Movember Awareness

November 16, 2011


In honor of Movember, a movement that appropriates the month of November with the growth of mustaches in order to raise awareness for prostate cancer and men’s health issues, I thought I would raise awareness to some of the experiences of growing a mustache.

Besides growing a mustache for a cause, as if that is the only reason, having a mustache offers an individual other benefits as well.

Growing a mustache is also a sure way to attract attention from others.  Before I decided to grow my mustache I asked my female cousin’s advice on the decision. She told me that if a guy with a mustache tried to talk to her then she would ignore him and walk away. At least I’m in a woman’s radar as something to avoid, score. Afterwards when the first sproutlings of my growing mustache began forming in my otherwise bare face, I received many strange and long looks from people I met. One friend went so far as to get inside his car and drive away after seeing me with my mustache for the first time. He came back, but things were never the same. . .

So far the attention as been negative, but that’s only in the beginning stages. After you pass the stage of creepiness and ridicule, losing some friends along the way and scaring off some women and their children, things improve. These initial experiences humble you to an awareness of others. Feeling the sense of difference you portray with a mustache makes you aware of a few things as a result of these first experiences:

First, your mustache is an individual choice that exposes the bland regulating guidelines of appearance that some people use to judge who is acceptable and who should be avoided. Furthermore, realizing this, you begin to notice the individualism in others beyond these regulating functions. You are able to notice difference and diversity and embrace it because your difference resembles the differences of others that otherwise get ignored because of conventional standards of appearance.

Furthermore, once you embrace your mustache and your individual difference, it starts becoming a part of you and you begin getting compliments for it. I met a group of guys at Sharkeez in Huntington Beach and one of them told me, “man, I like your mustache, it’s brash.” Most of the time I am the opposite of brash: reserved, cautious, and quiet. But when I started thinking about this compliment I became aware of the fact that I was appearing bolder, more confident, and that it opened up the potential for me to let go of hesitations. I had to in order to accept the early hypnotic looks I seemed to arouse in that beginning stage.

Growing this mustache has made me more confident and expressive around others. But I can’t say it was only the mustache, it was the awareness having the mustache caused inside me that inspired these realizations.

In this month of awareness I want to invite you all to grow your own mustache, whether it is a literal one or through some other individual action, in order to raise awareness of yourself, and even if you cannot grow a mustache there is also No-Shave-November, a similar movement in which you don’t shave any hair in your body but instead allow all your natural difference to grow and flourish.

In this way we can all raise awareness of the issues that otherwise get ignored most of the time but that seem to affect us all.

Talking to a group of friends, I was venting about my unmoved attachment to this mustache I have been growing. The detachment was beginning to form because of a series of events. I had perviously read, a couple of days ago, in a Vice photo caption of a young man with a far more developed mustache that “the old-timey aesthetic of curly mustaches and straight-razor shaving is popular with 20-somethings these days…” I thought of myself as a tool, following subconsciously some new bizarre trend. The caption was even right in knowing my next move of using a straight-razor. Now I feel very dispassionate about writing the post dedicated to that endeavor.

The next thing to dissuade me from maintaining this mustache was that I don’t know where I was going with it anymore. As I would observe the daily germination of my mustache and wonder what kind of character I wanted to eventually become, and as I asked the opinions of every one who would listen, I began to feel that my mustache was  confused. I was having a mustache-identity crisis.

At first I was very interested in the idea of being a cowboy, some stoic figure who would only drink amber whiskey and give more emotion through the movement of his eyes than with anything he could say. But I still imagined my western ego to have some great gold nuggets of wisdom to share. This proverb kept coming to mind as the leitmotif of my western character:

Don’t worry about all the hurt you done,
I know you don ‘it outta love.

But after reading a great western novel, Deadwood, the reality of a cowboy’s life was disappointing and ended in somewhat of a pity. I didn’t want an identity so self-depressive and nihilistic. I needed some character with a little more charismatic prowess.

I wanted to become a gentleman, like the fun live-in-the-moment and laugh away life’s social rules kind of gentlemen that I had read in The Importance of Being Ernest and other works of decadent writers. Damn that photo caption, It labeled me on target exactly for what I wanted to be before I knew I really wanted to be it; an old-time gentleman.

I had already begun fantasizing about realizing such radical ideas as wrestle a kangaroo, set gentlemen’s agreements, and behave myself in a new jovial manner that involved plays on words with witty puns.

One instance came about through this very same self-indulgent vent to my friends. While discarding the idea of maintaining this mustache, I let it be known that I would regret the opportunity to wrestle with a kangaroo.

The friend driving (we were in a car) turned back and said, “You don’t need a mustache to wrestle a kangaroo.”

Breaking the lighthearted mood, I stared at him seriously and said in a deadpan way, “Sir, why would I want to wrestle a kangaroo without a mustache, that would just be ridiculous.” Yes ridiculous indeed.

