I recently shaved my mustache for the first time ever. It’s not that I was particularly attractive with a mustache—I mean, who isn’t attractive with a mustache?*—but I had put it off due to some strange connection I have with hair and my constant identity crises.
This goes way back, too, with more than just the upper lip. I’ve come to terms with this long and dumb history of mine with an obsession with hair. I was forced to, upon seeing a picture of myself freshmen year of high school and mistaking me for my mother. That’s embarrassing. I mean, real embarrassing. More embarrassing than the time in my junior year when I mistook my own reflection in a window for a hobo peeking in at me from outside.
You can see, maybe, that for some time I had a thing for long hair. Or wild hair. Or, oh hell, just hair. Fortunately for my already fragile mentality, I can tell you exactly where this all started:
It was my freshmen year of high school and all my friends were growing their hair long. I’m talking long for boys, nothing too severe at the time, just about jaw-length. I wanted to be cool like my cool friends (I would discover later that we were all geeks, regrettably). Thus, I let my hair grow out too. My hair was long and wavy and would be considered sexy in the realm of Hollywood, if only I had washed it more often and knew how to style it properly.
My father was not one to care about how long my hair was, but he did seem to care about the poor state it was in. One day he told me I could keep it as long as I wanted so long as I got a little trim up at a proper barbershop. I agreed after shouts and through mumbles and he drove me to a place to get it cut. I sat up on the barber chair and told the elderly gentleman holding those thin, silver scissors, “Just trim it up and inch or two. Leave it long.” He nodded his head and went to work.
Then I sat in horror as I watched the man in the mirror proceed to chop all my hair off. I’m talking short. He left it just long enough to be parted; though I would mess it up later to keep from looking so uniform. My father paid the man and we went back to the family car where we both sat in silence almost the entire trip home. The only words that were spoken were from my father, seeing how upset and embarrassed I was at having all my beautiful, wavy locks hacked off. He said, “I’m sorry. You never have to get your hair cut again.”
And I didn’t. This gave me a real complex when it comes to getting my hair cut by professionals. I still do it myself today. You can tell I just cut my own hair, not by the length in the front, but by the unevenness or patches in the back.
Throughout high school I never once cut my hair at all, though. It grew to ridiculous lengths, down to my lower back. I cringe today thinking about how trashy that must have looked†. I also neglected to ever shave my beard completely off. The closest I came was trimming it down to a goatee to match my brown-and-gold Victorian prom outfit‡.
Soon I held a reputation for having a lot of hair. Junior year I had a group of (somewhat) friends offer to pay me if I would only dare to shave my head. Senior year I sat crying in the theater dungeons when I was told I would need to cut my hair to match a roll§. People could only ever see me as the kid with long hair and a full beard and I can’t exactly blame them.
About half a year after high school I was getting tired of the long ponytail perpetually dangling from my head. Besides, it gave me headaches and it was a pain in the ass to wash. Having made a deal with a friend, I allowed her to lob off the hideous thing and we mailed it to Locks of Love in exchange for a thank you card with my named misspelled (they probably just chucked my lovely locks, anyway).
But I kept the damn beard. I kept it for five and a half years. It was part of me still, just as my long hair had been. I considered it part of my identity so badly that I was afraid my family and friends might make fun of me after I shaved it off.
I did shave it off, though, and I loved it. It’s amazing, the cool breeze you can feel on your face once the hair is all gone. And, to tops, I thought the mustache was too fucking cool (I still do).
For the next two years I would endure jokes thrown from my friends and family while taking in the approving head nods and compliments from complete strangers in regards to my mustache. Then, just a few months ago, I shaved off the mustache as well.
It was a two part decision: The first part was that I was poised to be Dr. Ian Malcolm for Halloween and the mustache would have simply ruined it. The second part, however, was the bigger factor—I was getting tired of the jokes. Call it peer pressure if you want, but one can only take so many “pervert” jokes before breaking down and saying goodbye to his oldest friend—that hairy upper lip whom he was always most attached to (or who was attached to him?).
Now I think back to my long hair and the beard and the mustache and I think I was being silly for not getting rid of them all sooner. But you must understand that when you’re someone whose personality isn’t all that memorable, a mustache or ponytail can go a long way.
I bump into friends from high school every now and then. Sometimes they can spot me from way back, but for the most part I have to tell them my name before they can guess who I am. It’s gotten to the point of me simply placing my finger across my upper lip to remind them that I was that guy.
I will say, however, that it’s also come in handy when I spot a certain ex-girlfriend that I’d dated for a couple of years. When walking out in public I can just breeze right by her without her ever even knowing I was there.
It’s pretty much the opposite of that fake-beard-and-sunglasses disguise.