Like most men of art in this au courant city, I feel an overwhelming urge to let my facial hair grow out as winter settles in. It’s a rather invigorating show of machismo, a throwback to the golden age of manhood, and a new dandy object to dote on—a velvety pet to stroke into regal submission. It keeps my face warm and it ensures brawn and I’m still keeping it brushed by New Year’s (I suggest a bore head brush, for best results).
But then, of course, the whole ordeal comes with a stack of pitiful worries as well. For one, soup will indeed be strained, as will my patience with every soup, coffee and over-easy egg sandwich gooping my mustachios in its ooze. Napkins are suddenly unrecognizable by the end of meals, and I’m catching myself licking hair, on my face, all the time.
What’s more, while some dames will go weak at the knees and pouty at the lips at the sight of a fine bristly face-scape (and some at the site of a not-so-fine one, too), quite a few more will wonder if a bearded man even has cheek bones and a jaw under there—or worse, they’ll assume he most obviously doesn’t. I do not like being thoughtlessly discarded, or ignored.
These (rather ridiculous) concerns—coupled with (even more ridiculous) the fact that I look like more and more of a shoo-in, with every quarter inch of dark growth, for some Homeland extra work—have me, almost every time, reaching vainly for the trimmer after a few months.
And so, this brave new year, newly single, dates scheduled, I most recently did just that. The beard will have me think myself into the dumbest of corners if I let it, and I’m most willing to buzz my way out of it if I do. I combed the cordless Philips through the shag and my face, chiseled real-life bones and all, emerged from under every stroke. And though I was a little sad about giving up (sadder about my reasons), and none too thrilled about the cold I’d be inflicting upon my cheeks, I was happy to retrieve the resplendence of that old visage of mine.
Then, I came to the moustache.
The moustache is a funny thing. As I trimmed away my best-to-date, sveltest Nation-of-Islam look, I narrowed in on the stache, and started to look more and more like a younger, fitter, fewer chinned, more dapper Juan Valdez, a Colombian bean wrangler for the new world. I looked like there are things I know—sensitive, mysterious, darkly things.
And so, as last year it was the Prince moustache, this year, wax out on a Thursday morning in January, I twisted at the very tips of my luxuriant manifest destiny. It twirled up and stayed, just so, on each side, and suddenly I looked like a million sleazy bucks, and felt like it.
In that moment, I wasn’t Tom Selleck, or even Roger Murtaugh; I was Dali, Bill the freakin’ Butcher—I was the goddamn Soup Nazi. By the time I left the house, I was a regular old first-grade hipster douche in my R.M. Williams Chelsea boots and selvedge jeans and 32 oz. dark navy pea coat, stache readied for any obscure reference, but I didn’t even give a care, because I felt and looked like greatness, and that fateful Thursday was the first day of the rest of my mustachioed life.
Everyone—on the bus, on the street, hustle to hustle—seemed to notice. A moustache that’s required some time and energy does not a frivolous gentleman make. I met smiles, I met wide eyes, I met nervous starers, and even the guy at Café Resonance was noticing.
For instance, I know that when he said “I really dig your half-sleeve, too” he was, beyond his control, referring by omission to my whiskers, who loomed boldly without needing a mention, friscalating face wings soaring right into the westerly sun-drenched glory of that afternoon. And it felt lovely on my face, that sun: bones rekindled in the luminous vitamin, upper lip refracting, a solar panel to the smithy of my soul. It was a mixed metaphor kind of ecstasy, and no one could take it away from me.
In that moment, I would be a man with a moustache forever—outside of race, beyond time, everlastingly beeswax-ed. It lasted straight through Saturday. And it was good.