People always said that my life was easy.
You never need to worry about getting hassled at the airport. You’re white.
Men like you aren’t expected to choose between a family and a career.
It’s too dangerous for us to go swimming in the quarry. You’re the only one with gills.
And maybe they were right. After pondering the limitations of white merman privilege for several days, I put my way of life on the line with a few quick strokes of my electric razor. My cheeks and chin were clean, but my upper lip quivered underneath a lush lawn of man fur. For at least a week, I promised myself, it would be a part of me—my crumb catcher, my flavor saver, my mouth brow. The most polarizing facial hair style in the history of mankind nestled under my nose, ready to make me into a new man. But would I become a hero or a villain? Only my mustache knew the answer.
With the swagger of Freddie Mercury and the machismo of Randy Johnson, I ventured outside to start my new life.
The first thing I discovered about having a mustache is that it removes you from the comforts of basic social etiquette. You know how you’re not allowed to comment on a friend’s weight, or insult a stranger’s haircut? Well you can say just about anything you want about someone’s mustache.
There were the haters, people who responded to my “Hi, how are you’s” by telling me that I looked like a pedophile, or a serial killer, or a 70s porn star. What started out as normal conversations escalated into a personal attack in the blink of an eye. Were they jealous, concerned, or just not as smart as me? Definitely not as smart as me, I reassured myself (this exercise has since become a vital part of my bedtime routine).
Even more surprising was the amount of support I found within my community. Male friends told me I looked badass, like a Civil War general or a movie outlaw. My girlfriend chirped on about how handsome I looked, and she even brushed my mustache with an eyelash comb, which was cute but also a little bit overbearing. When I spotted the sultry gaze of a bikini model on a local newsstand, I understood that her eyes are not seeking the average American wimp, but instead men like me, who are capable of putting down a wounded horse or bathing under a waterfall.
My brightest moment came as I was walking to class one Thursday morning. The streets were cold and empty. A lone figure emerged on the distant horizon twenty yards away. Standing over six feet tall and clad in a brown leather jacket, he was a beast of a man with the thickest mustache ever seen by my young eyes. He waved and smiled with a “Hi there” as he passed. I was officially a member of the club. The alpha male of all lip toupees sent his avatar to me and showed me the light.
In the end, however, I could not hold onto my mustache any longer. I was surprised every time I looked in the mirror; a wise, handsome, mustachioed stranger stood in my place. But it wasn’t quite me. Maybe I could be that man someday, but for now I was not ready. I had to let my baby go.
I retrieved my hungry razor and began to let loose thousands of little hairs into the sharp winter breeze. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata played in the background. I pondered the meaning of life as I watched clumps of mustache rain down all around me, creating an apt physical metaphor for my existential self-deconstruction. Then I stopped to see what I would look like with a Hitler mustache.
I do not claim to be a perfect human being.
Anyway, it turned out that I looked more like a Charlie Chaplin, so I cleared off the rest of my face and went on with my life. But I never will forget what it was like to transform into another man, one who was not seen so much as another human being, but as a figure who challenged, nay, demolished popular conceptions about what facial hair could mean. So the next time you see a man, or even a woman, sporting a jaunty stache, do not dismiss or affront them. Instead, celebrate their gift. That’s what I’ve learned. Alert everyone in the diner to the thick Persian rug of a mustache on that lady in corner. Her speechless expression will express all the thanks in the world. You’re welcome, ma’am.