Another thing that was turning me from keeping the mustache was that everyone was beginning to accept it as just another normal part of me like eyebrows or ears; some part of the body that we expect to always be there and therefore ignore its special meaning to us. Like our hands.

I had read that Russell Brand made a similar comment about the escalation of his own public antics. He was being filmed whipped by a dominatrix or some other thing similar and noticed that his friend holding the camera was ignoring the entire scene, texting rather than paying attention to him. Brand said it seemed to him that people had gotten used to his disturbing acts and began to think that was just him doing the same thing again.

Like Brand, the novelty had worn off and now I had to decide whether I could live with this mustache and maintain it. I wasn’t seeing any reason to keep it.

And then…

I got a compliment. We met up a group of guys at a bar. One of them said, “man I like your mustache, that’s so brash to wear.” I was called brash? But most of the time I am the opposite of brash; reserved, cautious, and quiet. There was something about being brash that made me realize something was growing inside of me as an effect of the mustache. I was becoming more bold, more confident, and really allowing myself to let go of hesitations with the mustache. I had to in order to accept the early hypnotic looks I seemed to arouse.

My personality was becoming a little more exciting and new ideas have been forming as a result. I think one revolves around the idea of being Luigi from Mario Bros. for a day. I have been told I do resemble the green plumber. Another idea came from a friend at work, he complimented me as well saying I looked like a classic high-ranking officer from the Turkish Army. He explained that the elite used to grow their mustaches in the handlebar style as a form of showing how bad-ass (his words) they were. A pair of polished ankle-high boots, black pants with expanded hips, a red coat with copper buttons and those drape-looking shoulder pads, and a large black guard’s hat that resembles the kind the guards who stand at Buckingham Place wear would really make this character come to life.

When I first started this mustache phase, I did it to see how I would react to it in the world. I have got my answer. It inspires ideas in myself to be creative and more expressive and open around people, something that at least for myself I wanted to improve. But I can’t say it was the mustache itself. It was the idea behind the mustache.

This is my answer:

The idea was to do something that stood out from what I assumed was normal and acceptable, and did not conform to a preconceived standard because it looked good or was in style. Since I was a person in my twenties I did something brash to my style in the form of a mustache; it seemed out of place and made many people wonder about me when they saw me, especially those first weeks when most people said it looked creepy. But through stepping out of my comfort zone of wearing a style that looks good, I realized that I was choosing to wear something because it was fun and pleased me with so many ideas, like all the characters I want to be, and all the characters I remind others, not because I was trying to impress someone and definitely not to comfort someone else’s idea of what is normal to wear.

A retired man in his senior years came up to me and told me he didn’t like my mustache, it didn’t look appropriate on me, and it was not serious because it seemed I was choosing to wear something that didn’t make me look anymore handsomer but had the opposite affect of making me look a little silly. That’s what I got for asking. I supposed he was distasted by my choice and reason to his aesthetics of appearance. But this felt like a compliment as well.

This is not becoming about a mustache, it’s about the idea of doing something that will force you to brave yourself, to know that it will find some opposition from strangers with their own distastes, and to overcome their bothersome looks. To be confident in yourself, not through outside styles, trends, or opinions.

That is what makes this brash; to do something because it really pleases you, and not because it pleases strangers. or the ability to resist others trying to conform your imagination. Like I said in the first part, it’s okay to be a little ridiculous.

And now what?

I am happy with the mustache, I don’t know how long I shall maintain it, but I shall enjoy the constant increase in compliments. And they are not general compliments like “you look nice” or “looking good”, but many have specific feelings that people share with me. I remind them of this character or I look like this person and they share with me their ideas of how they look and what they remember of them. I feel I understand better alternative styles (in general) and realize there is boldness in their fuck-off looks. And I want to see if I can actually start buying clothes for these characters I like to play. I know I keep throwing that idea around but I really want to do it, it’s just I need money.

Also, I have signed up on, a social site where users post daily pictures of their selves as “a log of your life” according to the LA times review of the site. It was inspired from Noah Kalina’s idea of taking a picture of himself every day for six years and then stringing together all his self-portraits into a five-minute, time-lapse video that showed how his appearance grew from his style and fashion over time. There I shall be periodically post pictures.

A final note for now. Thank you for allowing me to ramble through my answer. It doesn’t really have one concrete meaning and I warn against going too far. Just go enough to find some new comfort inside. And be safe to yourself and others. Sorry. I am rabbling again.

But perhaps you can accept me like a buzzed friend a few nights ago did. When I saw him at a party to celebrate Independence Day, his first reactions were to disapprove of my mustache and say kindly “take that shit off.” But as the night kept going and the fireworks came he too came to embrace the mustache. Yes, the mustache has hidden powers. I still hypnotize some people when I meet them for the first time. ha ha.

Why get a mustache?

I had no real idea why I decided to go through with this, except that maybe I was bored with the way I looked. And, considering the fact that I haven’t been getting much attention from women with all my efforts to groom and shower regularly I decided that having a mustache wouldn’t change my situation that much. I guess it was a good time to get a mustache; I was working as a part-time barista, a job that has it’s youthful benefits but lacks the very constrictive conventions of strict dress codes. I was also returning as a student and, therefore, could be pardoned my current lapse in judgment.

