wearing a ribbon or a rubber bracelet.
As you've surely guessed by now, I shaved off the mustache. I just can't handle all of its associations right now. Maybe next November, when I have more time to become psychologically prepared. In the meantime, I just donated twenty bucks to Movember through the guys at DadCentric. I think about seventy percent of their contributors (who are much brasher than I) are 'staching out to fight cancer this year, and you should go to their Movember page and donate something too. You probably know other dudes who are doing it too, so you could donate to their page if you want. In fact, you should ask anyone you see with a mustache if they are participating, and offer them money. Or you can just go to the main Movember site and donate there. Unless you hate men, in which case you should just sit on your hands.
*Note to pedants: I'm using the term "irony" to describe a detached, playful, noncommittal, "of course I'm kidding...or am I?" attitude. Feel free to rant about how I and others misuse the word. Just know that I don't care. Or do I?