“Excuse me. I’m sorry, but your moustache is awesome, dude,” said a man next to me in line to board a flight. “I can’t grow one, wish I could. But yours is killer, man.”
“Dude! Your moustache is great!” a guy exclaimed as he passed my date and me as we walked to her car after a drink. He excused himself as he went by. “Pardon me,” he looked at my lady friend. “I’d love to grow one, but I just know I’d look weird,” he said to me.
Backstage, pre-show. I was just about to take the stage and the security guard stepped in front of me. He was about 6’ 6”, 300, a pretty hefty fella.
“Hey!” he barked loudly over the house music. I froze for a moment. Had I done something wrong to warrant his shadow looming over me? I rifled through my memory of the evening trying to think of some reason this large keeper of the peace might be after me, but nothing came to mind. So I kept calm and carried on, as they say.
“What’s up, man?” I responded in a friendly tone, if not a pubescent cracked voice. His shadow quickly receded as his face changed from ominously serious to inquisitively childlike. He came closer and his eyebrows perked up.
“I gotta know…How long’d it take you to grow your stache, man? It’s dope! I’ve been thinking about growing one, but I’m just nervous that I’d look weird, ya know?”
So I said to Big Vince the same thing I said to Colby at Logan Airport and James on the street in Downtown Culver City: “If you really want to grow a stache, let it grow! You’ll definitely think you look weird because you look at yourself every single day, but that’s natural. No one else will think you look weird. People (barring your lady friend, perhaps) see you as you are, not as a comparison of what you looked like yesterday or three days ago or three weeks ago. There is a middle point where it’ll start growing into your mouth and it’ll feel funky and you’ll be wicked conscious of it, and you’ll be playing with it all day. But you have to just muscle through it. Let it roll because once that stage is over, you’ll be golden!”
“Thanks, dude!” said Colby.
“Thanks, sir!” James responded.
“Thanks, man!” Big Vince from The Troubadour replied.
My stache didn’t grow out alone. It had some chinly company in the beginning. For years I kept my facial hair at a constant stubble. The first time I decided to let it grow past my standard two-week growth/trim cycle (basically constant stubble to actual beard), it got to about an eighth of an inch before I looked at myself in the mirror one day and was like, “OMG, I have an honest-to-god actual beard!” I posted a picture to Facebook. The caption actually read: “My beard is HUGE.” Such a novice.
When I finally decided to completely forgo the trim portion of my cycle, I let my beard grow strong and powerful for six months. One night at dinner with my cousin, she looked across the table at my five inch face forest and said, “You know…you have a really nice jaw line under there.”
There was a long pause as I raised an eyebrow. She braced for my response.
“Yeah, all right, I get it!”
About a week after she not-so-subtly inferred that I should trim the muzzle-lashings upon my face, I was driving home from work, combing my beard (yes, I had a beard comb in the car), and then it hit me: “Today’s the day,” I thought as I looked at myself in the rearview mirror. “This baby’s coming off.”
I started trimming when I got home. My bathroom sink was drowning in five-inch, brown, black, and occasional white hairs from my cheeks and chin. The scene was brutal for any hirsute. Fallen soldiers everywhere. The hairs fell from my face in slow motion to the cold porcelain curves of the basin. I should have strung crime scene tape around it. It was like when Ben Kenobi felt Alderaan’s demise in Star Wars: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”
But there were leftovers. A victorious few in what has come to be known as The Great Beard Trimmer Incident of 2011. As I stared at my skinny, mostly naked face, my moustache looked finer and more glorious than it ever had when surrounded by my beastly beard. It was proud in its solitude, excited to face the world without the weight of the suburbs of the chin.
I was on the ice rink in Santa Monica season recently. It was filled with parents and their children swishing around in circles. As I leaned against the rink’s wall resting my shins and ankles, a small, giggling girl about eight years old, skated past and shouted through the crowd, “Excuse me sir! I really like your moustache!” And that’s why I keep it around. It starts conversations, it creates bonds between men. But most importantly, it encourages people to smile.