But still, why get a mustache?

I don’t know. Talking to my cousin over the phone the other day I broached the subject. She made two comments. If a guy with a mustache approached her and wanted to talk to her, she would put a wall up and move away. The next comment was more of a question to me: What are the benefits of having a mustache?

I have been trying to think if any benefits exist. I can creep out women when I approach them, I can look suspicious if I am near children or at a school zone, or I can inspire awkward staring when I introduce myself to others. All these scenarios have been warned to me, and with the exception of being suspicious near children, they have been proven right by research.

Saturday night I was hanging out with two friends, and I must mention this was the first time I introduced myself with the mustache. I met up outside the house of one friend who still had yet to arrive so we could go to downtown LA. My other friend was already waiting inside his classic Paseo, so I decided to park my vintage oldsmobile on the opposite direction from him. We both got out at the same time. When he noticed me, he gave me a strange look and began to laugh. Then the ridicule began.

He got very serious and told me that he couldn’t be my friend anymore. Then he got back inside his paint-worn Paseo and rode off pass the street, turned away, and disappeared. He was gone for awhile so I began to believe he was not coming back. After what felt like five of the most impatient minutes of my life, he drove back and parked at the same spot. I almost believed him.

I then had to explain myself. Explaining myself is something that I have started to introduce since I got my mustache. I feel like I have to explain myself to everyone I meet. Earlier that same day I felt I had to explain myself to a co-worker I had met for the first time. I am new at work and just beginning to make my first impressions with everyone and so to introduce myself with a mustache at my age (twenty-five) I wonder how I am received by others.

My usual explanation is that I’m not a douche, or a child-molester, or some poser looking for attention. I don’t know how the mustache got such a bad rep but it just seems to grow on all the wrong types of guys. Hitler had one, so did Spencer Pratt. The most notable character to have a mustache in popular media is Borat. It seems mustaches today either belong exclusively to the ridiculous or to the memory of villains, like the iconic images or damsel-kidnapping-railway-tying-criminals of the silent black-and-white film era. My disclaimer is that I’m really a nice guy and nothing like the mustache foretells.

Well I may be a little ridiculous. I have found one benefit of having a mustache. It has inspired me to act out in different characters. Bear with me on this, but I have been having so much fun pretending to be different kinds of ridiculous characters. Saturday night, after my friends accepted my explanation and my other friend had come to from the initial stare at my mustache, we started talking and then I jokingly made the comment “fuck you then ay” while swinging my right hand over my face and gesturing my head high and wincing my eyes. We all agreed I acted like a cholo, and for the rest of the night I acted that character out to the fun amusement of us all.

I have also been pretending to act like a yuppie, the type that wears bright polo shirts and white pants and always hangs his sports jacket over his back with one arm. Then there is the dad who wears conspicuous white sneakers, tight jeans, and one of those nylon baseball sweaters. I picture him always wondering what his kids are really doing and reprimanding other children for getting too close to his front lawn.

Then my ideas are for more interesting stock characters; the ‘70s hot-head detective with a loose trigger, and my main goal: the western outlaw who speaks like John Wayne and smells like his horse. And that is my main goal. As I was explaining to my manager at work when he saw me on Monday and asked me if this was how I was going to leave my mustache or whether it was still the unfinished product, I explained to him that my goal was to grow a Handlebar Mustache.

What is a Handlebar Mustache?

As the Handlebar Club describes it’s sole requirement for membership, a handlebar mustache is “a hirsute appendage of the upper lip and with graspable extremities”. Newly discovering this club, I found that many of my first perceptions about mustaches were correct as the club “engages in activism to assuage discrimination against the handlebarred as well as competitive facial hair tourneys.” And “the club declares itself to be at war with a society that demands people choose “the bland, the boring and the generic,” according to Wikipedia. So take that and “fuck you then ay” Hitler and Spencer, but not Borat, he is only a character.

As I start off on however long I can endure with this mustache phase, hopefully being able to grow a nice handlebar, I am realizing that besides the fun of being ridiculous it has also been a chance to humble myself around others because I do realize I look ridiculous to myself and other people sometimes. So far I had been looking so “bland, boring, and generic” that I had been seeing myself and others at a careless level and extent as simply weird or strange or another ignorable person. And not that I have been guilty of not giving anyone who dresses different or has an individual style that does not fit a norm a chance, it’s just that I’m opening my eyes more and understanding better at how individuals just rock it without caring how ignorant people are going to judge them on their appearance. I guess that is the beauty of my personal social experiment; that it calls us to test our perceptions of ourselves and others and maybe not judge so harshly. I guess it’s okay to be a little ridiculous.

It makes my life a little more exciting and a little more fun. And it helps me weed out anyone who may not really like me for me but only write me off because of something so arbitrary as a mustache.


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